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Push Kagame harder, activists tell Obama

August 25, 2010
Rwandan Genocide survivor Claude Gatebuke brought his powerful message to the demonstration against Kagame on April 30, when the Rwanda strongman arrived to speak at Oklahoma Christian University. – Photo: Kendall Brown
Washington, D.C. – A nationwide coalition of U.S. activists is calling on President Barack Obama to go beyond recent White House criticism and intensify pressure on the government of newly re-elected Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

On Friday, Aug. 13, a White House spokesperson, the National Security Council’s Mike Hammer, expressed the Obama administration’s unhappiness about events in Rwanda. Hammer focused his ire on the repressive circumstances and the less-than-credible results of Rwanda’s presidential elections on Aug. 9.

The NSC statement made clear the White House view that today’s Rwanda is not a democracy and then went further to dismiss the “development first, democracy later” argument often used to excuse Mr. Kagame’s iron-fisted rule. “Rwanda’s stability and growing prosperity, however, will be difficult to sustain in the absence of broad political debate and open political participation,” Hammer said.

While welcoming Friday’s NSC statement, the advocacy coalition is demanding much tougher action against the Kagame government. Several members specified the tougher policies they want to see in Obama’s policy toward Rwanda.

Claude Gatebuke, a Rwandan genocide survivor and a leader in the coalition, linked American aid to improved democratization in Rwanda. He said the group wants President Obama to immediately terminate all military assistance and cooperation and also to freeze the $240 million that the U.S. is scheduled to soon give Mr. Kagame.

“American aid to Rwanda must be nonmilitary. And that nonmilitary American taxpayer money should be unfrozen if, and only if, Mr. Kagame meets two conditions,” Gatebuke said.

He outlined the first condition as “immediately widening Rwanda’s democratic space, which includes completely freeing all political opponents, critics and the media; scrapping repressive laws; and engaging in good faith discussions with all stakeholders about the way forward in Rwanda.”

Pascal Kalinganire of the Organization for Peace, Justice and Development in Rwanda speaks to the press at the National Press Club Aug. 3. Other speakers at the front table are Peter Erlinder, law professor and attorney who was jailed when he traveled to Rwanda to represent presidential challenger Victoire Ingabiré Umuhoza, Rwandan Genocide survivor and human rights activist Claude Gatebuke and Emira Woods of the Institute for Policy Studies. – Photo: Kambale Musavuli
Rwanda’s behavior inside the Congo emerged as the coalition’s second condition. Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson for Friends of the Congo, outlined that condition:

“In addition to allowing democracy inside Rwanda, Gen. Kagame must be held accountable for his destabilization and looting of the Congo. President Obama must implement the bill he passed as Senator into law, PL 109-456, The Democratic Republic of Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act. That law clearly requires the U.S. government to withhold aid to neighboring countries that destabilize the Congo.”

Jacques Bahati of Africa Faith and Justice Network questions Washington’s cozy relations with President Kagame: “It is both mind-boggling and inexplicable how much the Congress and the Obama administration have coddled the dictatorship in Kigali. Real American interests in Africa are hurt by this embarrassing relationship.”

Experts in Washington say past actions by the coalition on behalf of the Rwandan people have seen results. They point to two taken earlier this year.

On April 30, group members organized demonstrations against President Kagame during his Oklahoma Christian University visit. Some reports claimed that the president was forced to use a side entrance.

Some of the Africa advocates who organized the Aug. 3 press conference at the National Press Club gathered afterward with James Kimonyo, Rwandan ambassador to the U.S., far right. From left are Emira Woods, Claude Gatebuke, Nii Akuetteh, Peter Erlinder and Pascal Kalinganire. – Photo: Kambale Musavuli
And three weeks ago, on Aug. 3, the activists organized a packed press briefing at the prestigious National Press Club, a mere stone’s throw from the White House. Unconvinced after hearing out Rwandan Ambassador James Kimonyo, the activists called on President Obama to denounce the Aug. 9 Rwanda elections as sham. The experts say that the NSC statement is therefore a shot in the arm for the Rwandan people and their struggle for democracy.

Observers also find it significant that both President Obama personally and the NSC statement have pointedly failed to congratulate Mr. Kagame on his electoral victory – something done routinely when Washington is pleased with an ally.

Still some coalition members remain skeptical. They question if the NSC criticism means President Obama is finally moving to add substance to his 2009 Ghana speech, when he pledged to support strong institutions in Africa, not strong men.

