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RWANDA: LOS ANGELES SAYS:THE POWER OF HORROR

Posted by rwandaonline on May 26, 2009

The power of horror in Rwanda

Fifteen years ago, efforts at genocide killed about 800,000 Rwandans. Now that tragedy is providing the government with a cover for repression.

By Kenneth Roth 
April 11, 2009

 

IT'S A HORROR EVERY WHERE IN RWANDA

IT'S A HORROR EVERY WHERE IN RWANDA

During a gruesome three months in 1994, about 800,000 Rwandans were murdered as part of a calculated effort by a group of Hutu extremists to eradicate the country’s Tutsi population. 

The genocide ended only with the military victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel group founded by Rwandan exiles who ousted the Hutu extremists. The front’s austere and savvy commander, Paul Kagame, now serves as Rwanda’s president.

 

In the 15 years since the extremist government was ousted, Rwanda has become an island of stability in a volatile region. The economy is booming, the distinction between Hutu and Tutsi is officially downplayed, and ethnic and political violence has been largely eradicated. Kigali, the capital of a country that likes to portray itself as the Switzerland of Africa, is orderly and manicured.

But Rwanda has a long way to go. Despite the facade of occasional elections, the government essentially runs a one-party state. And ironically, it is the genocide that has provided the government with a cover for repression. Under the guise of preventing another genocide, the government displays a marked intolerance of the most basic forms of dissent.

There is no meaningful opposition. The press is cowed. Nongovernmental organizations are under attack. When parliamentary elections held last September produced a whopping 92% victory for Kagame’s ruling party, evidence collected by the European Union and Rwandan monitors suggested that the government actually inflated the percentage of opposition votes so as to avoid the appearance of an embarrassing Soviet-style acclamation.

One tool of repression has been the gacaca courts — informal tribunals run without trained lawyers or judges — which the government established at the community level to try alleged perpetrators of the genocide. The original impetus was understandable: Rwandan prisons were overpopulated with tens of thousands of alleged genocidairesand no prospect of the country’s regular courts trying them within any reasonable time. The gacaca courts provided a quick, if informal, way to resolve these cases. In theory, members of the community would know who had or had not been involved in the genocide, but in reality the lack of involvement by legal professionals has left the proceedings open to manipulation.

Today, 15 years after the genocide, people are still coming forward and accusing their neighbors of complicity in it, suggesting that gacaca has morphed into a forum for settling personal vendettas or silencing dissident voices. The prospect of suddenly being accused of past participation in the genocide, with little legal recourse against concocted charges, is enough to make most people keep their heads down in the political arena.

The government says it will close the gacaca courts in June. But the government has another tool of control — the crime of “genocide ideology.” Formally adopted last year, the law outlawing “genocide ideology” is written so broadly that it can encompass even the most innocuous comments. As many Rwandans have discovered, disagreeing with the government or making unpopular statements can easily be portrayed as genocide ideology, punishable by sentences of 10 to 25 years. That leaves little political space for dissent.

Pressing the government to amend these repressive laws and practices is not easy, as I discovered in recent meetings with senior officials from the prime minister on down. They are understandably sensitive about political invective that can lead to renewed ethnic slaughter, but the public faces the very real danger that any political criticism of the government will be construed as fomenting genocide.

Western governments, guilt-ridden at not having stopped the genocide and impressed by Rwanda’s stability and economic growth, have been all too willing to close their eyes to this repressive sleight of hand.

But Kagame’s strategy is shortsighted and dangerous. He claims to be building a society in which citizens are only Rwandans, not Tutsi or Hutu, but his repression of civil society means that avenues to forge alternative bonds among people are limited. That makes it more likely that in moments of tension Rwandans will resort to their ethnic identity, as so often happens in repressive societies.

The challenge for world leaders 15 years after Rwanda’s genocide is to overcome guilt and look beyond the enforced peace to convince Kagame and his government to build the foundation for more organic, lasting stability.

The best way to prevent another genocide is to insist that Kagame stop manipulating the last one.

Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch.

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2 Responses to “RWANDA: LOS ANGELES SAYS:THE POWER OF HORROR”

  1. Rwanda_Democratic said

    This is definitelly good news. These people have lots to answer.

  2. D. Bapfakurora said

    Mu gihe abanyarwanda bakomeje kwitegura ivanwaho ry’ubutegetsi bwa perezida Kagame igihe icyo aricyo cyose bizabera, abagomba kuzashyikirizwa ubucamanza igihe ingoma Kagame izaba imaze kuvaho batangiye gushyirwa kuri liste. Ngaba bamwe mu bakoranye na gouvernement ya Kagame mu kwica abanyarwanda no kubakorera ibindi byaha bikomeye bagomba kuzashyikirizwa ubucamanza. Liste izakomeza kwiyongera kuko hari n’abandi bagishakwaho ibimenyetso.

