Monday, August 25, 2003

Rwandan 'Elections' - A Transparent Charade

As if to corroborate everything that I had to say about the presidential elections in Rwanda, the following article appeared in today's copy of the London Times (Warning: foreign readers must pay for access):

Poll will keep Tutsi clique in power
By Jonathan Clayton

RWANDANS go to the polls today in elections widely seen as serving little purpose other than to boost the credibility of the ruling Tutsi clique.

The result is not in doubt. President Kagame, credited with having ended the 1994 genocide in which at least 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis, were killed, will be re-elected with an overwhelming majority over his only serious challenger, his one-time ally Faustin Twagiramungu. The campaign was marred by allegations of intimidation, threats against opposition campaigners, meddling by police and an anti-opposition campaign by state-controlled media.

The Netherlands recently suspended aid to pay for the polls because of concerns over the disappearance of pro-Twagiramungu supporters. The International Crisis Group, a Brussels think-tank, has described the poll as simply “an event organised to make sure Kagame has a mandate”.

He needs it badly. For years, Mr Kagame, 46, leader of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), was able to exploit the West’s guilt for failing to take any action to stop the genocide. Recently his image has been tarnished by his involvement in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, an ongoing dispute with Uganda, his former ally, and a refusal to tolerate any form of internal dissent.

Former Tutsi allies accuse him of governing by way of “a clique within a clique” — a reference to the fact that Hutus make up nearly 90 per cent of the population and that Mr Kagame has surrounded himself with fellow Rwandan Tutsis who grew up in Uganda having fled Hutu-government inspired pogroms in the 1950s.

Rwanda stands accused of illegally exploiting Congo’s mineral wealth, undermining peace attempts and prolonging that country’s war by arming proxy groups. In the West, new leaders have come to power who expect Mr Kagame, a quietly spoken but ruthless major-general who once served as intelligence chief to President Museveni of Uganda, to broaden his appeal. Credit applications and multilateral lending institutions are no longer guaranteed a warm reception.

Britain has shown signs of taking a tougher line with Rwanda. Baroness Amos, the International Development Secretary, who replaced Clare Short, has adopted a more even-handed approach and is much more ready to criticise both Uganda and Rwanda for obstructing regional peace initiatives.

Mr Kagame’s supporters argue that his administration has largely avoided revenge killings, reintroduced stability and created more national unity that “free and fair” elections could undermine.

It is clear from reading this that the 1994 massacre of the Tutsis by the Hutu majority wasn't actually the first such event, as shown by the reference to "Hutu-government inspired pogroms in the 1950s" (though I don't see how a Hutu government could have been responsible for anything at the time, given that the first sub-Saharan African country to obtain independence only did so in 1957.) In light of the long history of resentment of Tutsi rule, Kagame's insistence on "stability" and "national unity", by which he clearly means perpetuation of Tutsi domination, strikes me as the mark of a man utterly incapable of learning from the past. I predict that Kagame and his Tutsi cohorts will obtain neither the stability nor the "national unity" that they claim to desire.