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Dutch government helping Kagame rig election?

August 3, 2010

by H. Vincent Harris

In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame can still draw crowds as he campaigns to win re-election Aug. 9 and no public criticism since he shut down all opposition media, but around the world the press is questioning him as never before. A July 21 story in the Wall Street Journal begins, “Last week a Rwandan opposition figure was found murdered, his head nearly severed from his body. Late last month, the editor of a suspended local-language publication was gunned down in front of his home. … [The government’s] explanations become harder to credit every time a critic of the government drops dead or lands in jail.”
Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen recently answered questions (Google translated) in Parliament concerning Rwanda’s election. (These answers were published online in Dutch on July 30, 2010.)

The rush transcript shows that the Dutch government refutes claims by the Rwandan opposition parties of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Frank Habineza and Bernard Ntaganda that the process so far has been rigged and since July the Dutch government is apparently co-presiding over the Rwandan National Electoral Commission.

The translated answer by Maxime Verhagen which specifically refutes an important claim by the Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties states:

“The claim of the PCC that the independence of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) would only be guaranteed through the participation of opposition is not shared by me. The PCC ‘falls over’ the fact that the chairman of the NEC is a member of the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame's army and party]. Neutrality, however, is effectively monitored by the co-chair, a donor (The Netherlands). The Netherlands since July 2010 as acting co-chairman of the NEC is co-responsible for setting the agenda and for bringing specific topics to the table. The NEC is directly involved in the process for the adjustment of the electoral law and also responsible for the electoral process. The NEC shall also ensure fairness of the campaign, for example, by checking that the media focus on the current four candidates is distributed evenly. The registration of the presidential candidates was also done at the NEC.”

On Frank Habineza, Maxime Verhagen states that the Rwandan Green Party (my translation) “wanted to participate without fulfilling all conditions, which is participating without holding a founding meeting. This is considered contrary to the Rwandan Constitution.”

That statement totally ignores the fact that the Rwandan government has made it impossible, through Kafkaesque measures, for the Green Party to hold such a meeting.

The fact that the Dutch government is now a member of the Rwandan NEC merits serious discussion. Has anyone in the world ever seen a foreign government be part of a National Electoral Commission?

To learn how Kagame rigged the 2003 elections, read here.

H. Vincent Harris lives in Belgium, where he explores the impact of migrants on democratic development both at home and abroad at Colored Opinions, where the initial version of this story first appeared.

3 thoughts on “Dutch government helping Kagame rig election?

  1. dunia

    If this is true, then the Dutch government should be accountable for destroying democracy in Rwanda for its interest. The same Dutch government may have been involved indirectly in all killing events happened before this elections by providing support to the government to kill his own people for having different views or being in different political parties.

    I think the Dutch government instead of co chairing the election in Rwanda should ask more explanations from kagame administration about all killings and disappearance of innocent people prior to election. The Dutch gov should advise Rwanda to postpone elections and register political parties.
    If this is true, it is a shame for Dutch kingdom

  2. Ann_Garrison

    @duria: I'm starting to question this idea of the Dutch government, the U.S. government, the UK, etc. asking the Kagame government for explanations, as though they had any moral authority. I feel more like the Dutch people, the American people, and the British people, and the citizens of other Euro powers, should be asking their governments what the hell they're doing in Rwanda.

    Nothing could be more cynical than this statement:

    ‎"On Frank Habineza, Maxime Verhagen states that the Rwandan Green Party (my translation) 'wanted to participate without fulfilling all conditions, which is participating without holding a founding meeting. This is considered contrary to the Rwandan Constitution.'”

    Anyone paying attention saw Frank and the Rwanda Greens struggle to register their party, for 10 months, putting themselves through more bureaucratic torture and obfuscation than I could follow or keep trying to document in the end—-after violent saboteurs shut down their 10.30 convention chanting "Hail the RPF!"

    Verhagen can say this only assuming that little of the world is paying attention because it's Rwanda, it's Africa, so who cares? . . . that this paper thin democratic veneer will do.

  3. Iris Gordelia

    How can neutrality of a NEC-chair with an RPF profile be assured by a long time supporter of the RPF-government?

    And what the heck is a foreign government doing in the NEC of a sovereign country? Can you imagine that Rwanda would co-chair the Dutch electoral commission???? This is sick!


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