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

2.09.2011

what's happening in Rwanda?

I've been a bit incommunicado of late. Sorry about that, there are lots of looming deadlines in my future and preparing to be out of town on a tour du monde for an entire month is consuming most of my blogging time. Speaking of, if you're up for hanging out in Shanghai, Chengdu, Nanjing, Montreal, Miami, DC, or Chicago in March, let me know. I'll be giving public talks in Nanjing and Montreal and presenting at conferences in Montreal, Miami, and Chicago and would love to connect.

Anyway, my inbox is alarmingly empty of hate mail, so let's talk Great Lakes politics for a bit. In late January, we passed the two-year anniversary of renegade Congolese general Laurent Nkunda's arrest by the Rwandan government. Nkunda has been held under house arrest just outside Kigali since that time without charge or trial. As Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama told Kenya's Daily Nation, Nkunda's case isn't easy. Trying a case you don't want to try never is.

The main impediments to trying Nkunda have to do with issues over extradition to the DRC, including the fear that the DRC's amnesty law will allow Nkunda to walk free and the fact that Rwandan law prohibits extradition to states that use the death penalty, which the DRC does. Of course, the real place Nkunda should be tried is the ICC, and don't think for a minute that it wouldn't be possible for Rwanda to arrange a transfer of Nkunda directly into MONUSCO's hands, where he could be transferred to ICC custody with little fuss, thus avoiding the Congolese courts entirely. But that would mean a full trial of Nkunda in the public eye, which no one in Rwanda wants, because, as we've discussed before, Nkunda knows everybody's secrets and would have little to lose by exposing them.

Meanwhile, back in Goma, Nkunda's one-time-number-two/current leader of the CNDP/possible leader in the FARDC depending on whom you ask Bosco Ntaganda has been involved in some shenanigans of his own of late, most recently involving a Nigerian plane that arrived in Goma carrying several million dollars in cold hard cash, apparently to buy gold. From Ntaganda. You can't make this stuff up, although, as Jason notes, one has to wonder about the type of shady characters who think Goma is the place to buy gold. Everybody knows the gold goes through Butembo, Bunia, and Bukavu. Duh.

Ntaganda, by the way, is still avoiding an arrest warrant from the ICC, despite living quite openly in Goma and going about his everyday business of maintaining a parallel administrative structure for CNDP governance in Rutshuru territory and, apparently, trying to get away with multimillion dollar smuggling deals. I hear he can regularly be seen out and about enjoying Goma's finest dining establishments. So why won't anyone arrest Ntaganda?

Meanwhile, the Rwandan government has had no problem prosecuting cases against its political enemies. Four exiled Rwandan leaders, all former members of the RPF regime and trusted Kagame deputies including former army external intelligence head Patrick Karegeya and Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, were sentenced to 20 and 24 year prison terms in absentia by a Rwandan military court.

Finally, longtime friend/fawning admirer of Kagame Stephen Kinzer did an overnight about-face on his view of Kagame, calling him an authoritarian in a piece for the Guardian. As Jason notes, it's hard to overstate what an extreme change this is; I expect we won't be seeing any more fawning pieces about Kinzer like this one in the New Times anytime soon. Indeed, it appears the New Times has already turned on him.

On a brighter note, the Voice of America reports that the government of Rwanda has agreed to review some of its laws restricting press freedom, free speech rights, and political freedom after being criticized at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council. This would be a welcome change if it actually happens; as it currently stands, the broadly-written genocide ideology law makes it possible for any critical speech directed against the government to be construed as promoting genocide. My hopes that such a review will have any significant effect are limited, however, especially seeing as a Rwandan court just sentenced two journalists who wrote pieces critical of Kagame prior to August's elections to 7 and 17 years in prison.

22 Comments:

Blogger Abdoul said...

Thank you for a succinct up to date development in the Great Lakes, so far. I am Kenyan who studied in Uganda and currently living in New York. I watched at close quarters in Great lakes politics as a student as well as journalist, and i am glad that the myth of St Kagame is put to trail, albeit late, it is welcome endeavor nonetheless. The raft of articles about Kagame have started emerging and the Kagames's Prince of spin like Philip at the New Yorker have started feeling the heat as evidence by last week's CJR article.

