Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Africa's Revolutionaries Resourcing In Communist China

Instead of moving away from the "Beijing consensus" as suggested by Anne Applebaum, the Rwandan Patriotic Front is forging ever closer ties with China and it's communist party.

In march 2010 Paul Kagame stated, in a message by RPF secretary general Francois Ngarambe to Secretary General in charge of the organization department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Gao Shiqi:
“The President also said that the country has a strong partnership with China, especially since both nations have a similar view regarding citizens’ unity and dignity”.
Gao Shiqi responded by noting:
"that his party has a great relationship with the RPF"
In October 2010 as written on the website of African Affairs of China:
" RPF General Secretary Ngarambe led an RPF delegation to China. He met with Member of the Political Bureau, Member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and Minister of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee Liu Yunshan and held talks with Vice Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee Ai Ping. In December, President of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Valens Munyabagisha led a delegation to China. He held talks with Vice Chairman Nan Zhenzhong of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NPC and met with Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun."
Politicians from Sub-Saharan Africa are searching for new friends in the east. The Iranian press reported saturday this quote from Burundian foreign minister Augustin Nsanze:
"the world is changing and that the power of Europe and the US is declining. Certain countries, including Iran, which enjoy great capabilities would play an effective role in the future of the world, he added. He also noted that his country will support the rights of the Iranian nation in the international arena."
Gambian journalist and blogger Kemo Cham reported on the UN post-conflict summit that will take place in Kigali tomorrow:
"The conference to include heads of state and government is organised by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund which is presently chaired by Rwanda."
Rwandan foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo stated:
"Rwanda's gains at nation-building over the last 17 years since a devastating genocide has received recognition with leaders of over 10 countries set to meet in Kigali to learn from the east African country's experience."
For public relations a great conference. But what can we learn from Rwanda? A supporter of the regime, Andrew Mwenda, explains how he understands "success" of the Rwandan Patriotic Front:
"In more successful experiences like the communists in China, Cuba and Vietnam or the NRA in Uganda, Frelimo in Mozambique, MPLA in Angola, RPF in Rwanda, EPLF in Eritrea and TPLF in Ethiopia, the victorious armed group had centrally directed and well developed military organisation to effectively take charge of the state and re-establish a stable and sustainable political order. This was possible because victory was a product of having developed internal capabilities. It is this initial endowment that makes post conflict reconstruction successful."
The Rwandan Patriotic Front is a revolutionary army that has strong ideological links to communism. The RPF does not have ties to any political movement in western Europe or the US. On wikipedia we read:
"Its ideology promotes democratic socialism and left-wing nationalism" 
Frank Rusagara, top RPF strategist (who now heads the intimidation campaign against the Rwandan diaspora from London), gives us more insight in RPF's ideology:
inclusivity of all Rwandans and instilling a sense of patriotism was the guiding RPF principle since its formation in 1987 in Kampala.
As explained in The Resilience of a Nation, “culture...not only would it provide the way, but the basis for the struggle borrowing from the heroic history of Rwanda’s past.
This was drawing from a long-standing tradition of ‘narrativization’ through such as poetry (ibisigo) and the art of oratorical rhetoric (ibyivugo).
“Narrativization was used by the RPF to acquire its own legitimacy and vision. RPF outlined Rwandan history in a bid to cast it in what it considered a realistic perspective.
The narrativisation of the past glory of the Rwandan nation was passed around in order to create a sense of belonging to a community and history that transcended the experience of conflict.
It is this vision that continues to sustain the country through traditional institutions such as the gacaca, as well as the less known Ingando/Ingabo, which traditionally was a military encampment where the troops would be reminded of their patriotism and duty to the kingdom as a “united people”.

The acknowledgement is that the nation of Rwanda first existed in the military. And, in appreciating this, the concept of the Ingando was so successfully used to integrate the soldiers of the previous regime into what is now the Rwanda Defence Forces, that it was replicated in the civil sector with students, teachers, prisoners, etc.
Rwanda’s resilience as a nation is undergirded by its military and, as already observed, “The history of Rwanda is the history of it’s military.  
Rwanda suffered its lowest moments in the sectarian policies of the Hutu-nised military, but was able to demonstrate its integrative ability under the RDF, informing national development.
Appreciating the role of the military in the history of the Rwandan nation to the present and the positive role it must continue to play has ensured that both Rwanda and its citizens are winners. This is what continues to inform the RPF policy of inclusivity.”
This sounds allmost identical to the massive tribute to the glories of Professor Mussolini in the New York Times in 1933:
"In order to create a new Italy he is returning to the old sources of Roman strength and domination. He wishes to resuscitate the materlal vestiges of ancient Rome because they are beautiful and invaluable, but also, andd mainly, because in so doing he hopes to revive the old virtues of the rugged men who under Iron discipline once fashhioned Roman power…. Here I had the feeling that there is no limting condition imposed on any Fascist project; a strange impression that whatever Mussolini commands is executed without being hampered by problems, practical or financial"
Just as with Paul Kagame today, Mussolini succeeded in fooling the entire American press for a number of years. NYT was hardly alone in singing hymns to Mussolini.

Rwandan blogger RwandaNkunda wrote about Ingando last week:

supplemented with the regular ingando (“indoctrination”), they (genocide ideology laws) fulfill the function of instilling fear into the general population with the sole agenda of controlling discourse.

