by Ann Garrison
How much longer can Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Benjamin Netanyahu, AIPAC and associated Zionist organizations cover for Rwandan President Paul Kagame? How much longer can they claim that he was Rwanda’s savior, that he stopped a genocide recalling the Holocaust, then helped Rwanda rise from the ashes?
This week another woman who dared to challenge him for the presidency says he has taken vengeance on her and her family. In 2010, Kagame imprisoned Victoire Ingabire, who is now serving the seventh of a 15-year prison sentence, and now he has arrested Diane Rwigara, who attempted to stand against him this year.
Like Ingabire in 2010, Rwigara was told that her name could not appear on the ballot because her nomination papers were insufficient. Kagame’s election bureaucracy is a Kafkaesque maze for anyone who might pose a real threat to his reign of terror.
Rwandan police arrested Ingabire, then put her under house arrest, shortly after her return to Rwanda in January 2010. They imprisoned her shortly after Kagame claimed re-election with an implausible 93 percent of the vote in August that year. They arrested Rwigara shortly after Kagame claimed an even more implausible 99 percent on Aug. 4.
As of Sept. 5, there were many conflicting reports but no definitive account of the timeline of events before, during and after Rwigara’s arrest. Aljazeera was reporting that she had been arrested, then returned to her home. Rwigara’s assistant said that she had taken over her Twitter feed, and that she is now under house arrest though not yet formally.
Earlier this year, Rwigara had told the BBC that she was expecting reprisal: “Taking a stand or criticizing the Rwandan government is not an easy task. They do all in their power to try to discourage you and silence you.
“Our family businesses have been closed down. Our bank accounts have been seized. There is still a very high price for me to pay, and trust me, they have said that, after the elections, anybody who has spoken out, including my supporters, that: ‘We’ll deal with them.’”
Earlier this year, Rwigara had told the BBC that she was expecting reprisal: “Taking a stand or criticizing the Rwandan government is not an easy task. They do all in their power to try to discourage you and silence you.”
In a press conference earlier this year, Rwigara described Rwanda much as Ingabire did, as a nation of extreme poverty and fear hidden behind its modern capital city, Kigali, with its hotels, its convention center and its tourist industry, which not only makes a lot of money but also propagandizes visitors about Rwanda’s miraculous recovery from genocide. The ruling party, she said, is more eager to impress white people than its own citizens:
“While all these problems are going on, mainly high unemployment and poverty, our government is spending money building luxury hotels. The convention center cost over $300 million – the most expensive building in Africa.
“Why are we spending the most when we are among the poorest? Most Rwandans do not have the basic necessities like water and electricity, so our taxes should be invested in the people first.
“Rwanda has given priority to impressing white people instead of impressing our own people. Our country’s image, though important, should not take precedence over the well-being of Rwandans.”
Rwigara is a Rwandan Tutsi whose wealthy father supported the 1990 invasion of Rwanda from Uganda that ended in the 1994 massacres and Gen. Paul Kagame’s seizure of power. She became an outspoken critic of the government after her father died in an automobile accident that she and her family blame on Rwandan authorities. She did not, like Victoire Ingabire, challenge the received history of the genocide, and she even went so far as to say that free speech should not be a cover for revising its history:
“The freedom of expression I’m talking about is not the freedom that denies or revises the genocide, the 1994 genocide. People should not hide under the umbrella of free speech for divisive statements. The freedom of expression I’m talking about is being able to have the debates without fear of reprisals. Almost all topics in Rwanda are taboo.”
Rwigara has not spoken out against Rwanda’s catastrophic aggression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as Ingabire did, either. Kagame was nevertheless unwilling to tolerate her criticism of Rwanda as it is now. Rwandan police arrested her and members of her family for, they say, tax evasion and forging signatures on her nomination papers.
Kagame did not empower women or stop a genocide
Nearly 60 percent of Rwanda’s Members of Parliament are women, and Kagame is commonly praised for empowering women, but that’s no more plausible than his 99 percent electoral victory or his claim to have stopped a genocide. He persecuted and silenced the only two women who dared stand up to him, and he didn’t stop a genocide; he started one.
