An open letter to the international community by Paul Rusesabagina
On Aug. 7, Paul Rusesabagina, president of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, sent an open letter to international political and civil society leaders asking them not to bother with the upcoming Rwandan parliamentary elections. The letter follows:
We already know how these elections will turn out, so why bother? The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) candidates will win an overwhelming majority, and the country will go on as it has since the genocide.
Please do not further legitimize the Rwandan government by pretending that these elections are anything but what they really are: a sham.
In 1994, I tried desperately to get the world to pay attention to the atrocities that were being perpetrated in my beloved Rwanda. I saved as many people as I could directly and tried to use my voice to speak out to the international community and save others.fax line that the killers did not know about, we sent faxes day and night to Brussels, London, Washington, D.C., and to the United Nations etc. I was disturbing every NGO, every media outlet, every government official that I could contact. We were begging for someone to end the slaughter.
Today, Rwanda is a different country. The violence today is more hidden but even more insidious in my home country. Much of the open violence has moved next door to the Congo where men, women and children are raped and killed by Rwandan militias every day.
However, there is political repression and control. Dissent is not allowed in Rwanda, not in public speeches, in the press or certainly not for political candidates. Individuals who speak the truth about this repression are intimidated, jailed or disappear. When two people stand and talk, suddenly a local defense force member shows up to listen and monitor the conversation. Rwanda is an open prison.
Journalists are threatened, exiled or killed – like Charles Ingabire. Potential opposition politicians are prevented from registering their parties, threatened, harassed, jailed and, again, killed – like Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, the Green Party vice president, when the opportunity presents itself.
When we talk about “democracy” in other countries, most in the West picture something like the system we enjoy here in the United States. Political candidates vying for elected office. Reasonably free and fair elections, where almost anyone can join the process.
But in Rwanda, this does not exist. Rwanda is like the Soviet Union under Stalin, where one man and one party determine who gets elected, and the citizens have no choice. And as has happened in many other places where this situation occurs, the party in power wins the “election” and continues to rule for its own benefit.
Dissent is not allowed in Rwanda, not in public speeches, in the press or certainly not for political candidates. Individuals who speak the truth about this repression are intimidated, jailed or disappear.
So this year, I choose not to join the chorus of people who will inevitably say that the Rwanda elections are corrupt and must be watched closely and monitored. This is not the real truth.
The truth is, the Rwandan Constitution of 2007 is the corrupt document set up by and for Paul Kagame and the RPF. And that constitution made everything that is happening today “legal.”
So today I take the radical step of asking you not to bother intervening in Rwanda. There are upcoming parliamentary elections in September. I say to you, the international community, please don’t bother. Don’t call for transparency, don’t send election monitors, don’t bother looking at this Rwandan election. Please stay away.
If you want to help Rwanda, look deeper at the authoritarian government that gets away with these sham elections every cycle. Stop turning a blind eye to Kagame’s iron-clad control of Rwandan society.
But please do not further legitimize the Rwandan government by pretending that these elections are anything but what they really are: a sham. Nothing more than political theater to prop up the party that supports the dictator.
Paul Rusesabagina, the real life hero of the acclaimed film “Hotel Rwanda,” now tours the world speaking about social justice, human rights activism and the lessons learned from the Rwandan Genocide, one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century. Visit the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation at http://hrrfoundation.org/.