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

6.08.2010

U.S.-Rwanda relations

From Reuters:
Three Rwandan opposition parties have asked the United States to use its influence to help resolve social and political tension in the country before the presidential election in August.

Rights groups say the government and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) have become increasingly intolerant of dissent and criticism in the run-up to the vote, which President Paul Kagame is widely expected to win.

In an open letter last week to the U.S. ambassador in Kigali, Stuart Symington, and seen by Reuters on Sunday, the three-party coalition said: "We strongly believe that your leverage as the ambassador of the United States of America in Rwanda can help diffuse tensions as the presidential elections loom and... (the) military crisis deepens."

...The coalition asked for U.S. assistance in opening up politics, changing anti-genocide legislation and guaranteeing the security forces remained outside politics, and sought a postponement of the ballot, due take place on Aug. 9, to allow more time to ensure it is transparent and free.

"Unless (development) efforts are underpinned by democracy, freedom and the rule of law, the achievements in that area will not be sustainable," the parties said.
U.S. policy towards Rwanda since the genocide has always been a mixed bag. On the one hand, diplomats are constrained by the fact that the Clinton Administration chose not to intervene in the genocide - and deliberately prevented others from doing so. Add that guilt to the tension between the Rwandan government and the French and Belgians and in many ways it made strategic sense for the United States to support one of the few bastions of stability and economic growth in a volatile region.

On the other hand, American diplomats are not stupid. By and large, they don't blindly support Kagame while ignoring his undemocratic tendencies. Most Western diplomats in the region have tracked these issues for years, along with Kigali's role in fostering conflict in and stealing minerals from the DRC. But they tend to walk a fine line and are rarely vocal critics of the regime.

In the past couple of years, however, we've seen U.S. administrations become increasingly willing to call Kagame out, albeit in mostly muted ways. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson's recent testimony before Congress about the tightening of political space in Rwanda is the clearest statement to date that the U.S. is not willing to let Rwanda get away with repression. Let's hope that the follow-through - including the delegation of U.S. observers who are to monitor the August 9 presidential elections - is appropriately forceful and sends a clear message that Rwanda's people are best served by a free, open, and fair political system.

On a related note, Jason Stearns' recent post on Rwanda-DRC-Uganda relations is a must-read for anyone interested in the Great Lakes' regional political dynamics.

5 Comments:

Blogger Emin Pasha said...

ALthough at a recent USIP event, the US government official proved quite willing to enumerate the Rwandan government's flaws, she was entirely unwilling to enumerate any specific consequences that might befall the Rwandan government if, for example, the election doesn't proceed fairly. It's true this is an advance: we've gotten them to "talk the talk," but we haven't gotten them to walk the walk.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010 10:18:00 AM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Exactly. But given the contrast from what they were doing five years ago, I'll take it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010 11:51:00 AM

 
Blogger Jordan said...

I'm a fellow Texan and spent a year as an aid worker in Kigali. I very much enjoy your blog.

In any case, I thought this might be of interest:

I walked past the Rwandan embassy in DC yesterday and was surprised to see a group protesting the arrest of Victoire Ingabire's American lawyer. I'm kicking myself for not having asked who it was organized by and this is the only mention that I was able to find on the internet: http://blackstarnews.com/news/135/ARTICLE/6603/2010-06-08.html

Nevertheless, I found it notable that Kagame's media darling regime was facing a protest.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010 12:13:00 PM

 
Blogger friends of congo said...

The event at the Rwandan Embassy was organized National Lawyers Guild and many more are to come. Regarding the US actions toward Rwanda it is shameful especially in light of the mass deaths in the Congo and the fact that the US has a law (PL 109-456 Sec. 105) on the book sponsored by then Senator Obama that if implemented would go a long way to holding Rwanda accountable. A few sources that your readers should consult that would advance their understand of US policy towards Rwanda are below:

Professor Alan Stam, University of Michigan: http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/video/?bcpid=28911012001&bclid=32920159001&bctid=44939157001

USAID sponsored Research by Professors Alan Stam and Christian Davenport:http://www.miller-mccune.com/culture_society/what-really-happened-in-rwanda-1504

Journalist and Author of A Continent for the Taking Howard French -- Kagame's Hidden War in the Congo, NY Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23054

Harvard Kennedy School of Government Timothy Reid's article in the Harvard Policy Journal entitled "Killing Them Softly: Has Foreign Aid to Rwanda and Uganda Contributed to the Humanitarian Tragedy in the Democratic Republic of Congo?" http://www.hksafricapolicyjournal.com/vol-1/articles/killing-them-softly-has-foreign-aid-rwanda-and-uganda-contributed-humanitarian-traged

There is so much more but the above mainstream sources should be a good start to understanding why US Foreign Policy in the so-called Great Lakes Region has contributed to conflict and instability.

Saturday, June 12, 2010 4:20:00 PM

 
Blogger friends of congo said...

We forgot to include the link to the law PL 109-456 -- see section 105: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s109-2125

Saturday, June 12, 2010 4:31:00 PM

 

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