Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch

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Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

RWANDA: the long path toward reconciliation

Chiara Massaroni

RWANDA: the long path toward reconciliation
In one of his campaign speeches prior to last August’s Presidential elections, referring to the reconciliation process in the country, Rwandan President Paul Kagame raised his voice against any form of divisionism, declaring that “Rwanda doesn’t belong to Hutus, Tutsi or Twa – it belongs to Rwandans.” After leading the army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and driving the country out of the 1994 genocide that caused the death of approximately 800.000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus in less than 100 days, President Kagame worked hard to shake off the image of a country associated with crimes against humanity. Sixteen years on from the genocide it is difficult to find another country that has done better in terms of anti-corruption drives, public health care and education policies. Fascinated by the Asiatic Tigers model, Kagame is trying to push the country towards fast-paced development through what some experts would consider to be “illuminated authoritarianism”. According to the World Bank, Rwanda is among the world’s top business reformers and one of the most business friendly countries in the region. These facts draw an image of a modern and developed country, in relative terms, and it seems that Rwanda has left its dramatic past behind.
On the other hand, a true reconciliation process between ethnic groups seems long to come. Rwandan stability and social peace is only surface deep. The reconciliation policy is hiding unresolved tensions behind a forced silence regarding anything that concerns Rwanda’s recent history. Any recognition of ethnic difference has been banned. In 2001 a law was introduced that criminalized the terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” as divisionism, carrying a penalty of three to five years imprisonment. The very word “genocide” is often substituted with softer euphemisms like war or conflict. “My answer is that the stability we have in Rwanda is stability based on pressure,” declared Victoria Ingabire, leader of the opposition United Democratic Forces party (FDU), who stood against Kagame in the last election and was then placed under house arrest with the accusation of “genocidal ideology”.
Not only is this policy preventing Hutus from reaching the highest spheres of governance in the country, and using anti–genocide legislation to put the opposition out of the political arena, but it is also exacerbating the unsolved hostility caused by the conflict among ethnic groups at a grassroots level.
This policy is not allowing people to reflect on and come to terms with the past. It is not rebuilding a trans- ethnic national historical memory. The wounds are still fresh and refusing to allow a reciprocal dialogue is not helping to heal them. As a consequence, it is generally hard to find someone willing to share the memories of the 1994 conflict. The only time when Rwandans are allowed to revisit their past is in April, during the month of Commemoration of the Genocide, when people are “encouraged” to take part in national mourning for the victims of the conflict as flags fly at half-mast and conferences and debates on the genocide take place all over the country. One side effect of this sudden collective surfacing of painful memories is that most Rwandans show signs of a generalized “reactive depression”.
J., a local legal aid lawyer in Gisenyi, Rubavu district, says, “ In many cases there are hidden conflicts among people that most of the time have ethnic origins. The problem is that, mainly in rural areas, people usually tend to solve the conflicts without asking for external legal help. This is why it is often very difficult to estimate the gravity of this situation.”
In many cases the violence is more psychological than physical. “My crops are destroyed nearly every night, because they want me to leave this area” says M., a Tutsi woman who lives in Rambo, a rural village in Rubavu district, in the North Kivu area, which has a large Hutu population. In addition, the presence of diffused vigilante justice makes it more difficult to trace a line between violence with no ethic origin and violence that is linked to ethnic difference. Kagame justifies this fragile coexistence based on silence and forced amnesia as a political necessity and a natural transition phase for the country. The president’s aim is to produce sufficient wealth and stability to overcome the lack of harmony between ethnic groups. “ The fragility is to be expected”, he said in a statement. “Sixteen years is a very short time and the trauma runs much deeper than outsiders would understand.”
After a much – criticized electoral campaign, the population confirmed generalized support to the President, who won his second electoral session on August the 9th, and will likely lead the country until the next elections in 2017. At that time Kagame is supposed to abide by the Rwandan constitution, which allows a maximum of two presidential terms. Kagame ‘s ambitious plan is to turn Rwanda into a democratic hub in the region, ready for pluralism and multipartism by 2017. It is hard to imagine that a stable democracy could exist without undertaking a real national dialogue and an effective reconciliation process.

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