It has been 20 years since about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred in Rwanda in a genocide which remains a blot on the conscience of the world.
The entire world stood by and watched as helpless citizens of that tiny country in the Great Lakes Region of Africa were hacked to death with machetes and other sharp implements.
The peacekeeping arm of the United Nations, then headed by our own Kofi Annan, failed (or is it refused?) to act.
The killings began when an aircraft on which the then Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana, was travelling was shot down by the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by no other person than the current President, Paul Kagame. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
The UN shut the stable after the horse had bolted and when calm was restored, Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, was made President and Kagame, the Vice President. President Bizimungu resigned after six years in the position. It is not clear what the real reasons for his resignation are but some observers have attributed it to undermining by Kagame. When Bizimungu resigned, Kagame got his dream job–President.
Since Kagame assumed office, he has been touted as a man who has led reforms in the country and has brought development. Even in Ghana, the usual comment, when the name Kagame is mentioned or when the issue of lack of visionary leadership in Ghana comes up it is: “Look at what Kagame is doing in Rwanda.”
In the last quarter of last year, I met eminent human rights lawyer, Mr Justice Emile Francis Short, for an interview, and among the many things he said, he praised Paul Kagame for the “many good things” he had done in Rwanda and referred to him as a “benevolent dictator.” He is not the only one who holds that view.
Last year alone, I met about six different eminent Ghanaians who expressed similar views. And on April 19 this year (Easter Saturday), during a visit to Sunny FM, a reverend minister who had gone there to preach and who was a classmate of mine in the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) praised Kagame to the high heavens.
“Suddenly, Paul Kagame has become the standard for Ghanaians?” I asked myself. “Do people know who he really is?” I asked again.
Kagame’s so-called successes
Kagame is credited for leading Africa’s most dynamic nation. Anyone who visits Rwanda today would behold a spectacle of construction cranes all over, especially in the capital Kigali.
There is a building craze in that country and the government is leading the construction of high-rise buildings; some to serve as offices and others as housing for people of all walks of life.
Economic growth has averaged 6.4 per cent per annum since 2001 and literacy and life expectancy have risen sharply.
There is running water almost everywhere and telephone lines are being extended even into the hinterlands.
As the August 9, 2010 edition of the Time Magazine puts it, “Even mountain gorillas are thriving.”
All these at the expense of what?
Rwanda may be Africa’s most dynamic nation (I disagree with this statement though) but it is also its most haunted.
Paul Kagame does not merit his reputation as a visionary leader of Africa with a mission to modernise his country.
Since he assumed office, he has hunted down all who oppose him, sponsoring the killing of hundreds who hold views contrary to his and chasing others out of the country.
He has his own “Gestapo” which ensures that anyone whose views are not in line with his is got rid of.
Prior to the 2010 elections, there were mysterious deaths which have been linked to him.
When a Rwandan journalist, Jean Leonard Rugambage, wrote an article which pointed to Kagame’s complicity in the murder of Nyamwasa, he was killed under mysterious circumstances.
Prior to that same election, he, through what I would refer to as “inferior tactics,” made it impossible for the Green Party, then an emerging force in Rwandan politics, to register to contest the elections. And a few days after the deputy leader of the party accused him of stifling democracy, he was found dead. Not only was he found dead; his head had been also chopped off.
In that election, Kagame won by 93 per cent. But why not? After “clearing” all opponents and instilling fear in the people, why will he not win elections?
His former Chief of Staff, Faustin Kayamba Nyamwasa, was shot in the stomach in South Africa in 2012 after criticising Kagame. He is lucky to be alive.
Kagame’s government, as investigations by prominent international organisations have shown, is behind the plots to assassinate exiles in Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique.
Some Rwandan citizens living abroad have revealed that they have been recruited by the Kagame government to kill opponents domiciled abroad.
A 2011 telephone conversation cited by the Globe and Mail newspapers in the UK point to government complicity in the murder of Rwandan exiles abroad.
In that conversation, Rwanda’s then Chief of Intelligence, Colonel Dan Munyuza, is heard discussing with Major Robert Higiro the murder of two of Kagame’s former aides.
“We will show our appreciation if things are beautifully done. The price is not a problem,” he said referring to the $1 million being offered as fees for the killing of Nyamwasa and former intelligence Chief, Patrick Karegeya.
Karegeya, who was living in exile in South Africa, was found strangled to death in a luxury hotel a few weeks after the phone conversation was recorded.
In an interview with Aljazeera English which was aired on April 8, 2014 and which I watched, Paul Kagame failed to categorically deny responsibility for the murders of exiles. Rather, he accused those killed of being “terrorists” at whose hands Rwandans had suffered for years.
