Going by the brouhaha in the foreign media and alarming utterances from human rights activists, you’d think Rwanda is in the grip of a second genocide. How I wish they had been this active before or even during the years of carnage, from 1959 to 1994! Rwanda would for sure have been spared a lot of its blood.
A casual look at the headlines sends a chill down the spine of even the most level-headed observer. “Rwanda: End human clampdown before presidential elections”. “Rwanda denies political crisis before August vote”. “Rwanda urged to ensure opposition leader receives fair trial”. “There is something rotten in the state of Rwanda”. “Rwanda’s Kagame: Is He a Hero Turning to Oppression?”
And the hue and cry continues. The last headline quoted above is from ‘Time Magazine’, which is normally marked by exceptional sang-froid. Its source of worry stems from the state and expressions of two Rwandan figures that seem to its reporters to be porte-paroles of the Rwandan citizenry. In reality, these two individuals are as inconsequential to Rwandans as laughing hyenas!
“Things are not good,” opines Charles Kabonero, “We are seeing a situation where the government is doing every thing it can to instil fear, and to make sure that the opposition doesn’t have the opportunity to access the public.” With all due respect to Kabonero, what value can he say his opinions ever added to the lives of Rwandans before his incendiary news rag was happily shut down?
When you come to the crux of the matter, have things ever been better for Rwandans?
We know the primitive times of feudal Rwanda. We know the hard-labour, whipping and brain-washing days of colonialism and Catholicism. We know the exclusionist, génocidaire regimes of Kayibanda and Habyarimana. And we know that colonialism and the immediate post-independence reigns were the architects of the 1994 genocide.
‘Time’ itself admits that “Rwanda has come an incredibly long way since the genocide ……[and that it] has made miraculous progress.” And with good reason. For the first time since the advent of colonialism, Rwandans, wherever they are, can hold their heads high because they are no longer ashamed of whom they are. Kabonero himself can vividly recall when he wished he had been born Kahonera!
He used to wish he were a Munyankore because then he’d be a Ugandan with an identity. Today he has that identity without having to be a Ugandan and, if he is again ashamed of being Rwandan, it’s because he has become a traitor to his people and himself. What denigration can anybody have for Rwandans to think that they deserve to be led by the likes of Ingabire (now even disgracefully disowned by FDLR!) or the desolate duo of Habineza and Kabanda?
The closure of Kabonero’s ‘Umuseso’; a few grenade explosions in the city; military shake-up; ambassadors, opposition leaders and rights activists going into exile. If these constitute a crisis and yet Rwandans are not losing any sleep and, on the contrary, they are going about their daily business of rebuilding their country, why should that have the “foreign observers and experts worried”?
However, when you come to think of it, maybe the government of Rwanda is to blame! As Onyango-Obbo of ‘The East African’ says, everybody has come to expect too much from clockwork-operator, Rwanda. When the quoted incidents occur in other countries, especially African countries, no one is surprised.
Yet, it should not be forgotten that the Rwandan community is made up of individuals with varied interests and Rwanda is not a police state. That is why ‘Umuseso’ can incite insurrection and still be tolerated for so long. And that is why Ingabire can come and blow into the dying embers of ethnic division and she is not lynched by Rwandans, much as they find it hard to restrain themselves.
Where I see government failing to contain Rwandans is when they are required to swallow the arrogance of some foreign human rights activists and keep mum. Consider this from Human Rights Watch: kicking out Carina Tertsakian, their “new researcher …. is part of a government strategy of targeting individuals rather than risking international condemnation” by kicking out the whole organisation.
The nerve! Personally, I would dare any government official to stop me from fulfilling my feeling (no, not named!) against the organisation’s executive director, Kenneth Roth. To imagine that to him the rights of all 11 million Rwandans count for zero, that he can only protect the rights of a woman whose avowed agenda is to return these Rwandans to the dark days of genocide.
Where was that international condemnation when Ingabire’s mother was murdering newly born babies and their mothers, and when she hastened to take that mother away so as to shield her from the claws of justice? Where was it when she brazenly towed her sidekick in her tails, knowing very well that that sidekick, Joseph Ntawangundi, was a genocide convict? Rwandans’ patience is definitely wearing thin.
In the final analysis, Rwandans know best the values of the democracy that they fought for. They will not allow anybody to apportion themselves the right to give them lessons on democracy, however big, generous or ‘international’ they may be.
No, not a single one!