Ingando has been extensively studied by Chi Mgbako at Harvard in Ingando Solidarity Camps: Reconciliation and Political Indoctrination in Post-Genocide Rwanda published in 2005.
Susan Thomson was re-educated at one of the Ingando re-education camps after the Rwandan government stopped her doctoral research in 2006. She has an extremely valuable document about her experience which can be read in French here. Anyone who plans on visiting Rwanda or who writes about Rwanda should start with that document.


Anonymous said...

From my understanding, back in the day African despots tried to counter-balance the West with the Soviets.

And we all know what became of them.

Now, in yet another attempt for legitimacy, they want to turn to Iran and China? Two regimes that could implode at any moment?

Good lord Africans desperately need more strategic and thoughtful leaders.

Breaking bread with these regimes is a fool's errand. India, yes. Brazil, yes. These countries are doing it right, governing well, and are social democrats.

As such, they will last much longer on the world scene that the likes of China, Iran, or Cuba.


Vincent Harris said...

The Chinese communist influence in Africa runs much deeper then the general public assumed over the years. Journalists have largely ignored the deep ties between Chinese communist party, umkhonto we siwzwe, Cuba, Kagame, Museveni, Des Santos. The narrative was allways the greatness of Mandela, Congo's failed state and the evil of the genocide in Rwanda.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Vincent. I am in total agreement with both the narrative and meta-narrative.

I guess what I'm questioning is the strategic position of African leaders (vs the public) embracing China too closely.

Atta and Goodluck seem to get that its a delicate dance with China and, to a lesser degree, Iran. They've both stated that at the end of the day China is a competitor for low wage, labor intensive investment- which is what they need to bring youth employment and thus their own survival down- and both are unstable regimes long term.

Clearly, one should put your eggs in any one basket regardless of the country and, in terms of bringing down the costs of a "China project", it makes sense to play China, Brazil, and India off each other.

More importantly for the short term is the obvious: if Europe cannot get a grip on the debt crisis, demand will fall there and in the US. Such a crisis would severely effect all BRIC countries which, ofcourse, would mean China $$ would dry up for African leaders.

So bottomline: hitching oneself to the China trade has to be done cautiously given the fragility of the world "recovery" and the growing domestic pressures in China itself.

Personally, I'd like to see Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa become the anchor of growth for the world. All three should create a master plan that develops the continent, encourages deeper democratization, and forms the necessary monetary/fiscal union to compete in the world market as ONE entity. In terms of volatile Central Africa, all three recognize that long-term peace in the region will require a)creating a lasting piece between the Hutu/Tutsi in Rwanda and Tutsi's in Congo vis a vis the Congolese b)supporting Uganda's growing democratic movement/putting Museveni out to pasture c)demanding the Congolese elite get focused on state rebuilding and security sector reform.

That's my dream atleast. :)

Vincent Harris said...

Thanks again for your comment. Feedback helps to form new ideas! I should look into how Atta and Goodluck operate in this. Sounds very interesting. Especially Atta seems an exceptional politican from his wikipedia page. Maybe the east-african community can become a force for democracy as the EU has been for eastern european states. But that's maybe whistfull thinking. I don't really see a movement like the Lech Walesa movement in east Africa.

In the past I argued that the war in Congo was similar to the Yoegoslavian conflict, and that in the end stability is inevitable. But all these regimes that are still dominated by revolutionaries seems like a huge risk in east africa.

Maybe an prohibition movement across the great lakes region could gain some traction as a citizen movement (just a balloon).

Anonymous said...

Good points. I think a citizens movement, if we are to see one, will likely arise out of the evangelical movement in most of Central Africa. Beyond cellphones, that is a very new and- putting aside the gay stuff- a very good development. So, as these churches build leadership among the people, at some point that leadership will start to weigh in on public life. Hopefully, its in a way that expands democratic rights more broadly in the region as opposed to "get the gays" or "no abortion". In Congo, I could see a fairly deep women's movement for greater rights given I've seen them in action in these churches and its clear its a concern for them. Or maybe ending school fees.

Point is, I think we will see a movement for X come first from the base of evangelicals since that's the only thing most people in Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, Burundi control at the local level. The Malawi model is instructive here given its mostly the faith community pressuring Muthika which, I'll add, makes it hard for him to clamp down too viciously.

In Rwanda, I think it will take time for such a process to develop. While people go on and on about "Le Dicator Kagame", I personally feel Kagame is making a "Singapore bargain" with his people. Namely, "The Kigali elite will control it all, and, in exchange, we will help you get rich".

That's a very smart bargain in my opinion and one enemies of this regime can't really fight against. If in 5 years, Rwandans own their farms, solid businesses, have a bank account, perhaps a home, and a cellphone do these folks really believe they will throw that all away for a rebellion? Wealth, no matter how small, is a MAJOR motivator for folks and when it is risks being lost people will ignore efforts at destabilization. I have two friends in Kigali. One owns a nice hostel and the other a hip bar. Both are Hutu and both hate Kagame. Both also have recently purchased flats, welcomed their first kids (one has a Tutsi wife, the other an Israeli wife), took vacations to the Kenyan coast, and have new cars. Neither wants any of this to disappear because of Tutsi's hold on power and would not look kindly on an effort to stop growth from outsiders. This is just two people ofcourse but it is illustrative of Rwanda's growing middle class.

Thus, Rwanda society is more "get rich" and less "get god" than others so I doubt they will participate in any upcoming movements. It's possible but highly improbable.