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


a fundamental human right

Reporter Alexander Panetta did an excellent job covering the press freedom issue in Rwanda, in the context of Canadian Governor-General Michaelle Jean's Thursday speech. Jean spoke in Butare to a crowd of about 700 students:
"Free media is a fundamental human right," Jean said.

"It is one of those pivotal rights that is crucial to your realization of a host of other human rights in any society: freedom of expression, the right to democratic elections, even the right to a fair and public hearing."

Canada and Rwanda have both subscribed to those obligations through membership in the UN, la Francophonie, and the Commonwealth, she continued.

"It is incumbent on our governments to make sure they are all fully respected."

...Rwanda's government calls divisive speech unacceptable as it struggles to build a united country. Sixteen years after hate radio fuelled a genocide, any reference to Hutu or Tutsi clans is strongly discouraged. Remarks deemed a threat to national stability are treated as a criminal offence.

...But Jean took a veiled swipe at the notion that the 1994 atrocities might still be a reason to limit fundamental freedoms. She warned the audience against becoming "captive" to history.

"You have to move forward. We all have ghosts in our past that send a chill down our spine," Jean said.

"There is a responsibility of the profession as well, to exorcise the fear around us and move on."

...President Paul Kagame expressed exasperation when the issue came up at a news conference this week with Canadian journalists, in the presence of Jean.

"Why do people keep talking (about this)?" Kagame said.

"You're talking about two (newspapers). But you have almost 20 independent privately owned radios - FM radios and other radio. You have close to 70 papers. . .

"Maybe these two actually are the ones in the wrong - not the 67 (papers), not the 20 private radios."

However, international observers argue that much of what's left of the country's media has deep ties to the government and is essentially subservient to it.

On the day the president met Jean, the country's leading paper carried a front-page photo of him under the headline: "Kagame launches new book." That day's editorial was titled, "National Police Force a Success Story."

...When one Canadian panellist, Ben Peterson, asked for a show of hands from students who supported the move, fewer than two dozen people in the audience of 700 raised their arms.

The crowd burst out laughing when an official with Rwanda's Media High Council described the regulatory body as arm's-length from the government. He explained that the timing of the suspension, which came on the same day that Kagame publicly denounced the papers, was purely coincidental.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see so there was a genocide in Canada? I guess I missed that. For those who don't know there has long been hostility from Canada towards the post-1994 govt in Rwanda, partly prompted no doubt by the francophones.

Friday, April 23, 2010 5:07:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing. I personally am not in favour of rubbish media such as Umuseso, as I understand it to be. Lies and incitement to violence against the govt? No thanks.

But even if you think it is a good idea do you give it to Kigali with both barrels after being in the country for a day? Or do you think about the best way to get your point across? How would she like it if Kagame turned up in Canada and told them how to run the country? After many years of dealing with Rwandans I can assure you that her approach will not do her much good and furthermore that it is inappropriate for a number of obvious reasons. She has much to learn.

Friday, April 23, 2010 5:22:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Panetta's article is balanced. A pity more writing is not as balanced. Better to read that than your excerpt.

Friday, April 23, 2010 6:25:00 AM

Blogger Nkunda said...

There is need for active non-violent resistance. The movement is just starting and Ingabire is an icon of hope. I wrote this as a reflection of my thoughts and those of other young Rwandans eager to join the new movement.

Victoire Ingabire, who is an aspiring presidential candidate in Rwanda’s upcoming elections, was arrested yesterday on charges of collaborating with a terrorist organization (presumably, the FDLR) and genocide denial and ideology. Her conditional release today, though indicative of the increasing media pressure against President Kagame, does not spell an end to the government’s repressive treatment of any and all opposition. (For references, please see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8635890.stm and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8638129.stm).

It is easy to see Ingabire’s arrest and other such events as being crippling to any non-violent, political resistance against Kagame. To counter such hopeless conclusions, I offer this blog entry as a defense of non-violent resistance in Rwanda and as an appeal to all not to abandon the ideas that (1) non-violence can succeed and (2) violence will never succeed.

What I see in a regime like Kagame's is the ultimate failure that violence produces -- not only must he rule by fear, which must be cultivated by the constant use of force, but he himself must live in fear. Resentment will only grow amongst a continually repressed population, and eventually such a population will reach its breaking point. The question all should ask is not whether this building resentment will explode, but when and in what form. History tells us that violence is likely. Indeed, when a dam breaks, is it not inevitable that everyone – the guilty as well as the innocent - will be swept away? What will restrain a repressed people from taking revenge? Rwandans have seen one dictatorship (under Habyarimana) violently replaced with another (under Kagame). Will not a new order, born in blood, resemble the old? And, will not any regime, which uses exploitation, imprisonment and assassination as means of control, ultimately fail in the face of humanity’s unwillingness to sit idly forever.

The challenge we face as Rwanda’s government tempts the people’s breaking point is how to channel an explosion of resentment and anger towards a non-violent (yet by no means passive) movement. Recognizing that an opposing military effort would only lead to a bloodbath and, if successful, a tainted, though far-from-certain, ‘victory,’ is necessary for a non-violent movement to harness the population’s energy. And, with the latest actions taken against Victoire Ingabire, it must also be recognized that the official political route leads to nowhere. Indeed, how can one win elections which are organized (read: staged) by a dictator and approved (read: ignored) by international observers? The existence of opposition parties, as it were, has demonstrated clearly the extremes to which the regime will go – this alone, however, is not enough to draw the attention of the world to the regime’s criminal nature.

Non-violent resistance – though by no means an easy approach – requires the willingness of people to openly confront ruthless soldiers armed with government weapons and biased journalists armed with government pens. Protests may begin with a few and, if even marginally successful, their example might inspire more to stand firm while refusing to strike back. Some media sources will take notice, and they may be kicked out of the country. Protesters will be beaten, thrown into prison, and maybe even killed, but the movement builds with such repression.

Friday, April 23, 2010 7:31:00 AM

Blogger Nkunda said...

Insane? Absolutely. To receive a blow while refusing to return one is indeed counterintuitive and, as some mistakenly suggest, against human nature. Yet, underlying the hope of non-violent resistance is this realization: that violence, while brutalizing the victim, dehumanizes the perpetrator. The victim, by refusing to revenge and instead choosing forgiveness, allows the perpetrator the opportunity to forsake violence and, thus, regain a lost humanity.

Friday, April 23, 2010 7:32:00 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home