An Open Letter to President Kagame

By Déo Lukyamuzi

Mr. President,

I used to despise open letters.  It seemed to me open letters carried an air of self-righteousness.  I would ask why not write a letter directly to the addressee instead of using public media as conduit.   I have made exception since the content is not a personal missive but one of a political nature.

 For whatever it is worth, I want to let you know that I am disappointed in you as a leader.  I am at a loss when I ask myself what the guerrilla war of 1990-94 was all about.  It was referred to as a liberation war conducted by Rwandan Patriots.  Right now no one in his/her right mind would tell who was liberated and from whom and by which patriots.

 Over the years I have struggled with the ideas of trying to see things your vantage point.  One aspect still bedevils me –what is your end game.

 Clearly, obviously, you and your government have made it abundantly known that political opposition is unwanted and unacceptable inRwanda, and that you will go to any length to prevent that from happening.  The problem is that it is a losing strategy –you can only succeed in a short term but not for ever.

 I am an eternal Afro-optimist, I refuse to subscribe to the idea thatAfricais condemned to fail in its quest for realising its dream of achieving human rights and political freedoms and economic progress just like European and American peoples have.  Yet, it is people like you Mr. President that make my position hard to defend.

 If you look beyond the horizon after you have gone, since going you will, yourself will be at pains seeing what fundamental changes happened inRwandaduring your tenure.  Fact is that, if there was lack of democracy and respect to human rights during President Habyarimana’s regime, it has worsened during your time.

 The much talked about progress in economic reconstruction and peace prevailing after Genocide, is a self defeating argument.  There would not be need for reconstruction had there been no destruction and by extension, there would not have been Genocide, had there not been the war and killing of a President.

 I know more about the ethnic problem during RPF time than under MRND and MDR.  I have however, in absolute honesty, tried to educate myself about that question how it was in the past and I concluded it is not any better now even with the Reconciliation Commission and all the talk of “there are no Bahutu, Batutsi, or Batwa but only Rwandans”.  Ethnic identity cards synonymous with MRND government may have been outlawed but were replaced by other forms of ethnic identification.  Today, Rwandans may not refer to themselves in ethnic terms however, that does not mean they do not know what they are ethnically and the importance of what it means. 

 I have a particular despise for that policy because in there lies defeatism.  Subconsciously you and your government are looking at the ethnic diversity ofRwanda, in a negative way and acknowledging your failure to bring about harmony in ethnic diversity.  However, acting Ostrich does not change reality and peaceful co-existence is not dictated but nurtured.  It is always the politicians like your predecessors and you, Mr. President that exacerbate differences among the people for selfish goals.

 When I was growing up in rural Uganda, our community was comprised of Hutus, Tutsis, Twas, Baganda, Banyankole and many others tribes.  There was perfect co-existence despite the diversity.  I remember my mother going to the neighbours’ for salt and I also remember neighbours coming to my house for this or that.  There was absolutely no consideration for tribal differences and it was not because we did not know, but it was because it did not matter.  I am most certain it was the same in Rwandapre-1990-94 period.  Have you ever wondered why people can go effortlessly along but politicians with all the conferences, meetings, commissions, studies and all the education cannot work together without conspiring against each other? It is called Greed.

 

Since you came to power in 1994 to today,Rwandahas lost very many sons and daughters to assassinations, accidents, disappearances, assisted natural causes of death, prison and exile.  It is not in my character to accuse you of being behind every individual or collective misfortune but, you are the executive President, all powerful and all decider.  If any body is responsible directly or indirectly, you are. 

 Mr. President, you are known by your characteristic indignation whenever, you are asked about the unexplained deaths or disappearances of your political opponents.  Your trade-mark response is “I don’t Care”.  At some point you are going to start caring because it is your obligation otherwise it is either incompetence or callousness either of which is, unacceptable of a leader. 

 Genocide

 The 1994 Rwandan Genocide is a national tragedy that every Rwandan national apart from those who carried it out) has to remember and mourn and indeed do whatever is in our capacity to avoid it ever happening again.  You however Mr. President and your colleagues in RPF, have made that effort impossible for others.  You have turned a national tragedy into a political weapon against your opponents and indeed made Genocide the pillar of RPFreason d’être, which is false as you know RPF pre-dates Genocide.

 Genocide was carried out by a Hutu militia the Interahamwe formed, trained and managed by Hutu politicians.  If we agree on that, let us go a head and agree that not every Hutu is guilty of the crimes committed by Interahamwe just like not every Tutsi is a victim or innocent of the crimes committed on our people since 1990 to today either within Rwandan borders or beyond borders.  I want to emphasize one fact thought, that stating the immediate above, does not in itself make one a genocide denier, genocide ideologue or genocide revisionist. It is a mere statement of fact.

 Rwandan must have the right and space to express their view and not be expected to be arrested.  It is called democracy and human rights.  Remember that journalist Uwimana Agnes Nkusi sentenced for sedition, to 17 years in prison on 4th February, 2010?  Do you not find that an exaggeration?  Would you find it too harsh if compared to you, Rwandans find late Juvenal Habyarimana an Angel? Or you don’t care!

 Your government must stop criminalising everybody that does not subscribe to RPF views.  Putting in prison, disappearing or herding into exile every political opponent will not solve the national question.  What will, is accepting thatRwandais big and large enough for all to live and co-exist even if we do not agree politically.  And on that note, I hope you reconsider RPF core policy towards its political enemies.  It is untenable as it is today.

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