Late yesterday, Agence France Presse reported the following:
A Rwandan opposition leader who has been under police investigation for comments about the 1994 genocide was arrested as she tried to flee the country, state-run radio announced Tuesday.And there you have it. None of this is surprising; the pattern of intimidation against significant opposition candidates and journalists who write real news has increased in recent months. I hope (but doubt) that the donor governments will have the good sense to call Kagame out on these abuses of his power. The fight over whether any of Ingabire's comments constitute "genocide ideology" or genocide denial will serve as a front for what this is really about: the fact that Kagame doesn't want to allow a significant challenge to his power.
Victoire Ingabire heads the United Democratic Forces (FDU), a party formed in exile but not registered because of the police investigation. The government accuses her of denying the genocide.
"Security forces arrested Victoire Ingabire as she tried to flee the country," Radio Rwanda announced.
On her return to the country on January 16, Ingabire called for the trial of those responsible for the death of Hutus in the 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis, were killed.
Ingabire, a Hutu, has since been summoned by the police several times over those comments.
"She was under police investigation about her remarks on genocide ideology and denying the genocide," the state radion radio said.
Last week, she accused authorities of blocking her party's registration in order to lock her out of running in presidential elections set for August.
I think this is an irrational stance. The RPF could stand on its record of re-establishing security and rebuilding the economy against an opposition that has no accomplishments to speak of. This strategy might actually overcome the problem of ethnically-based voting in which citizens vote on the basis of ethnicity along. But by continuing to silence dissent and pretend that ethnicity doesn't matter to most Rwandans, Kagame lets resentment of the RPF's rule fester. This may be a good way to hang on to power for another seven years, but it's a losing strategy in the long run.
Why? Because Hutus still vastly outnumber Tutsis, talk of the untrustworthiness of the other group is everywhere, and the RPF ranks are clearly divided over questions like the status of Laurent Nkunda. Unless Kagame is prepared to institute a campaign of extrajudicial killings and other blatant human rights abuses - and I absolutely do not think he is - he can't silence his opposition forever.
Here are some assorted posts & articles on Rwanda from the last week or so:
- Kagame rejects criticism of his human rights record.
- On the challenge of writing about Rwanda.
- On the status of Rwandan refugees in Uganda.
- Speaking of Uganda, here's a great post on Museveni's manipulation of ethnicity as a tool for staying in power. Anyone studying the region would be wise to remember that Museveni and Kagame share a long history.
UPDATE: Rwandan authorities now say that Ingabire was not arrested and that her movements are not restricted. It appears, however, that this does not include freedom of movement that involves leaving the country.