However, for me one thing that need to be accounted for which somewhat sleeps under the radar during the discussion about the Great Lakes is the question of Musevani and Uganda, who was in a way was Kagame's mentor , although theirs no love lost between them. Illuminating the Kagame Museveni nexus will enrich the Great Lakes discourse more, particularly the DRC and Sudan crisis.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 1:13:00 PM

 
Anonymous Peter said...

You're deluded, Texas. Rwandans aren't going to undo all the hard work undertaken and tremendous gains achieved over the last sixteen years simply on your mere, distant, removed say-so. No way is a repeat of the genocide going to be allowed to happen. You're deluded.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 2:42:00 PM

 
Anonymous Tasha said...

Most importantly, when are you coming to DC?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 3:21:00 PM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Peter, your comment makes no sense. At no point in this post or anywhere else did I say anything about regime change, undoing the economic development of the last decade, or call for genocide to return. Try as you may, equating a belief that Rwanda would benefit from a more equal and open political system does not equate to advocating for genocide.. Period.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 6:59:00 PM

 
Anonymous Peter said...

Rwanda has (somehow) managed to thus far achieve tremendous progress and gains without your help.

I'm sure there are other African countries more needy of your inimitable wisdom and invaluable advice.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:01:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a fine line for the rwandan regime to go from being strict, autoritarian other may say, to being more free. The problem here is the timeframe. Are rwandans ready for that? I know that west is for that. Did anyone do some research to find out if rwandans, especially those who survived the genocide are ready for press freedom? complete fredom of speech and so on? We must examine the context and the situation the country is before threatning the leadership of cutting aid and other kind of help.
On one side I like the way the west is criticizing african countries and threatning to remove aid and loans them for their human rights records, but when it comes to nations like China, the west tend to hold low profile. A good example is Ingabire. When she came back to rwanda and while visiting the memorial place, she said "I can see a lot of tusti bodies here, where are the hutu". It's impressive that she coud judge it from the bones. She went on saying that hutus are opressed ( indirectly thought). and she was put in jail for divisionism. After that the ducth governmet cut aid to Rwanda saying that the country don't respect human rights. That's what I call hypocrizy. In Rwanda there's a law against using your etnicity to suppress somebody outside your etnicity (actually i's not forbidden to say that you re tutsi or hutu)like europe has law against discrimination or racism ( except thatmore and more europeans countries are becoming more tolerant against racism)

To conclude I think that Rwanda should take it's time to recover from Genocide first before introducing complete freedom of speech, lige Germany did after WW2 (Except that USA was there for them and it's the military killing a partycular group of the population, not your nabo killing you like it was in Rwanda). Going too fast can destroy all the progress made since 1994, going too slow can cause frustruation. Remenber How the press in Rwanda before and during the genocide, that's how bad things can go.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:03:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a fine line for the rwandan leadership to move from being strict, autoritarian others may say, to being more free. The problem here is the timeframe. Are rwandans ready for that? I know that west is. Did anyone do some research to find out if rwandans, especially those who survived the genocide are ready for press freedom and complete fredom of speech and so on? We must examine the context and the situation the country is before threatning the leadership of cutting aid and other kind of help.

On one side I like the way the west is criticizing african countries and threatning to remove aid and loans them for their human rights records, but when it comes to nations like China, the west tend to hold low profile. A good example is Ingabire. When she came back to rwanda and while visiting the memorial place, she said "I can see a lot of tusti bodies here, where are the hutu". It's impressive that she coud judge it from the bones. She went on saying that hutus are opressed ( indirectly thought). and she was put in jail for divisionism. After that the ducth governmet cut aid to Rwanda saying that the country don't respect human rights.
When China put some political opponent in jail, the critic from the west is almost hidden to avoid to hurt China. And when CHina responds that they will tage it slowly, the west nod and agree. That's what I call hypocrizy. In Rwanda there's a law against using your etnicity to suppress somebody outside your etnicity (actually i's not forbidden to say that you re tutsi or hutu) like europe has law against discrimination or racism (except that more and more europeans countries are becoming more tolerant against racism). Why Rwanda can't enforce thair laws like other countries? Because you're a politician and if you cought in corruption and exile yourself instead of facing justice. Is it a limitation of freedom of speech? Not doing nothing is like to encourage corruption right?

