Monday, July 26, 2010

Kagame's Picture Is Everywhere

Yesterday, Lydia, doing undergraduate research in Rwanda wrote on her blog:
"His picture is EVERYWHERE – on bumper-stickers, framed on the walls of offices and classrooms, printed on pins, t-shirts, mugs, etc"

The same day we read at Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza's facebook page:
  "Yesterday Saturday, the police raided Mrs Victoire Ingabire residence following two FDU party reprentatives for Kicukiro and Nyarugenge. The policed searched these men and found 35 t-shirts with writings "We Want Democracy" and "We Want True Justice" in their vehicle. The Rwandan police arrested the Party Representatives as if wearing or carrying t-shirts with such words is an unlawful protest. "
That same day Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda Foreign Minister, gets a free ride in Newsweek by Ryan Tracy, in that context Ann Garrison writes:
 "Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is being evicted from the second house she rented in Kigali City since January because both landlords have received death threats for renting to her." (Ann Garrison)
A statement by the President of the Atlantic Council, Frederick Kempe  at a meeting in Washington called "Democracy and Genocide Denial Politics" (which sole purpose was to legitimize the election rigging in Rwanda and at which obviously only representatives of the ruling RPF were invited to speak) explains why:
 "There are those who seek to deny that a genocide ever happened in Rwanda. There are others who blame the present government for starting the genocide by acts of provocation and conspiracy.  There are still others who believe that there was a double genocide in Rwanda.  Denials of genocide did not begin in Rwanda.  They have been a staple of a particular strain of thought in Europe for the last half century. "
This statement is first of all an insult to Holocaust victims and survivors, while it uses their memory to cast  suspicion of "genocide denail" on serious investigations (concerning RPF crimes in Congo, but also Michael Hourigan's investigation concerning the terrorist attack on the plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994) and rulings by the ICTR,  indictments by judges in Spain and France, as Michael Hourigan, a former UN investigator and prosecutor at the ICTR briefly summarizes:
"There is overwhelming credible evidence suggesting prima facie that Paul Kagame and his armed forces were involved in slaughter of many thousands of civilians in Rwanda in 1994 and 1995. There is significant credible evidence on the public record linking President Kagame with the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential aircraft in 1994 killing the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and all others on board."
Secondly, the meeting did not even leave room for the view summarized by Chi Mgbako, a clinical associate professor of law and director of the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School in New York City:
"The Rwandan government uses charges of “genocidal ideology” and “ethnic divisionism” to attack independent critics and often seems more concerned with political survival than with lasting reconciliation, manipulating the memory of the genocide for political gain."
I am sure the US political establishment, people like Ward Brehm, which has uncritically supported Paul Kagame's regime for 15 years,  has a hard time waking up to reality these days. They feel guilt and shame because their emotional and shallow reaction to Rwanda's genocide has for so long obscured their sound judgement. I predict that some will never admit that they were at least partly wrong (no doubt, people like Frederick Kempe will continue to search for lame excuses), while others will follow the crowd and claim they "allways knew Paul Kagame was a shady character". It takes courage and political leadership to admit that serious mistakes were made (for example: looking away while ethnic cleansing by RPF troops took place in Congo) and that the respected gentleman from Texas, former Ambassador to Burundi and US Senator, Robert Krueger, was right all along when he wrote:
"I can tell you, I first met Paul Kagame in August of 1994. I went to his office. He was vice president then. I wrote down basically my impressions from then I said, as long as this man is the chief executive of the country, there will never be real democracy. "
It takes courage at the State Department and the Pentagon to engage in serious selfreflection concerning it's support of RPF leadership during it's campaigns of massive slaughter. To this day it still remains a mystery, as Robert Krueger  wrote in his book "From bloodshed to hope in Burundi":
"How U.S. military leaders had become so enamored of Paul Kagame I could not fully fathom....I was appalled that these skills had so successfully overshadowed his obvious preference for dictatorship over democracy, and his tolerance, or perhaps appetite, for vengeful ethnic slaugheter, yet he was invited to the United States to be feted at the Pentagon. In time, I was sure that the truth about the RPA would come out. But how many lives would be lost, how much suffering endured, how much fear and despair would be borne in the interim?"
Considering the State Department recent involvement, through one of their policy planning staffers, in a one-sided simplistic propaganda campaign for Paul Kagame by Deborah Scranton at the Tribeca festival, I am honestly not optimistic.

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