I am reprinting this interview with Jean Baptiste Mberabahizi in full here in English. It can also be found online in french here. It’s definitely worth a read, so check it out. Jean-Baptiste was interviewed by Jean-Pierre Bourras.
17.09.08 Exclusive Interview: Jean-Baptiste Mberabahizi, a Rwandan opponent, denies the existence of democracy in Rwanda
On Monday September 15th, 2008, parliamentary elections took place in Rwanda. It was an opportunity last week for Paul Kagame to give an interview to the belgian newspaper “Le Soir”, in which he gave his views on the outcome of his policies as President of Rwanda and the current conflict between France and Rwanda, including the mutual accusations concerning the period of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.The war resumed in Kivu. We have collected the reactions of the Rwandan opposition. Below is the content of the interview given to us from Brussels, by Jean-Baptiste Mberabahizi. Jean-Baptiste Mberabahizi is Secretary-General and Spokesman of the Unified Democratic Forces (FDU), the main political organization of the Rwandan opposition.
Paul Kagame said that the parliamentary elections which begin on Monday September 15th, 2008 are a “democratic process”. He said: “the Rwandan people have the right to freely and regularly choose their leaders”. Why does the Rwandan opposition not participate in these elections?
It is because the Rwandan people are not free to choose their own leaders. There is no freedom in Rwanda. We cannot talk about democracy when there is a crucial lack of minimal requirements for a democratic election. The Rwandan constitution does not allow free political activities, there is no press freedom. Most recently, a Rwandan journalist was deported to Tanzania. He was working at the “Umeseso”, a newspaper that has shown a bit of independence with regard to the current rwandan regime. In addition, current Rwandan laws that govern political parties, elections, and electoral commission, have so many limitations that it is simply ridiculous for Paul Kagame to talk about democratic elections in Rwanda.
Can you give us some examples of these limitations to freedom of political activity?
First, all of the political parties are required to be part of the so-called “Forum for political parties”. That means that if these political parties want to be legally active, they must be members of this forum, which is funded by the Rwandan government, takes its decisions by consensus, and can interfere in the internal affairs of different political parties. This forum is a component of the RPF ruling party. It is chaired by the current Secretary General of the RPF party. This is why this political situation makes the Rwandan regime a de facto single party.
The second limitation is that Rwandan political parties cannot freely operate throughout the country. The current regime has acted in such a way that political parties are not allowed to have structures at the local level. The worst I find in this situation is that there is no security for the opposition leaders. The former president Pasteur Bizimungu was jailed for years and then released without any explanation. He was arrested for the simple reason that he had tried to create a political party independent of the RPF. Additionally, one of the co-founders of that party, Charles Ntakirutinka, a former minister of public works, is still in prison. That means that any opportunity to legally challenge the RPF is peacefully prevented in Rwanda. There is also an example of the former secretary of state in economic planning, Charles Kabanda, who wanted to create a party just before the 2003 elections. It was the ADEP-Amizero, a party that has never been authorized. Apparently, the main reason was that the party was so seditious to the RPF power and that it would have really represented a strong political opposition to the current Rwandan regime.
Thirdly, the structures of the state security, including the police and the intelligence services are anti-democratic and cannot guarantee the safety of the opponents.
The main activity of the department of military intelligence (DMI), known as “crushing the opposition” is to “hunt down opponents’ every where including abroad. For instance, the Rwandan secret services assassinated in Nairobi on May 16th, 1998 Seth Sendashonga, one of the founders of the Resistance Forces for Democracy (FRD), a component of the FDU. It is therefore, not under such conditions that we can speak of democratic elections in Rwanda.
Fourthly, I have many times spoken about the Rwandan electoral laws. The electoral commission is chaired by a member of the Executive Committee of the RPF party, Chrysologue Karangwa. The commission obviously doesn’t include members of any political party that is independent of the RPF party. There are nine political parties in Rwanda, including the RPF party. Six of them have candidates on the list of the RPF party and are in fact RPF party factions. The remaining two are the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. The Liberal Party is chaired by a soldier of the Rwandan army, Protais Mitali, who, to my knowledge, has never stepped down from the army. In addition, since 1990, members of the Liberal Party have also been members of the RPF. With regard to the Social Democratic Party, the situation is quite the same. The party’s chairman, Vincent Biruta, is a member of the RPF since 1991 and the current chairman of the Senate. He pretends to be an opponent but in reality he is an active member of the RPF party.