To conclude I think that Rwanda should take it's time to recover from Genocide first before introducing complete freedom of speech, lige Germany did after WW2 (Except that USA was there for them and it's the military killing a particular group of the population, not your nabo killing you like it was in Rwanda. Even for Germany and Europe in general, took more that 17 years to recover from WW2). I know that going too fast can destroy all the progress made since 1994, going too slow can cause frustruation. Remenber How the press in Rwanda before and during the genocide, that's how bad things can go.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:16:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One note that I think is relevant to both peter and the anonymous comments: Rwanda's genocide ideology law is unlike any other hate-speech law in the world (as best I can tell, and it is a field in which I have expertise). No other nation criminalizes such a wide range of behaviours - ranging from "laughing at [another's] misfortune" to killing them (and has the same 10-year minimum penalty for both behaviours). Furthermore, it permits of none of the usual excuses most other nations allow for insulting, and even potentially hateful, speech like one was reporting on another's words, one was telling the truth, one was engaging in bona fide research, one had no idea one's words would be heard as insulting.

So the question, particularly to someone as seemingly zealous as peter is: why does Rwanda need that particular, unique formulation of the law? Why can it not protect itself from the return of the hate that fueled the genocide while enacting a much less restrictive law that would not present the risk of being used to silence potentially any critic of the RPF's policies?

Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:32:00 AM

 
Blogger Vincent Harris said...

@Abdoul, I am not convinced the relationship between Museveni and Kagame can be characterized as mentor-student. As I understand it, resentment in Uganda against officers of Rwandan origin within the Ugandan army contributed to the founding of the RPF in 87 or 88.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 7:21:00 AM

 
Anonymous theblogrebel said...

You guys all slay me. Do yoou really think that France and Belgiums original subjugation and tacit support for genocide has had no bearing on the development of Rwanda. It was europe that screwed Rwanda and the DRC as she raped her of resources and people. And then slayed or corruoted her leaders. Keep education away from the people and you keep freedom. The only arguing that should be going on in these countries is over how much to charge the rest of the world. Violence is always going to be rampant in Africa because the European, American and Arab slave trade(still going on) has made victims of the vast majority of the African psyche. And all you Eurocentric commentators seem to glance over this history of oppresion and neo-colonialism that still afflicts Africa. So in the words of the great Urban Black Philosopher "Run tell Dat!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011 7:35:00 AM

 
Blogger Abdoul said...

It can only go one way, right, when the West praises Kagame it is "good", when he's criticized it is "bad".

Atypical standard answer that i have always been given for dictatorial tendencies of Kagame is, Never again. I wish it was true. Using the scarecrow 94 Genocide while committing something a kin to that in DRC is hypocritical and Kagame and all those who support him need to be reminded.

Additionally, huffing and puffing about Kagame's development record is like Museveni saying that look what i have done for Uganda using Amin as a standard, come on guys that threshold is too low. Any one can do that. Mind you Rwanda's economic development is a function of guilt bonus, where every NGO worth its name has set a shop in Rwanda. If you unaccount for the "West's" input i don't know we can speak of development in Rwanda.

Peter stop judging things by dragging the ideology stuff into the debate, judge his dictatorial policies on their merit. As someone who lived under one for decades i can tell you will not know that until you live under a new regime.

Vincent at the beginning it was, now, the apprentice has out-grown the mentor

Thursday, February 10, 2011 8:37:00 AM

 
Anonymous Don Stoll said...

Sadly, many observers will grant Kagame's authoritarian regime a free pass if its success in promoting economic development can approach that of the authoritarian regime in China. China's decisive showing that economic development does not hinge on what might be termed political development invites a certain type of mind to conclude that political development has no worth. But of course what you call "a more equal and open political system" possesses value in itself, irrespective of any link to economic development. Thus, to see a more equal and open political system withheld from Rwandans is a great shame.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 9:03:00 AM

 
Anonymous theblogrebel said...