    1.KAGAME PAUL, President
    2.JAMES KABAREBE, Yishe impunzi zari i Kibumba muli Congo
    3.KAYUMBA NYAMWASA
    4.KARENZI KARAKE, Yategaga ibisasu muli za 1993-1994 bikitwa ibya guverinema Habyarimana; niwe watangaga amafaranga agura ibyitso mu mujyi wa Kigali
    5.FRED IBINGIRA, Ubwicanyi bwa Kibeho, Byumba, Kibungo, Gitarama, n’urupfu rw’Abasemyeri I Gakurakuzo
    6.RWAHAMA JACKSON MUTABASI
    7.JACKSON NKURUNZIZA, aka JACK NZIZA
    8.RUGUMYA GACINYA
    9.DAN MUNYUZA, Yashatse kwica Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa kuko batinya ko azabavamo
    10.CHARLES KAYONGA
    11.JOSEPH NZABAMWITA
    12.CEASAR KAYIZARI
    13.ERIK MUROKORE
    14.DENYS KARERA
    15.EVARISTE KABARISA
    16.JUSTUS MAJYAMBERE – Yishe abaturage
    17.EVARISTE KARENZI
    18. ALEX KAGAME
    19. CHARLES MUSITU
    20.GASANA RURAYI
    21.SAMUEL KANYEMERA aka SAM KAKA
    22.WILSON GUMIRIZA (umufasha wa Ibingira mu kwica abahutu I Kibeho, Byumba…)
    23.AUGUSTIN GASHAYIJA
    24.TWAHIRWA DODO
    25.FIRMIN BAYINGANA
    26.WILLY BAGABE
    27.WILSON NGABONZIZA
    28.SAMUEL KARENZEZI alias VIKI,caporal
    29.JOACHIM HABIMANA
    30. KARARA MISINGO
    31.ALPHONSE KAJE
    32.FRANK BAKUNZI
    33.DAN GAPFIZI
    34.JOHN BUTERA
    35.CHARLES KARAMBA
    36.MATAYO,cpt
    37.PETER KALIMBA
    38.SILAS UDAHEMUKA
    39.STEVEN BALINDA
    40.JOHN BAGABO
    41.GODEFROID NTUKAYAJYEMO alias KIYAGO,capt
    42. SHABANI RUTA, uzwi kuli radio Muhabura
    43.RICHARD RUTATINA, Yamaze impunzi z’abahutu muli RDC agafatanya na IBINGIRA mu bwicanyi bwose : Kibeho, Byumba, etc..
    44. GATETE
    45. NDAHIRO EMMANUEL
    46.RUVUSHA
    47.KANGUGO
    48.MUBARAK MUGANGA
    49.CHARLES NGOGA, Yamaze abaturage abarasamo atarobanuye mu gihe cya 1994
    50.GACINYA RUGUMYA, Yishe abasivili abarasamo atsemba atarobanuye
    51.RUCAGU BONIFACE, Yari umukaraza wa MRND na FPR mu gihe kimwe akicisha abatutsi ngo ari gukorera MRND, akishisha abahutu bo muli MDR ngo ubwo arakorera MRND ariko mu by’ukuli akorera FPR.
    52.TOM NDAHIRO
    53.LOUISE MUSHIKIWABO
    54.MUGESERA ANTOINE, ideologue wa FPR
    55.MARTIN NGOGA, Gushinja ibinyoma by’ingengabitekerezo abanenga ubutegetsi bubi bwa Kigali bose
    56. OLIVIER NDUHUNIREHE RWEMALIKA
    57.MUKAMANA ESPERANCE, umunyamabanga nshingabikorwa muli MUGANZA ukorera Kagame mu kwicisha abaturage inzara
    58.PAUL JULES NDAMAGE, umuyobozi w’akarere ka Kicukiro mu by’imiturire mu mujyi, shinzwe kwangaza abaturage akabatesha amazu biyubakiye ngo bapfe nabi
    59.DUKUNDIMANA ESPERANCE,umuyobozi w’umurenge wa NYAMYUMBA muli Gisenyi: kwicisha abaturage mu karere ka Nyamyumba bazira ko batatoye abakandida ashaka hamwe n’ubutegetsi.
    60. GAKURU J. BOSCO na KABILE MARCEL: abakozi b’uwo DUKUNDIMANA ESPERANCE mu bwicanyi
    61. JAMES MUSONI, Gusahura igihugu
    63. MANASSEH NSHUTI, Gusahura igihugu
    64. ROSE KABUYE
    65. JACOB TUMWINE
    66. FRANK NZIZA
    67. ERIC HAKIZIMANA, Yari G2 muri DMI
    68. CLEMENTINE NIYIBIZI, Gukubita abaturage
    69. RICHARD RUTATINA
    70. DENIS KARERA, Yishe abaturage
    71. JEANNETTE KAGAME, Gukanyaga abanyarwanda
    72. AGNES BINAGWAHO, Minisitiri w’ubuvuzi ushinjwa gukona abakene b’abahutu ngo batazongera kubyara.
    73. CONSTANCE MUKAYUHI RWAKA, Akorana na Jeannette Kagame mu gusahura umutungo wa rubanda
    74. JEAN DE DIEU MUCYO, Yamaze abahutu b’i butare muri 1994
    Lisiti izakomeza

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