Finally, the most serious limitation to freedom of political activities in Rwanda, which has nothing to do with the legislation or the exercise of of political party activities, is that most of the current Rwandan political and military figures are suspected of having committed crimes against humanity and war crimes. These crimes were committed in Rwanda and in the DRC. Some these crimes were characterized as crimes against humanity, genocide, terrorist acts, and war crimes. People who have been victims of these crimes have no way to speak for themselves. Imagine a situation where the leaders that prevented from burying your dead in dignity are asking you to vote for them! For this moment, we cannot talk about a decent democratic process in Rwanda because simply it does not exist. During the apartheid era, the majority of South Africans could not vote. Unfortunately, it is currently the same in Rwanda. The only difference is that Paul Kagame still claims that there is no ethnic discrimination and that all Rwandans are treated equally. At the same time Paul Kagame makes every effort to silence any voice about the alarming ethnic discrimination in Rwanda.
Kagame’s claims about his achievements and prospects seem ambitious. He claims to have “fought hard” and he wants that in 2020, the Rwandan gross domestic product be $ 900 per capita. “
This is a big lie.
Last year in 2007, a multidisciplinary team of the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) prepared a report on the level of human development in Rwanda. The title of this report is “Turning vision 2020 into reality: From recovery to sustainable human development”. The way the report describes the living conditions of the Rwandan population is the opposite of what Kagame put forward as his tremendous achievements since coming to power.
Between 1994 and 2005, the income of 20% of the richest Rwandans has doubled while the one of 20% of the poorest Rwandans have either remained the same or declined. The report noted that in 3 over 5 provinces poverty has increased and in others, poverty has even got worse. 80% of Rwandans living in the rural areas live below the poverty line while in towns this proportion is 60% of the population. The infant mortality rate remains below the one of 1990 (the beginning of the civil war) and remains the lowest in the region. The current life expectancy of Rwandans is 44 years whereas before the civil war it was 49 years. In addition, the level of GDP (gross domestic product) has not risen above the level we had before the civil war in 1990. In 2007 the GDP was $ 361 per capita.
The economic recovery praised for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, corresponded with the occupation and looting of the mineral resources of the DRC. Furthermore, this recovery was not beyond expectations if we include the massive international assistance for development that Rwanda has enjoyed for 10 years, economic stimulus that has averaged 400 to $ 500 million per year.
The report also confirmed that Rwanda is currently among the 15 countries with most unequal opportunities in the world. Twenty percent of the richest Rwandans hold 51.4% of the GDP, while 20% of the poorest Rwandans survive with only 5.4% of GDP. The report also noted that if the income distribution had remained the same as before the war in 1990, the income 20% of the poorest Rwandans could had doubled.
The most serious problem in Rwandan is the crucial lack of equity. For example, while 90% of the Rwandan population lives in the rural area where they practice subsistence farming, only 3% of the government budget is devoted to agricultural sector. A careful analysis of the current bank credits and funds mobilization reveals that 60% of the funds go to cities reconstruction or trade (import & export) projects. This is mostly best seen in Kigali city where private buildings are mushrooming. The Rwandan regime uses city reconstruction as a means to show the world that the regime is highly active and that it is performing “miracles”. When we look at how much money goes to energy, water and agriculture, the proportion barely exceed the level of 4%.
The best illustration of the lack of equity in Rwanda is the difference between the official monthly income of Kagame to $ 26,000 per month (according to the presidential decree which regulates the salaries and allowances of the country’s leaders) and the income of a single soldier of the Rwandan army which is $ 41 per month. With such an embarrassing record, I strongly believe that Kagame would do rather be modest and apologize to the Rwandan people. The 2007 UNDP report on Rwanda was the subject of a great controversy. The Rwandan government pressured the UNDP to change it, but this attitude did not affect the overall conclusions of the report. The UNDP added an addendum that desperately tinkered with the report to ultimately restore its dirty coat.
Paul Kagame portrayed himself as a man who dares to go against the western countries. Here is what he said: “there is no two justice systems, one that would be applied in western countries and another one that would be reserved for developing countries.”
Paul Kagame is an agent of the American imperialism in Africa. He signed a bilateral agreement in which he granted impunity to the U.S. citizens in case of prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Since 1998, he is conducting a proxy war on behalf of the United States and the United Kingdom against the DRC, a war that has taken away 5.4 million lives. During the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. Army in 2003, Kagame was one of the few african leaders to support this war, even though this war was deemed illegitimate by the United Nations. During the election of the current President of the African Development Bank, Kagame helped Westerners to impose their candidate, his former finance minister and then finance commissioner of the RPF, Donald Kaberuka, against the candidate proposed by a group of african countries, a nigerian who was deemed to be invicible by Westerners. Recently, the Rwandan army received from the U.S. $ 20 million for logistics. The Rwandan army is officially linked to the U.S. Army through special agreements with regard to information exchange and logistics. These agreements of neocolonial character make the current Rwandan army a supplementary organization for the U.S. military in the African Great Lakes region and in Africa in general. How then in such a situation, Paul Kagame can dare to position himself as an anti-imperialist?
Why is Paul Kagame willing to go against France?