He challenged anyone accusing the government of conducting the killings to provide evidence and wondered why there was a “fuss” in the international community about the deaths.
From his posture, it was clear that he thought those who had been killed deserved to die.
Situation before Kagame
Anytime people talk about Kagame’s “successes,” they give the impression that Rwanda was a backward country full of “cave men” before Kagame “arrived.” That is certainly not the case.
Before the RPF begun its insurgency against the Habyarimana regime, the country was relatively the most stable in the Great Lakes Region. It boasted the best transport facilities. The Rwandan currency, the Franc, was far stronger than the Ugandan and Tanzanian Shilling, the Burundian Franc and Zairean currency.
The country’s telecommunications facilities were, by far, the best in the region and the government was embarking on a rural telephony project. It was Kagame’s RPF raids which destroyed all these.
So if a man destroys something and attempts to put it back in place, does that make him great?
Complicity in genocide
There is overwhelming evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Paul Kagame, but the world has turned a blind eye, just as it did when Saddam Hussein killed thousands of Kurds in the 1980s.
In the Saddam case, although the West, particularly the USA, was aware that he was the culprit, because he was their darling at the time, they pointed accusing fingers at Iran. It was almost a decade after the monstrous act, when they had fallen out with Saddam, that they acknowledged that he was responsible and used it against him.
Kagame is the instigator of the genocide in Rwanda. The plane carrying Habyarimana was shot down on the orders of Kagame. Prior to that, his RPF, made up exclusively of his Tutsi ethnic group, had carried out raids into Rwandan territory several times, an action which made the Hutus apprehensive and arm themselves, fearing an extermination by the Tutsi minority if the insurgency succeeded.
Within two hours of Habyarimana’s assassination, the RPF conducted a massive military offensive which swept across the country and in which thousands of Hutus died. The world seems to have forgotten that. Maybe Hutus are not human beings.
After millions of Hutus had fled into neighbouring countries to seek refuge, Kagame’s army attacked the camps in which they were in the then Zaire, exterminating millions of them. Once again the world was and has been quiet. Kagame, with the help of Yoweri Museveni, invaded Zaire, overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko, a war in which millions died. The “world powers” went dumb.
Col Luc Marchal, the deputy commander of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda, told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) during the genocide trial that: “From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF had only one goal; seizing power and keeping it to themselves. Not once have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges and reach a consensus. Marchal also blames Kagame for the assassination of Habyarimana.
There is also James Lyon, an FBI agent, who after conducting his own research after the genocide, came to the same conclusion that it was Kagame who ordered the assassination of Habyarimana and that he also ordered the murder of millions of Hutus in neighbouring countries for being a “threat” to his government.
A UN investigation team , headed by Michael Hourigan drew the same conclusion. Unfortunately, his report was buried by the West.
Former UN genocide Chief Prosecutor at the ICTR, Ms Carla del Ponte, in her memoirs, described in detail how she was removed from her post when her investigations revealed that Kagame had committed war crimes and when she had called for his prosecution.
According to del Ponte, her office had evidence to prosecute Kagame for “touching off” the Rwanda genocide by ordering the assassination of Habyarimana.
She also, in her book, spoke of the discovery of dozens of massacre sites for which Kagame and his Tutsi clique should be prosecuted.
The statement to the effect that the killers of Habyarimana are not known, according to her, is a “bald-faced lie” known in the western countries.
When she initiated moves to prosecute Kagame, the American government ordered her to stop.
When she insisted on going ahead, she was threatened with removal and when she showed no signs of backing down, she was removed and replaced by an American.
But the French know
The French government has always considered Paul Kagame a genocidaire and sought to have him brought to justice. This is what led Kagame to break diplomatic relations with France and change the official language in Rwanda to English, just to spite them.
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable
Paul Kagame will one day have himself to blame. The Tutsis make up about 20 per cent of the Rwandan population but they wield real power. The Hutus have been sidelined.
What he has succeeded in doing is bringing a few Hutus on board to give his government some credibility. But all serious observers know that it is just mere window-dressing.
With his failure to allow real democracy in his country, his elimination of perceived enemies and his massacre of millions of Hutus in the past, he has already laid the foundations for another genocide.
The pain and hurt of the Hutus linger on. One does not stop one genocide by laying the foundations for another. It just does not make sense. He has failed to heal wounds and bring real reconciliation to his country and that alone is enough “writing on the wall.”
He should also know that the West will not shield him or cover up for him forever. He should look at Saddam Hussein, Mobutu Sese Seko and the many others like them, consider what happened to them and be wise. Nobody can commit atrocities and hide forever. The cup will be full one day.
As for the many Ghanaians who consider him their “hero”, they should get to know the other side of the man before engaging in praise-singing.
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