Maurice Carney, executive director of Friends of the Congo, is among the unconvinced. He notes: “There is no better litmus test for President Obama keeping his word than how he responds to the quintessential strongman of Central Africa, Paul Kagame. Will the president continue the carte blanche support for Paul Kagame despite his own 2009 rhetoric in Ghana? Or will Mr. Obama engineer a bold shift from a half century of U.S. support for strongmen, dictators and despots to assisting and encouraging non-violent, pro-democratic forces and strong institutions?”

Contact Kitty Kurth of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation at (312) 617-7288, Friends of the Congo at (202) 584-6512 and Africa Faith and Justice Network at (202) 884-9780 or for more information.

28 thoughts on “Push Kagame harder, activists tell Obama

  1. jon

    Emanuel gatebuke genocidal survivor my ass,Obama will never listen to this genocide deniers and murderers who commited genocide,now they are trying to make themselves victims of genocide (very funny),Rwanda or Kagame will never look back to this idiots…we are moving ahead full speed and we gona make it,these people wish ta take us back pre 1994,keep dreaming but that will never happen again

    1. Joseph

      FDLR clearly have support and sympathy from some of the so-called Congolese activists!I'm sure that if Hitler was still alive, Prof. Erlinder would be his Lawyer!

    2. Clues

      @Jon: How serious can you be to think "you are moving ahead full speed"? How can you move full speed with 6.5 millions repressed people in a country o about 8.2 millions? It's like saying your high school junior basketball team will take on the lakers!

      Kagame's being increminated of Genocide. Are you gonna have that kind of rhetoric again? He was considered the genocide hero. Maybe he's actually the one who initialized it in the first place as reported by others that he gave orderes not to intervene when he could coz he wanted it to be consumed first?
      Open your eyes..

    3. Saad

      So does anyone believe Kagame is as clean cotton in the accumulated matter of the genocide and after? or is there a need to reexamine what really happened? How do you jon suggest we bring an end to this debate or is there no crisis at all?

  2. jon

    For all haters eat this…

    TEXT-Fitch upgrades Rwanda to 'B'; outlook stable
    Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:30pm GMT
    Print | Single Page[-] Text [+] (The following statement was released by the ratings agency)
    Aug 24 – Fitch Ratings has upgraded Rwanda's Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'B' from 'B-'. The Outlooks on the Long-term IDRs are Stable. At the same time, the agency has affirmed Rwanda's Short-term foreign currency IDR at 'B' and upgraded the Country Ceiling to 'B' from 'B-'.

    "The upgrade reflects an uninterrupted period of strong growth that has more than doubled Rwanda's income per head since 1994, lifting it to above that in some of its peers," says Purvi Harlalka, Associate Director in Fitch's Sovereign group. "It also reflects the improvement in Rwanda's business environment following an impressive structural reform drive. Large planned investments in physical infrastructure and continued efforts to increase competitiveness will keep growth robust and support creditworthiness."

    1. messenger

      So because Rwanda has an hypothetic economic development (based mainly on Congo predations) we all Rwandan have to accept everything Kagame is doing to us?MY ASS!

      1. jon

        blinded with your ignorance and extremism thats why you cant see the truth,the one whos killing your people,raping and looting your wealth are the one you re trying to defend,Rwanda is for piece but if you keep supporting the terrorist FDLR like your God Ingabire we will come after you,and our development is just a hardwork,non corrupt society etc and has nothing to do with your minerals…you re not even Congolese,you re just rwandese scared to go back to Kigali because justice is waiting for you….FDLR and maimai are killing Congolese and remember Rwanda has no single soldier in Congo

      2. jon

        Rwanda has no single soldier in Congo,the one whos killing your people,raping and looting your wealth are FDLR and maimai,stop that lie and see the obvious you idiot

        FDLR Abuses in DRC Intensify
        James Karuhanga
        26 August 2010

        New reports indicate that abuses, especially rape and raids, perpetrated by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are on the rise.

        "The FDLR raped 50 women in Walikale at a place called Mumbi in the past weeks. They also raped 70 other women in a separate incident, according to the reports that we have," said Maj. Kazalama.

        The FDLR are remnants of masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda which claimed over one million people.

        Maj. Kazalama also acknowledged this FDLR-Mai Mai alliance, noting that the Mai-Mai faction involved in the attacks is headed by Lt. Col. Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, an ex-CNDP officer who has refused to be integrated in the Congolese army.

