There is no political crisis in Rwanda, it's the rules

Saturday May 01 2010

Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo. File Photo

Do you agree there is a crisis in Rwanda?

My answer is no. Reading international and regional news, you clearly see the story has no substance. We are in election time and this is Rwanda and therefore people believe something wrong has to happen.

Why would people think that elections in Rwanda have to be accompanied with violence? The reportage is using different sources quoting each other without really scratching the surface.

Time magazine recently published an article, ‘Is Rwanda’s Hero Becoming Its Oppressor?’ What is your take on that article?

It was a very biased story, particularly picking on the arrest of self-imposed political aspirant Victoire Ingabire and the suspension of Umuseso and Umuvugizi (two local newspapers) by the Media High Council. It is those two facts that Time took as its basis.

Maybe the article is not actually biased but it is inaccurate. Umuseso’s troublesome nature is not new at all in Rwanda. From 2004, the newspaper has been involved in controversy. The editor has been to court. He has boycotted and been suspended from attending government activities. He has been warned very many times.


What about Madame Ingabire?

Ingabire is not working diligently to become a presidential candidate. She is back to Rwanda after 16 years to create social unrest. Her being taken to court didn’t surprise anyone here.

She has a criminal history as documented by the prosecution. She has clear ties with genocidal forces that have wreaked havoc in this part of Africa and this is tied into her own ideology. The fact that she is in bed with this terrorist organisation is only a result of her genocide ideology.

There is no place for people like Ingabire in Rwanda. Not now and not in many years. If Rwandans let one person come and erase their success in the name of pluralistic democracy, it would be foolishness. We don’t want divisionism, incitement, disunity and genocide denial.

How do you measure “genocide ideology”? Don’t you think there are flaws in the genocide law?

People say the law against Rwandans engaging in “genocide ideology” was put in place by President Paul Kagame’s regime to keep them from talking.

Rwandans have talked about genocide and what has happened in this country for the past 20 years non-stop. How does one create a law that fights racism, genocide and bigotry that is precise?

There is no precision in “ideology” whether you are in France, the United States, Poland, Holland or South Africa.

I have looked at 15 other countries with these laws and they are as vague as they can be. I have seen similar laws about the Holocaust and I have seen people from these countries saying we have vague laws.

They have things as vague as, “insulting the memory of the dead,” or “offending a group of people because of their sexual preference.” What precision is there in that law? How do you interpret it? How do you think a Rwandan judge will interpret it in a way that will stop people from expressing themselves?

Maybe it is the usage of the words “genocide denial,” “negating the genocide,” “divisionism” and “genocide ideology?”

But it is the same with these other laws. What we are looking out for in our society are those things that could take us back to what we witnessed in this country.

In some of these other countries, it was the Holocaust, bigotry, racist behaviour. You can’t make a difference in measuring the degree of these things, it is all vague.

People outside the country should know that Rwanda has moved on in terms of political concepts and mindsets.

Don’t you think the recent throwing of grenades in Kigali and the arrests of the two military generals is creating some kind of panic?

Again, this is the psyche we are talking about. With our history, Rwanda has enemies. When the leadership stopped the genocide, it didn’t stop people who think genocide.

All is not that fine in Rwanda. Though we have been a very secure country, we have people outside the borders who want to come back and finish the work of the genocide; we have people internally, too, who are unhappy and disgruntled with the current leadership.

This government has fired people because of failure to account and people linked to the genocide. Why would it be surprising that someone can plant a grenade? This country still has enemies.

Rwanda’s military has high standards of discipline, shouldn’t it be surprising that generals are arrested on counts of misconduct?

The Rwanda Defence Forces is made up of human beings, but still there is almost no tolerance for certain behaviour in our army. To me it is not surprising and alarming.

It is the timing that makes people bundle everything together to create a situation of panic.

Won’t the refusal to grant a human rights researcher permission to work in Rwanda be interpreted as a clampdown on freedom of expression?

Human Rights Watch sent a worker who exhibited very suspicious behaviour. Submitting pre-dated documents with signatures that don’t match… it is only normal that immigration services would find something wrong with that.
If you want to do your work properly, please don’t send fraudulent people. HRW is an American NGO. American immigration laws say that a consular will deny anybody a visa just because of the way they feel about his or her motive.

They have no obligation to explain to you why. HRW has to abide to what everyone else abides to. Rwanda is not a banana republic where we can be blackmailed.