Men of destiny and strength make a country and a people. It just is distateful and discomforting to do the things that require stability in an unstable enviroment. "it's hard out there for a dictator".
1) As soon as you seize power you have to try to appease the people
2) Just when you got things humming along the west comes in and says not so fast when are you holding elections!
3) Dictator's have no pension plans and are forced to create "makeshift institutions"

I say this with a note of Sarcasam. But come on Rwanda is hillcountry, triple jungle canopy in areas with rebels running amok. Governing that country has to be a nightmare.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 9:17:00 AM

 
Blogger Nkunda said...

theblogrebel,

You realize that the argument that you give (Rwanda is too difficult to govern) was used as an excuse by almost all authoritarian regimes in Rwanda.

The "rebels running amok" is no excuse for Kagame and Co. to commit war crimes or infringe of basic freedoms. If they do, they have to face the same standards as the likes of Col. Bagosora.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 9:39:00 AM

 
Blogger yovita said...

Concerning journalists condemned to prison terms in Rwanda, just one remark. All their articles are written in Kinyarwanda. A language no one of you can read. Just check: nobody of you can tell what the CONTENT of those articles is about.You just are told the journalists are criticising Kagame and it's OK for you. You know VERY WELL that in ANY foreign publication, you never read ANY translation of what condemned rwandan journalists wrote. All of you just BELIEVE Reporters Without Borders, Human Right Watch and all those human rights or press watchdogs CAN'T LIE. Why? Western organizations! That's all and that's how this crazy world goes. I can tell you that you'd be very surprised and ashamed, if you KNEW the kind of writings you are pleading for with so much passion. How can you take sides just like that? I remember you reacted the same when Bush government told you Irak had weapons of mass destruction. By the way, Guantanamo is closer to Texas than Rwanda is. No need to travel so far to see human rights being hurt. But please, try to get some exemplaries of the "UMURABYO" newspaper and KNOW who your heroes are.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 10:59:00 AM

 
Anonymous theblogrebel said...

@Nkunda:

Of course that means there is some validity to that point. According to the book "The limits of Humanataris Intervention" this was one of the reasons given that UN troop intervention would have been difficult in preventing the genocide.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 11:34:00 AM

 
Blogger Nkunda said...

yovita,

"All their articles are written in Kinyarwanda. A language no one of you can read."

Your analysis suffers serious handicap.

"Just check: nobody of you can tell what the CONTENT of those articles is about.You just are told the journalists are criticizing Kagame and it's OK for you."

Since you know more about the "content" might it not have been more useful for you to enlighten us?

Do not try to insinuate that the heavy and harsh sentences towards the two journalist are the first instance of human rights abuse under Paul Kagame. As bad as they are, they are not the first.

I wrote about the issue here http://newsrwanda-nkunda.blogspot.com/2011/02/rwandan-illegal-incarceration-of.html

Thursday, February 10, 2011 12:50:00 PM

 
Anonymous theblogrebel said...

@Nkunda
TRADUTORRE TRADITORE - "THE TRANSLATOR IS THE TRAITOR"

Also I did not say Rwanda is to difficult to govern. I said it was a nightmare.
"No great empire is maintained by timidity"-Tacitus

@Texas in Africa: I know you said stay away from the ancients in my last paper but history does not only repeat itself SOMETIMES it rhymes!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:19:00 PM

 
Anonymous Peter said...

Nobody put a gun to Mobutu's head and forced him to poke Rwanda in the eye by aiding and abetting the genocidaires to try and destabilize the country and "finish the job".

For Mobutu's idiocy Kagame is somehow to blame. You people are silly.

Friday, February 11, 2011 3:46:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your intro is seriously funny about the hate mails. Had a good laugh with it!!!
Go on with your blog, the truth hurts always.

Friday, February 11, 2011 4:08:00 AM

 
Anonymous theblogrebel said...

@All this is a really good blog and discussion. When I have insomnia its one of my stops on my list of news worthy reading. All of you except one person are contributing to changing the way a person thinks and I believe firmly in my heart that's a beautiful thing and part of the creators will. Please forgive me for my sarcasam because recently I found out that no matter how much money, power or respect I achieve or Mubarak or any member of the Neo-Colonialist oppressed masses, we don't get out of this ALIVE!! So I do not only rage against the machine I try to find out who designed the damn thing in the first place. Hint they did not come from Africa!!

Friday, February 11, 2011 7:13:00 AM

 
Anonymous Dan said...

Any news recently about Nkunda's Betty??

Monday, February 28, 2011 3:13:00 PM

 

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