France is a power in decline and is certainly not the most dangerous power in the world today. Paul Kagame goes against France for political reasons. He is playing the anti-French card so that he can continue to enjoy the protection of his British and American sponsors. Of course, there also is the fact that Paul Kagame committed crimes.With regard to this matter, it was not because the French people did not like Kagame that they started the investigation on the case of the attack against the Rwandan presidential plane that was shot down on April 6, 1994. Instead, this judicial instruction was the result of complaints from the french crew’s family members who died in the attack. Unexpectedly, the investigation has uncovered the responsibility of Paul Kagame in this terrorist act. In elf-defense, Kagame has chosen to go against the French government and is now trying to appeal to the African French-speaking fellows as someone who is a strong anti-neo-colonialist, an attitude that is purely cynical.
The allegation that the extremist Hutus shot down the aircraft does not make any sense. In Habyarimana’s plane there were people that the RPF has always accused of being the mind masters of the Hutu extremism. These include Colonel Elie Sagatwa and General Deogratias Nsabimana. How can we accuse them of having ordered the attack that would finally take away their own lives? The former Rwandan army has never fired a single missile during the civil war that spanned from 1990 to 1994. Never has there been any evidence that the former Rwandan Army Forces had missiles on deposit. How can we assume that, suddenly, former Rwandan army used missiles to shot down the plane?
In contrast, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had missiles at that time on deposit and had already used such a device to attack an aircraft belonging to the company SCIBE Zaire. The company was owned by a businessman by the name of Bemba Saolona, the father of the former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba. Paradoxically, the RPF is currently exploring the possibility of serving as M. Bemba’s lawyer before the International Criminal Court with regard to this case!
In addition, during the Rwandan civil war, the RPF controlled and defended its headquarters in Mulindi and its radio Muhabura with missiles.
What suspicious, Paul Kagame has always opposed any inquiry into the attack on Habyarimana’s plane. It is only when the French judiciary has indicted him for this terrorist act that he has put into place the so-called “Committee of Experts”, composed of Rwandans only, to which he commissioned a report due in November this year, and whose findings are already well known.
The remains of the aircraft are still on the crime site in Kigali City. They are well kept and continuously monitored by the RPF soldiers. The former Chief of Staff of the current Rwandan army, Sam Kaka, has prompted cynicism beyond any level of human kind imagination, by arranging his marriage at that site, in October 1994. The RPF leadership has never allowed any investigation for this case, an attitude which somehow makes sense since there now substantial evidence including a list of witnesses who were at the RPF headquarters on April 6th, 1994 and who attest that it is indeed Paul Kagame who gave the order to shoot down Habyarimana’s plane.
Does France share any responsibility for what happened in Rwanda in 1994?
France was present in Rwanda until 1993. The French government also sent missions after the attack against Habyarimana’s aircraft on April 6th, 1994.Whatever the responsibility France may be, it is not up to Kagame to judge, since his responsibility in the Rwandan tragedy is even higher. To prevent hatred speeches that are the basis of the Rwandan genocide, the Rwandan people deserve a political organization that is truly national and defends the interests of the Rwandan people regardless of their ethnic background.
The current ruling party, the RPF, is neither national nor popular in Rwanda. The RPF leadership has never made any effort to recruit executive Hutus, except for some cosmetic recruits. During the Rwandan civil war that spanned from 1990 to 1994, although RPF enjoyed the freedom of political activities in Rwanda, its rebels did not show any mercy to the Rwandan peasants living in the RPF occupied areas. During the Rwandan civil war of 1990-1994, RPF rebels massacred thousands of these peasants simply because they were more reluctant to join their movement. During this crucial time in the Rwandan history, the RPF leadership was aware of the ideology of all of the different militias and extremist Hutus.
Because RPF spy agents had heavily infiltrated these militias, RPF leaders knew everything these militias were capable of and what they were ready for. One should recall that these spy agents participated in and encouraged many political assassinations falsely attributed to these militias.
According to the Arusha Peace Agreement signed on August 4th, 1993 between the Rwandan government and the RPF, in its first article, the Rwandan civil war was over.
The RPF leadership knew that should hostilities resume in Rwanda, a scenario that was mostly predictable in the assassination of any other high ranking Hutu political figure such as President Juvenal Habyarimana, there would be large-scale killings of Tutsis and that RPF rebels would not be able to stop the killings.
The untold truth about the RPF leadership is that there has always been a strong disregard for the well being of the Tutsis that did not live in exile before the Rwandan genocide. RPF guerilla movement was mainly composed of Tutsi refugees. During the Rwandan civil war, the RPF ideology was that “the death of some Tutsis in Rwanda would be a sacrifice that is worth to achieve the victory over the Hutus”. Up to date this cynical ideology still rimes in the RPF leadership: Tutsis who have never lived in exile before the Rwandan genocide are not “pure” Tutsis. Many of these Tutsis were married to Hutus or lived peacefully with their Hutu neighbors. The RPF fellows still consider these Tutsis as “degenerate Tutsis”, even “betrayers”.