  3. June Sina

    Let me tell you one thing my fellow Hutus like i have always told you ITS OVER get over it.Even here on earth all sinners will be punished at the end of the world.You might escape punishment for genocide crimes you commited here on earth but you wont escape God's punishment,so why dont you begin now to confess.You guys in Europe think that you are the legitimate Hutus than us in Rwanda,but let me tell you,you are a bunch of loosers haunted by your past crimes.__Your words and actions in Europe and America, show that you are really out of tourch with your motherland-you have missed on the healing process which is enjoyed by Rwandans.Imagine you sitting and fuelling presidential candidate like Ingabire ,imagine-she is now regretting her divisive pre genocidal regime speeches.__Our president was won by 93% given the fact that Rwanda is 85% Hutus what does that tell you? where is your basis of your argument that Kagame's unity and reconcilliation has failed? who are you speaking for? The people you claim to speak for are happily voting for the person you criticize.So what are you, who are you? The blood on your hands is the one that is making you to fight loosing battles.

    1. messenger

      Who told ya I was hutu?I tought there was no ethnicity in Rwanda now u r tellin' me about being hutu!!wooowwwwwwww!interesting!Is Nyamwasa a hutu?is Karegeya a hutu?wooow!r u a hutu?woooooww

      1. Paul

        "Messanger": Juna Sina is the voice of reason and common sense in this discussion.

        What she is saying (if you don't get that) is that there is so much hatred because of past traumas. But time has come to overcome it, to focus on progress for Rwanda. Much of the current criticism stems from past hatred and not so much from purely rational facts. Non-constructive criticism is the last Rwanda needs. It is not surprising that expat Rwandans are in the forefront of this emotionalized debate. They are dettached from the reality on the ground. When you are in Rwanda, your main interest is a better life AT LAST. And this is becoming REALITY in front of the eyes of Rwandans. They are fed up with past animosity.
        As a non-Rwandan, i tend to give higher credibility to Rwandans IN Rwanda, like June (and other friends I know personally).

        1. Wake up

          Paul, are you June? How do you know June is in Rwanda? To get past the animosity, Kagame needs to stop using genocide as a political tool. Other than that, Rwandans in Rwanda do know the reality and abide by the rules of moving forward. Of course if they show anything different they will be beheaded like Rwisereka Kagwa of the Green Party. No one needs to be in Rwanda to know that Kagame has, is, and plans to kill people in masses. He even admited it in his own speech that he shot refugees.

  4. Bosco

    what's make you all you think that FDLR did those rapes? there are so many rebel groups in congo and who knows who did it. and I want remind you suckers that not all hutus are genocidaire just like not all Tutsi are criminals like you so-colled heroes like kagame, kayumba, karegeya and more. Hutus did not go to those refugee camps and open fire on them. U.N was om Kibeho when they went to kill those citizens. People from Ruhengeli and Gisenyi were not killed by Interahamwe. why can't you just shut the freak up and suck Kagame ass.
    one more thing, genocide survivors are not only Tutsi we all Rwandans are survivors.
    If Rwanda is doing better economically (thanks to Congo minerals) why are they still living under 1.00 dollar per day? beware suckers your days are numbered and when we come don't just run away because we are tired of this retation, we won't kill you but we will put you in jail for your crime.

  5. Wake up


    You may be right when you say that "Obama will never listen to this genocide deniers and murderers who commited genocide".

    Maybe that is why Obama listened to these activists and refused to congratulate Kagame. Kagame has committed genocide and now Obama won't listen to him like you said. Kagame also told genocide survivors like Gatebuke that they shouldn't complain because no one shot at them.

    Your comments are funny though. Is that the best you can come up with by calling people names??? Really? God help Rwanda!! The accusation of "genocide denial" is being used against anyone not expressing Kagame's propaganda and it's getting more and more ridiculous by the day. Genocide survivors like Mushayidi are in jail for "genocide denial". People like Kagame who have their families intact continue to play with the lives of genocide survivors for their own selfish ends.

    Warning to this guy Gatebuke, Kagame is a cold blooded killer. He and his partners and supporters may take your life. There is a long list of people who have "mysteriously" died after opposing Kagame publically.

    1. jon

      Obama congratulation? who cares…Rwanda is for rwandese idiot,we are going to build Rwanda and will be middle class when people like still wondering in the Congolese jungle with your evil mind and there will be no more refugees ever,like your genocidal govts who killed and discriminate people we dont do that and will never do,your ill wishful thinking is just evil

  6. messenger

    As much as you have the freedom of speech so does Ann.She can talk about anything no matter how it boders you or anyone else.Sorry but Hate it or Love it!

  7. Rwandan

    as you keep out Rwanda and oppose the current pace of development, becoming better every day the country is at a take off stage of a runway to development….Verbal diahoreas of crying failures at the mercy of the ignorant believe me you…. Rwanda is on the move and together we stand the weaker you are fall out..

