Against all wise counsel, I beg to revisit this “girl returning home” (her words). Yes, even after touching down at the international airport the other day and being welcomed to Rwanda, Victoire Ingabire is not yet home. Today’s Rwanda is not the Rwanda that is her home. I say this after viewing what seems to be her mission statement. You get confused when you find that, in that statement, the objectives spelt out for her party are a cut-paste replica of the noble objectives of the ruling party in Rwanda today, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).That, however, is when you read the English version. In the Kinyarwanda version, Ingabire does not make such pretences. She goes bare-knuckles at the government, calling upon the ‘majority in the country’ to shed their fear and defy its authority so as to go back to the days of “Nyamwinshi”.
To those familiar with the history of Rwanda, the message is loud and clear. “Rubanda nyamwinshi” (roughly translated, “the majority in Rwanda”) was the term touted by those who perpetrated the first pogroms against Batutsi in 1959, in what was then called the 1959 Revolution. In the English version, this only comes out towards the end where she tells a section of Rwandans: “…your tears and pain are a permanent call”. A permanent call by whom to whom? That’s anybody’s guess. However, it gets more bizarre where she says: “The colour of blood is red. So is the mark on the faces and the eyes of criminals.” This can best be understood if you have watched her closely when she speaks. In her machinegun rapid-fire diatribes, you’ll see her red tongue flapping at a vibratory speed that makes her mouth look like flames.
In turn, those flames will invariably catapult you to the fires that engulfed Rwanda in 1959 and saw the death of thousands of Batutsi and the torching of all houses whose owners answered to the name Umututsi. The survivors of those horrors went into exile and those who insisted on staying were crammed into concentration camps. From these camps, those and others who had quietly sneaked back to join their fellow Rwandans, and any other survivors, were all finally practically wiped out in the 1994 genocide. To cement her message, Ingabire’s first port of call was Dominique Mbonyumutwa’s grave, to pay homage to the architect of the exclusionist and genocidal machine that wreaked havoc on Rwanda up to 1994. From there, she is doing the rounds of prisons to console all the convicted génocidaires. And what is the aim of this brazen chutzpah in total contravention of the laws of the land? It would seem that Ingabire is a guided missile in a two-pronged attack on the government. She is remotely controlled by the global fraternity of genocide fugitives to get herself in prison, failing which she can revive the cause of genocide.
No wonder, then, that the silence of all the gnocidal groups in the Diaspora is deafening these days: ODR-Dufatanye, RUD-Urunana, FDLR, Rusesabagina, etc. As one Kenyan minister once put it, they are lying low ‘like an envelope’, bating their breath. Once she is nabbed, they will spring up to shout “Dictatorial Rwanda government!” As more and more governments pledge to apprehend all genocide fugitives in their countries, the fugitives in turn have found they have to think of new survival tricks. These include finding a ‘suicide bomber’ whose ‘explosion’ will only be arraignment in any of the moderate prisons of Rwanda, and yet can win them international sympathy. The calculated second score for these genocidal groups is more long-term: the derailment of the increasingly successful unity-and-reconciliation effort of present-day Rwanda. By whipping up ‘ethnic-majority’ sentiments, they hope to drive the same agenda as that which led to the 1994 genocide.
All in all, however, these forces of evil fall short on the realisation that Rwanda is changed for good. The forces of sanity and dignity have lifted Rwandans and placed them on a pedestal where nary a cheap, short-sighted offering will impress them. Ingabire can vibrate her tongue and fret and foam at the mouth all she wants but, as she has began to find out, all she will elicit is a puzzled look here and there at the least, chuckles of bewilderment at the most. Everyone knows what she is at when she invokes “Ingoyi” (crudely translated as ‘shackles’), but who cares when they know the level of empowerment they have attained?
To quote a new-found friend, Rwandans are busy “actively thinking through their destiny” and are beyond “blindly following the old rhetoric that the Ingabires have been manipulating for years to justify their hate politics”. (Courtesy Villa Magome) To think that you can come from the North, Lakwena-like, and lead a Jeanne-d’Arc crusade and receive even an iota of attention from Rwandans is to misjudge the level of awareness they have cultivated these past 15 years. (For information, Alice Lakwena is the woman who led a futile, holy liberation war against Museveni in Uganda in the 1980s.)
Clearly, this is not a Rwanda that the Ingabires can feel at home in.