"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


from a mile away

Oh, New Times of Rwanda, you never cease to amuse. Today's op-ed ( to the Times' credit, it is clearly labeled as opinion) manages in spectacular fashion to tenuously "link" opposition presidential candidate Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire, Human Rights Watch, and two Catholic priests to the FDLR. It's an interesting study in the ways that a few facts (Namely, that the FDLR gets significant amounts of funding from abroad, France hasn't arrested all of the genocidaires living in its territory, and minerals flow in and out of the DRC with little regulation) can be so misconstrued as to construct an alternate reality. Glenn Beck would be proud.

An alternate reality, of course, is what the New Times' RPF backers need if they're to maintain the idea that Rwanda cannot safely be governed by anyone else. Rwanda's leaders are aware that the donors are watching this election more closely than the last two. They aren't able to lock the opposition out of the country as they've done in the past. Thus, the next six months will be full of poorly researched "news" pieces, bizarre security incidents designed to scare the population, and thinly-veiled verbal attacks on the credibility of anyone who dares question the RPF's narrative of life in post-genocide Rwanda.

The real shame in Rwanda is that the RPF could run a clean campaign on a solid platform. After all, they've restored peace and stability, significantly developed the economy, and improved the provision of public goods over the course of the last sixteen years. Would they win? It seems unlikely; they represent a minority of a minority in a place where ethnic tensions are still incredibly high, despite rhetoric of reconciliation. But the opposition lacks a record of success and wouldn't have much to campaign on, other than the "We're not the RPF" line they're using now. It seems to me that a true coalition government of RPF and non-RPF members would do much to restore the Rwandan people's faith that the government exists for all Rwandans rather than for just a few.


Anonymous Eric Brown said...

Is it ok for me to post this article about New Times on my blog?

Friday, February 26, 2010 7:46:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Sure, as long as you include a link. I'd ask that you please not use my real name as well. Thanks!

Friday, February 26, 2010 11:23:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the last group of experts report made a tendentious connection between the FDU and the FDLR on the basis of phone calls made between the two groups. Now the press is Kigali is milking that guilt by association to the max.

Saturday, February 27, 2010 9:18:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You note that the RPF has restored peace and stability, developed the economy and improved the provision of public goods. At what point do you think this will translate into widespread faith that the government is not just serving a minority of its citizens? Is including more non-co-ethnics the only way to generate support? Are the government and the people behaving rationally?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 12:15:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that while peace, stability, a developed economy, improving the provision of public goods are all important issues that presumably benefit a majority of the population; they don't imply or equal a fully engaged or participatory population.

Substantial suppression of democracy, liberty and even basic human rights can all be coinciding realities that exist right along- side imposed peace, stability, a developed economy, and an improved provision of public goods. Regardless of one's ethnicity, until most Rwandans feel they have real participation and input in the direction their country is headed; they will feel sidelined by their government and the party in power specifically.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010 9:20:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

I think that there was a time that a heavy hand from the centralized government was really necessary to stabilize Rwanda. In the immediate post-genocide period, tensions were so high, the population was so traumatized, and everything was so uncertain that it didn't make sense to have anything like a liberal democracy. Somebody had to get it together, and the RPF did a very job at just that.

Anon, I think allowing a real opposition, a free press, and including more Hutus who aren't willing to tow the RPF line is the key. The RPF treats every expression of dissent as though it would lead to genocide. It forces people to do things they don't want to do, like participating in gacaca or reporting on their neighbors' activities. If the RPF would loosen up and let go of a little of its paranoia, I think they'd enjoy substantially more support in exchange for the economic gains they've achieved.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 9:00:00 PM


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