Rwanda: The Need to Change the Narrative.

By Déo Lukyamuzi,
Commissioner for Foreign Relations, UDF-Inkingi

It is close to eighteen years since the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.  Every year, this tragedy is remembered and commemorated –deservedly so.

Everyone who has attempted to write Rwanda’s story, and there have been many, either consciously or by self censorship, makes sure the word genocide appears on each and every page.  It does not matter what specific topic the story is about.

When I was growing up inUganda, stories I heard from both my mother and father, aboutRwandawere mainly two dimensional; cultural and migration.

Rwandan culture is awash with tell-tales laced with romanticism.  A country of a thousand hills, where milk and honey flow down village paths, a country blessed with a god who spends the daytime elsewhere (read wherever else) but always comes to spend the night at home –in Rwanda.  A country of heroic people and great kings, who conquered other lands and expanded Rwandan territory,  Rukara Rwa Bishingwe, that national hero who, while in hand cuffs, killed two armed colonial soldiers with their own bayonet.


My mother used to tell me beautiful stories specifically about her growing up, and others passed down from generation to generation.  My father did the same but with a macho and war-like twist. The inter-clan wars and conspiracies especially between Banyiginya and Bega, the tragedy that befell Kavuna ka Ryankunda, how Umwami Rudahigwa played brinkmanship with the colonial government, his mother telling his secret and him taking his own life instead of giving a chance to his enemies shame him in front of his subjects.


Obviously, many aspects in the above narratives are not in conformity with facts but, neither are those of any other nation which seek to glorify the history of a people.  Here I think of the Trojan horse, Hannibal, Rwabugiri and Karinga among others.    


It is from this period more than any other that my sense of patriotism was natured and ingrained in my soul.  It is such stories with good endings than lamentations that tap into people’s collective imagination.


Rwandan Culture is well developed and respected internationally.  The beautiful songs and breathtaking cultural dance affords Rwandainternational fame.  Thank God, Genocide did not take this away with its ugly hand.         


Rwandans are a migrant people.  In modern times, two factors influenced this trend; economic and political. As early as before year1900, Rwandans were migrating to neighbouring countries to look for work. Uganda is one of the most notable destinations.  Rwandans who came to Uganda to look for work either were term workers who would go back and forth or chose to settle and move their families altogether.


Migration for political reasons became more pronounced in the 1950s whenRwanda, like many other African states was struggling for independence.  Secondary contradictions pitted local political tendencies against each other, and because these contradictions often manifested themselves in a violent manner, the weaker of the two protagonists, was forced to flee the country.


The second wave of migration for political reasons occurred during and after the 1994 genocide.  Here again, it was violence against violence, and the group (RPF) that became more effective in using its war wares, dispersed its opponents and there from, dominated the political, social, cultural and economic sphere of the country.


The national tragedy of 1994 actually became the best political tool of the RPF government.  In the absence of a superior political ideology or moral advantage against its political opponents, the RPF regime found refugee in genocide under which it has put in place a myriad of ambiguous laws to punish all that do not subscribe to its line of thought.


Broadly speaking, there are only two categories of crimes “committed” by opponents of Kagame and his RPF regime; one, ‘related to genocide’ and two, ‘fraud’.  The former goes for Hutu politicians and the later for their Tutsi counterparts.  With the relatively new phenomenon of top RDF army and core RPF inner circle fleeing, another crime category has been created for those –‘terrorism and conspiracy against state security’.


For the seventeen years of Kagame and RPF regime, there has not been one Rwandan politician who has been allowed to be opposed to RPF on policies and as I am writing this, we can hardly find a free opposition figure in the country, independent journalists and no human rights activists.  All have been killed, maimed, imprisoned, and herded into exile, in the name of preventing a recurrence of genocide.


All that United Democratic Forces –Inkingi is militating for is the return to normalcy in our country, where citizens have the basic right to assembly; speak freely, even against government policies.  We want to put in place an environment where people are allowed to form political parties and not be obliged to associate with political opponents in forums of whatever nature.  We want an environment where RPF intentions can be questioned on its economic, education, health, local government, foreign relations and other policies, without labelling the opposition genocidaire, terrorist, corrupt and all the other name-calling.


Fact is President Kagame and RPF do not have a monopoly to good ideas of nation building.  Fact is the Rwandan destiny does not belong to RPF, but all citizens of Rwanda.  Fact is not all opponents of the RPF regime criminals and all proponents of RPF saints.       


For seventeen years common Rwandans have faced injustice, disenfranchised, and denied their very basic rights as human beings and citizens.  None of that was being noticed simply because they were not Rwandan celebrities and therefore barely anyone acknowledged their suffering or got interested.  It was after lines were blurred and Kagame’s long hand stirred the RPF jar and his ester while colleagues could not stand the taste of the same medicine he has for long administered to faceless and nameless Rwandans, that his true nature was revealed to the whole world.  Many still have not yet mastered the courage and honesty to acknowledge the presence of a wolf in sheep skin.


On several occasions, the President asked himself in open bewilderment as to what causes many Rwandans to run out of the country.  He has ‘sought’ to know why he and his government are being criticised for the human rights violations, and lack of basic freedoms in the country.  What president Kagame is doing, in common speak is referred to as acting dumb.


Can the president explain logically, why there is not one independent newspaper operating openly and freely in the country?  Can the president explain why all human rights non government organisations have fled the country?  Can the president logically explain why there is not one single opposition political party in the country apart from those spineless ones in parliament embedded to RPF and representing only themselves?  Can the president explain logically why there has not been one conclusive investigation into the many assassinations of Rwandans in and out of the country since the RPF took power? –Is he not better than Sindikubwabo and Ingoma y’Abatabazi?  Does he not have a moral high ground above Habyarimana and his MRND? After all, he stopped genocide.  Do president Kagame and his RPF not want to do better by protecting and sanctifying the lives of Rwandans he saved from genocide? Or, he does not give a damn?


Genocide is an unforgettable tragedy.  ButRwandaas a nation does not start and end with genocide.  Genocide is a part of Rwandan history; it is not the Rwandan history.  RebuildingRwandaand making it a better society cannot be a preserve of Kagame and RPF, but a collective right and responsibility of all Rwandans.



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