US Publicly Recognizes Rwanda’s Lack of Democracy

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Posted on December 1, 2011

US finally said publicly what was previously told to Rwandan authorities in private.  In her speech  entitled "Building a New Nation: Rwanda's Progress and Potential" delivered at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology on November 26th,  US Ambassador to the United Nations  Susan Rice confirmed reports of an undemocratic regime under President Paul Kagame.     Humanitarian, advocacy and human rights organizations and some media have long said that Rwanda was not a democracy.  Unfortunately, instead of lending a hand to victims of the regime’s repression, countries like the US and the UK, to name a few, have been financing the regime.

After elaborating on the rapid development that Rwanda has undergone since the genocide in 1994 and especially recalling her painful memories when she visited after the tragedy, Ambassador Rice delivered the Obama administration’s warning to President Kagame succinctly: 

"I believe as well that friends should speak frankly to friends. Rwanda’s economic vitality has moved the country forward. Social progress has been substantial. Yet, the political culture in Rwanda remains comparatively closed. Press restrictions persist. Civil society activists, journalists, and political opponents of the government often fear organizing peacefully and speaking out. Some have been harassed. Some have been intimidated by late-night callers. Some have simply disappeared.

Yet, the world is moving rapidly in a different direction. Across the globe, including in societies where the common wisdom was that freedom would never arrive, we're seeing people demand the right to chart their own future, to organize peaceful demonstrations, and to criticize their own governments. From an angry young fruit seller in Tunisia, the demand to be heard has spread across North Africa and the Middle East. It has been taken up in Egypt. Then Libyans demanded the end to Qaddafi’s 42 years of tyranny. Today, Syrians and Yemenis are being killed by their governments simply for saying what they think about their leaders and their future. But they will keep speaking out, because they have a universal right to do so. And they know it.

These rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom to organize peacefully, are just as vital, just as inherent in Asia, in Latin America and in Sub-Saharan Africa as they are in Europe, America or the Middle East. As President Kagame said, and I quote, ‘The uprising in Libya has already sent a powerful—excuse me—has already sent a message to leaders in Africa and beyond. It is that if we lose touch with our people, if we do not serve them as they deserve and address their needs, there will be consequences. Their grievances will accumulate - and no matter how much time passes, they can turn against you.’

The deepening and the broadening of democracy can be the next great achievement of this great country and its remarkable people. In Rwanda, economic development and political openness can reinforce each other. This is Rwanda’s next great developmental challenge. And, with all that you have achieved over the past 17 years, I am confident you will pass this milestone as well.

Already, you are an example to all nations of what can be accomplished. You are an example to all nations of what can be accomplished after disaster strikes. Nothing can bring back what this nation has sacrificed. Grief wanes, but it never ends. Yet, we also know that the living must do credit to the lost, by building the future they should have been here to help build. A nation, just like a people, can overcome. Rwanda is proof."   Had the US denounced the repression in Rwanda earlier some people would not have disappeared or assassinated?  Click here to read the full speech.

Recently, Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa, former Rwandan Ambassador to the USA and as Chief of Staff to President Kagame,  in a personal confession made on October 1, 2011, he said that “The truth must now be told. Paul Kagame, then overall commander of the Rwandese Patriotic Army, the armed wing of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, was personally responsible for the shooting down of the plane. In July, 1994, Paul Kagame himself, with characteristic callousness and much glee, told me that he was responsible for shooting down the plane. Despite public denials, the fact of Kagame’s culpability in this crime is also a public “secret” within RPF and RDF circles. Like many others in the RPF leadership, I enthusiastically sold this deceptive story line, especially to foreigners who by and large came to believe it, even when I knew that Kagame was the culprit in this crime."

The same day Ambassador Rice spoke in Rwanda, PanAfrican Vision published an interview by Dr. Rudasingwa reaffirming that  “The shooting down of the plane was a critical factor in bringing RPF and Paul Kagame to power, a trigger in the Rwandan genocide, and has become decisive obstacle in the healing and reconciliation in Rwanda.”  The question to the US is what are you going to do with this truth?