Is Stephen Kinzer Serious? Who is the REAL Imperialist?

It’s a sad day when backed into a corner, formerly credible journalists resort to shamelessly defending issues, causes, and people known to be destructive to humanity, especially when they have helped them get there. This is Stephen Kinzer’s job today when it comes to Rwanda. He helped construct the myth of a seraphic Kagame. But with mounting evidence against Kagame’s human rights violations record, Kinzer is scrambling to maintain the fallacy by any means necessary, even by going so far as to undermine human rights organizations. Kinzer knows he is defending a criminal. And as the criminal becomes more and more exposed and ostracized, Kinzer’s credibility as well as his pocket change are likely to take a hit.  What happens when a journalist finds himself in such a difficult situation? Does he do the morally sound thing and speak in unisom with the world’s most vulnerable population? Or does he continue to defend his criminal friend despite how irrational and blatantly imperialistic his defense may be?

In a recent article, Stephen Kinzer chose the latter. He informs us that he finally broke with the human rights community once they published and publicized Kagame’s crimes. Kinzer says:

The place where I finally broke with my former human-rights comrades was Rwanda.

Kinzer says that admiration from other dictators (referred to in the article as ‘other heads of states in africa’ ) and their attendance of Kagame’s inauguration are proof that Kagame is not a brutal repressive dictator. Either Kinzer forgot that Kagame was the biggest threat to democracy in his country at the run-up of the elections, or he supports the kind of sham election that excludes all viable opposition parties, imprisons opposition leaders, and exiles and murders independent journalists. Kinzer clarifies his position by informing readers of his support for this kind of repression from an African leader. Kinzer continues,

By my standards, this authoritarian regime is the best thing that has happened to Rwanda since colonialists arrived a century ago. My own experience tells me that people in Rwanda are happy with it, thrilled at their future prospects, and not angry that there is not a wide enough range of newspapers or political parties.

With a straight face he says that. He mis-characterizes what rights Rwanda’s been violating as justified since they were demanded in the context of “ethnicity,” disregarding the fact that any time Kagame and company are faced with any threat for democracy they reduce everything down to “ethnic” divisionism and imprison those who threaten them with  democratic ideals. Kinzer is okay with that. He also believes that instead of documenting human rights violations, Human Rights Watch should instead sycophantically praise Rwanda. It would be funny, if it weren’t so serious. Just ask this guy. Kinzer doesn’t believe the guy deserves his right to life as an opposition figure to Kagame.

Kinzer continues,

Human Rights Watch wants Rwandans to be able to speak freely about their ethnic hatreds, and to allow political parties connected with the defeated genocide army to campaign freely for power. (emphasis mine)

Kinzer is afraid of democracy in Rwanda. Democracy in Rwanda is a threat to Kagame, and a threat to Kagame is not only a threat to Kinzer’s credibility and pay check. Kinzer, so shamelessly imperialistic has the gall to say that by calling out human rights violations in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch is leading Rwanda on the path to another genocide instead. He forgets that Kagame is the one continuing his genocidal plan which he started 20 years ago.

It has come to this: all that is necessary for another genocide to happen in Rwanda is for the Rwandan government to follow the path recommended by Human Rights Watch.

But where was Stephen Kinzer in 1990 when Kagame attacked a peaceful nation and started a four year war that culminated in the genocide of 1994, and out for more blood, continued and committed genocide in the Congo? Where was Stephen Kinzer when the RPF violated the Arusha peace accords which would allow them to return to Rwanda peacefully, and campaign freely within the country as another political opposition party? This is the same right Kagame and Kinzer are denying other Rwandans who are doing it peacefully and not forcing a peace agreement by the gun unlike Kagame and the RPF. Where was Kinzer when the RPF assassinated two heads of states? Where was Kinzer when the RPF refused international intervention to stop the genocide and the war violence, but instead prolonged the conflict until they had secured the whole country? Where was Kinzer when the RPF and Kagame went into the Congo and committed genocide there? Where was Kinzer in 1996? 1998? 2000? And subsequent years when Kagame’s army ravished the Congo, with only the Congolese people as the real loser of each one of their incursions? Where was Kinzer when the UN released a mapping report documenting the most serious human rights  violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1993 and 2003, where an alleged possible genocide was committed by Rwandan troops?