    1. messenger

      That some bullshit!What r u going to do now dat UN is incriminating RPF for mass murder and GENOCIDE in Congo?I'm seating here and watchin' y'all!I can't miss your fall!

      1. jon

        another BS report,just like HRW & French judge…we know the really killers and its not UN or some western wannabe to tell us….yeh keep waiting for Kigali fall because with your evil mind thats what u been waiting for since 1994,we are charging ahead and we are not looking back,and dont fool yourself,if you commited any genocide in Rwanda we will hunt you down until the end of the days…that BS report is for idiots people like you and has nothing to do with us.

  8. Umutoni

    Its unbelievable that after 16 years, some Rwandans have not learned a thing. We cannot move forward unless we make peace with the past. Lying to each other will not get us anywhere…we are just wasting time. It is a documented fact that RPF killed alot of civillians in the nothern part of Rwanda when the war first started in 1990 and they kept killing people especially Hutus after 1994….let not forget the mass killings that took place in 1997 in the DRC camps. Hutu were lkilled too and in large numbers. Saying that the hutus were killed is not denying genocide! Until justiced is done for all Rwandans,until Rwandans sit around the table and recognize each others pain without minimizing it and help each other to heal and move foward. Rwanda will never have true peace. We owe it to our loved ones we lost on both sides(tutsis and hutu) to set the matters straight. Those of us who were in Rwanda we know the truth, we know what happened,we have seen happen. Lies will not get Rwanda and Rwandan anywhere…we are just fooling ourselve

  9. Rucagu

    When you say we lost on both sides it means double genocide.You are wrong. remember that RPF chairman was a hutu(Kanyarengwe), a hutu chairman will plan a massacre against his own ethnic? i think that they are victims of war but victims were not target. During 1995 some RPA soldiers were judged and executed because of their crimes against civilians.How Kanyarengwe, Lizinde, Bizimungu sendashonga,Biseruka, all hutu should plan hutu massacre?

    1. Umutoni

      Where are all those people now except for Bizimungu? They are all dead killed by RPF. Hutu civillians were targeted and killed. They killed them using hoes(agafuni) and some were tied with hands behind their backs cut open in the chest and stomach and they were left for eagles to eat.This happened alot at Byumba. The hutu civillians who took refuge at Byumba during 1994;we watched their famillies dissappear one by one. Those who took refuge at DRC were first greeted with poison. They met the local tutsis who sold them poisoned foods and they blamed the mass death to cholera. The super cleansing came in 1997 when RPF invaded the refugee camps. All these people who died a senseless death at the hands of RPF were Rwandans too and deserve true justice. No life/blood is more valuable than the other whether you are a tustsi or a hutu, besides we dont choose who we are born! our peaceful future as Rwandans really depends on what we learn from the past and correct the mistakes our elders did.

  10. Umutoni

    Tutsis' lives were lost so did the hutus'….Rwandan lives were lost at large. We lost mothers, fathers, daughters,son, uncles, cousins,friends etc…those who survived it were affected to one way or another. We owe it to our lost loved ones and ourselves( those who were there and and lived through the nightmare) to set things right and help each other move foward and make Rwanda proud of her children.

  11. gati Kabisi

    Guys The problem of rwanda is not ethinic it is bad governance if we rwandans wants peace among us the is only one solution even if we are asking obama not support kagame that's not solve our problem the solution is one our King Kigeri V .

    Crying abrod exbitions is wasting time the problem is rwandans problem if we do not show want we want no one is going to help solution our Majesty the king Kigeri V

  12. Saad Kochani

    it is apparently very difficult to be rwandan, a country where there appears to be no objective truth. truth depends on political, tribal and personal logic and motive of the speaker or writer.
    even in israel, the master of propaganda current generations are no longer held hostage to the hostage mentality which rightwing extremists fan to justify extermination of palestinians and reject reconciliation.
    kagame has succeeded this far to hold the world hostage to the 1994 genocide in his country partly because the wider world was yet to know the other side of this tin-pot despot.
    The West has decided to spit this tarbaby out of moral turpitude especially following the Laurent Nkunda led carnage in the Eastern DRC, a revulsion spurred by unprecedented media coverage and publicity but also on realising that even if he is a saint Kagame will one day die or grow old and expendible to Western/bid power interest.
    in my estimation when it comes to the historical binary logic of bloodlusts between the Hutu and Tutsi there are no natural genocidaires and natural victims.


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