He murdered the Rwandan and Burundian presidents, massacred his way to power in Rwanda, then invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees, and chased hundreds of thousands more through the jungle from Congo’s east to west. With his partner in crime Yoweri Museveni, he invaded, occupied and plundered the resource wealth of the Congo, leaving millions of Congolese dead and displaced.
Nearly 60 percent of Rwanda’s Members of Parliament are women, and Kagame is commonly praised for empowering women, but that’s no more plausible than his 99 percent electoral victory or his claim to have stopped a genocide.
Congolese officials and military officers, who are in fact Rwandan, continue a stealth occupation today. Even the infamous warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who is now on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), is a Rwandan pretending to be Congolese. The ICC, a tool of Western imperialism, agrees to this pretense because their brief is to prosecute Ntaganda for crimes committed within the borders of Congo, not for Rwanda’s crime against peace, the first and gravest international crime established by the Nuremberg Principles:
(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (I).
The U.S. and U.K. covertly supported Rwanda’s invasions of Congo, then helped Kagame justify decades of ongoing aggression in the name of hunting Hutu perpetrators of genocide. The ICC helps them create illusions of international justice for Congolese without acknowledging the Rwandan war of aggression that they supported.
What will happen to Diane Rwigara and Victoire Ingabire?
It seems likely that Diane Rwigara will be tried in a kangaroo court on trumped up charges and sent to prison, once again like Ingabire. If so, and if she appeals to the Supreme Court, she will lose, as Ingabire did. Some things in Rwanda are as predictable as presidential elections.
There is one glimmer of hope: Victoire Ingabire’s appeal of her conviction in Rwanda to the African Court of Human and People’s Rights in Arusha, Tanzania. Rwanda attempted to withdraw from the court’s jurisdiction after it agreed to hear her appeal, but the rules of the court and international law do not allow a member nation to withdraw after it has been named as party to a case that the court has agreed to hear.
It seems likely that Diane Rwigara will be tried in a kangaroo court on trumped up charges and sent to prison, once again like Ingabire.
Rwanda refused to appear at the March 2017 hearing, alleging bias, but the court proceeded to weigh the evidence and it could rule this month. Ingabire’s conviction is such a blatant case of political persecution that it will test the African court’s independence.
No matter how the court decides, however, it has no enforcement apparatus. If it overturns Ingabire’s conviction, she will win no more than a moral victory because the rule of international law is an unrealized ideal.
Only international pressure to accept the court’s judgment could lead to her release, and no matter how bad Kagame’s press gets, he is always shielded from consequence by his powerful Western friends – Clinton, Blair, Netanyahu, AIPAC etc. Kagame’s state press advocated for Hillary Clinton’s election and made it clear that he was deeply disappointed by her defeat. The Clintons, and Bill Clinton’s weepy lies about having failed to stop the genocide, have served him for two decades.
Rwanda depends on foreign aid for 40 percent of its budget. The U.S. is its top bilateral donor, the U.K. its second, but the flailing Trump administration hasn’t turned any attention to Rwanda. It hasn’t even managed to hire a new assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
In the U.K., the Tories have supported Kagame, as Tony Blair and his government did, despite all the evidence of Kagame’s crimes. After Rwanda’s M23 militia ravaged the Kivu Provinces in 2012-13, Britain sharply increased its aid to Rwanda from £59 million in 2012-13, to £84 million in 2013-14. In 2014-15, British aid to Rwanda was £70 million and, a year later, £66 million.
Britain was the only major country to congratulate Kagame on his ridiculous 99 percent win in the August presidential elections. If, however, Jeremy Corbyn becomes the U.K.’s next prime minister, it could be a new dawn for the U.K.’s relations with Rwanda and its totalitarian ruler. Corbyn is an opponent of unilateral military intervention of any sort and a staunch advocate of international law.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.