This week I was scrolling through twitter, as I do regularly. Paul Kagame, Rwandan president, was announced to speak at the Rwandan parliament. I found myself drawn to the virtual waiting list of his talking in front of many dignitaries. Probably I had forgotten how he addresses the public.
In recent days I had been editing a story of a survivor. He was then 18 eighteen years old when the Rwandan tragedy struck. Kagame’s hordes of soldiers had killed all his relatives and friends. This was in the forests of Congo back in 1996 and 1998. The 1994 genocide was already some years in the past. But its aftermath appeared as dramatic as it was, if not more. The death toll, and still counting, has reached almost 8 millions of lives.
The young man survived imaginable and unimaginable circumstances. Death spared him. He was taken for dead among bodies destined for burial. In all probability, fate wanted him to be able to tell the world what he went through. In 1999, from 347 forcibly returned Rwandan refugees from Franceville (Gabon), only 17 remained still alive after weeks of torture and starvation.
This is one story out of million others that will be never told. Because their storytellers couldn’t be as lucky as the young man in the hands of Kagame’s killing machine.
But what is the Rwandan president saying today, the leader who slaughtered his compatriots, Congolese and others in a number which will be never exactly known?
Let’s not forget the millions of citizens he keeps captive in Rwanda, fearing him more than an atrocious animal can be feared, or the hundreds of thousands of Congolese raped women that his affiliated militias victimise to create persistent instability in Eastern Congo.
The chaos he has created enabled him and his external supporters to plunder for years Congolese minerals. And he is claiming that when they pass through his country he does not stop them. At least on this point he acknowledges to be their accomplice.
The Rwandan president explains,
“History has taught us that we need to continue building our capacity for home-grown solutions to the problems of our country.”
And one of such solutions has been the Gacaca justice system. Except for the administrators of that system, I don’t see any positive it brought for the millions of Rwandans who became its victims, thanks to its implementation. But if we agree that its purpose was to create and justify the existence of a second class category of citizens among Rwandans, then it has been a laudable success.
Paul Kagame indicates in his speech that,
“International justice, just like so many other things we have seen in the recent past, is used to define and determine how Africans should live their lives.”
As long as that International justice, like the International Criminal Tribunal Court, or other external institutions serve the Rwandan president’s interests, they are not reprehensible in his eyes. To become trustworthy on the subject, he should not apply double standards when the same institutions or powerful countries come after him because of their own interests.
Referring to DRC, he declares that,
“Those who took Rwandophones to the Congo should be the ones accountable for these problems. “
I don’t think he is really mentioning that to demonstrate that he cares for those populations of Rwandan descent who for historical reasons ended up settling in that country. It’s only a diversion. He has been destabilising DRC for economic reasons nothing else tangible. The same way for example NATO and its allies destroyed Libya in 2011. Though in this later case, there were more motivations to their action, particularly stopping Qaddafi in being an obstacle to their plunder of Africa.
Have you ever heard a bully in a classroom telling their classmates to stand up against bullies? That is what Paul Kagame seems to picture when he says,
“We Rwandans are better off standing up to this boorish attitude. The attitude of the bullies must be challenged. That is what some of us live for.”
He forgets how boorish he is and or perceived, or he might simply be in denial of the main characteristic of his personality.
During the same speech he points out that,
“People who have power, and have a lot of it for that matter, should also be wise. …When the powerful get angry, it’s not justified. But many times the powerless have a lot of justifications to be angry.”
In the Rwandan context, can what he is saying here be applied? Or is he again referring to a situation where double standards are permitted?
“But the weak, the poor, the powerless have a different potential that they should use correctly to get out of this kind of position we find ourselves in every time. … The power of refusing injustice.”
I find that here the Rwandan president, though he was referring to his own situation against the international community, has provided how those suffering from his injustices and oppression should behave towards him: by refusing his repression.
It is surprising that when these external countries and institutions were standing behind him to commit all the crimes alleged against him today, the Rwandan president was never complaining. Despite changed and changing circumstances, I don’t think Paul Kagame has changed at all.
A political leader who is not listening anymore, if he ever did, or nobody is listening to, for many reasons, isn’t it time for them to leave office without being pushed? If he ever cared for Rwandans, he would peacefully resign.
Please click here, to read the entire speech of Paul Kagame, Rwandan president, that he pronounced on 4 October 2012 in parliament at the occasion of receiving oaths from 3 top public servants and launching the judiciary year 2012.