why Rwanda's facade of reconciliation is dangerous
Timothy Kalyegira hits the nail on the head:
If Rwanda witnessed a mass exodus of part of its population in 1959 and a horrendous genocide in 1994, it follows that we should evaluate Rwanda’s progress not in the abundance of WiFi Internet connections, clean streets and laptop computers available in every home, but in how far these deep-rooted Hutu-Tutsi ethnic tensions have been resolved or addressed.Beautifully put. This is exactly why I worry about the Rwandan government's increasingly tight grasp on the country's political space. For years, the RPF have put on a lovely show for the donors, journalists, missionaries, and politicians who pass through to admire the country's astonishing beauty and talk of reconciliation without asking too many questions.
In Rwanda, there has been a strained effort since 1994 to blot out in total any reference to ethnicity, emphasise nationhood and focus on economic growth and management. This approach does not make sense.
If religion and ethnicity have been the driving force behind the raging civil wars and violence in the breakaway regions of Europe and the Caucuses in and since the 1990s - places that, presumably, had been turned into wholly secular and Socialist in belief for 45 to 74 years - how realistically can we claim that in the much more agrarian and rural African society, just 16 years from an appalling genocide, tensions between Tutsi and Hutu have eased?
Rwanda’s top priority and the image it projects to the world should be over matters of reconciliation and the attainment of real harmony between the Hutu and Tutsi. Ethnic tensions had lain hidden for decades in Europe, only to erupt in the 1990s. Between 1959 and 1994, there seemed to be a stable situation in Rwanda.
What is to prevent this ethnic hostility going underground for another 20 years, only to erupt again? Facing up to this aspect of the country’s history is what matters the most, not the mechanical, policy, administrative, logistical side. Certainly not beautiful flowers or street lights or nice pavements.
But it's a facade. Tensions are boiling under the surface - both between Hutus and Tutsis and within those communities - and there is a very serious possibility that those tensions will again erupt into violence. More likely than not, as has been the case since the genocide, the next round of violence resulting from this tension will probably play out not on Rwandan soil but rather in the DRC. The elections scheduled for August 9 will be largely a sham; by not allowing any significant opposition candidates from parties not aligned with the RPF to register, Kagame has guaranteed his own re-election. And resentment of his policies will continue to grow among the Hutu majority.
By pretending that ethnicity doesn't exist - which nobody in Rwanda actually believes - rather than having open and honest discussions about everything that happened during the civil war and the genocide, as well as Rwanda's role in the wars in Congo-Zaire - Rwanda's government is playing with fire.