And most importantly, where is Kinzer today? Where is his altruistic non colonial and non imperialistic proclivities for defending human rights instead of businesses? I have not seen Kinzer speak out on behalf of Congolese. Instead he defends Kagame’s right to deny others rights, and to violate their human rights, and commit crimes against humanity against them.

Is Kinzer really interested in human rights? Or is he interested in human rights violations profit? He praises the most recent Human Rights Watch appointment because it’s “potentially” one that will remain silent on Kagame’s crimes. Kinzer is happy with Rwandans living under a dictatorship, without any ability to express their free political will, nor their right to oppose the opposition, or the right to express their thoughts and ideas on political repression. According to Kinzer and his western prescriptions, lowering their standards, demanding less from an oppressor is not only good for Rwandans, it is RIGHT.

And somehow, in this twisted world we live in, Human Rights Watch is the imperialist, according to altruistic and benevolent human rights defenders like Kinzer.

Kagame desperate to hold on to power, resorts to more severe domestic terrorism tactics

For anyone who has not heard, Amnesty International condemned the recent intimidation attacks hurled at presidential hopefuls in opposition to Kagame in Rwanda.  Some of the intimidating attacks include actual physical violence perpetrated by mobs against a female candidate.

When mob attacks did not work to deter the presidential hopefuls, Kagame up the ante. First, he created extremely rigid election laws, preventing anyone from properly registering and freely campaigning across the country. Specifically, candidates can only publicly proclaim their candidacy 26 days before the elections and have only 18 to campaign across the country. And that’s 26 days in total for the whole campaign process. The Chairman for the National Electoral Commission stated:

The Chairman of the National Electoral Commission, Professor Crysologue Karangwa told APA Friday that the eighteen days were enough for a serious presidential aspirant to go around the country of thirty districts campaigning.

“Eighteen days are enough for a serious presidential candidate to cover the country, we do not expect them to visit every village or district in the country by themselves, they have supporters who should help in campaigns,” Karangwa said.

Is this guy serious? He presumes to know how members of opposition parties will run their campaigns or how much support they have. Obviously he doesn’t mean what he says. I mean obviously can’t mean it.. He is only saying it because it rationalizes the absurdity of restricting political candidates to 26 days of announcing their presidential candidacy and actually campaigning around the country.  I mean it’s not sabotage for goodness sakes, it’s just the RULES! It doesn’t get any more absurd than this. Or does it?

Well it does. Not only are candidates restricted to 26 days, but any violation is punishable by law and subject to candidate disqualification for the elections. It is unclear if these laws will be backdated or not. However for specifics, if you think I’m making this stuff up, here you go:

In the remaining less than four months those wishing to stand for presidency were advised to keep it to themselves as in accordance to the law.

“Before the said dates, those planning to declare their candidature should abide by the law and wait. According to the electoral law no political activities are expected before the approval of candidates,” Karangwa said. (emphasis mine)

I’m struck by that word “approval” stuck right in there. It reads to me, like the arbitrarily enforced violation of the “genocide ideology” law. Who will be approving candidates and on what terms? How likely is it, that they will be disapproved based on speculation regarding their candidacy? That is, if the population presumes one to be running for president, even if one has not “officially” made such an announcement,  will that person be disqualified for running in the presidential election? Will the approval be based on how receptive the country is towards a certain candidate? It’s no secret that the Rwandan dictatorship is plagued with vague and arbitrarily enforced laws, and this is one of them. Some of the vague laws and language are used to intimidate and silence opposition. These in particular are supposed to create the ultimate barrier to the presidency for the opposition (at least before resorting to the use of physical violence to halt opponents) as far as the law can go without being regarded as a fascist attempt to remain in power by all means necessary. Although as far as I’m concerned, this is a fascist attempt to hold on to power by any means necessary.

And if all else fails, call upon oft reliable, never fail friend of the RPF, physical violence. Think they won’t? Well think again, because they already have.

After the bizarre announcement of the new electoral process laws, three grenades were coincidentally detonated around the capital city of Kigali. The BBC writes:

At least one person has been killed and 18 injured in three simultaneous grenade attacks in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, state media report.

A bus station, a restaurant and another building housing several businesses were targeted, state radio said.

While there is no “clear connection” between these attacks and the election, the timing is oddly suspicious and peculiarly familiar to the pre-April 1994 period. One thing many do not realize is that the RPF is notorious for terror and intimidation. From the time they attacked a sovereign nation in 1990 and creating a four year war that culminated in the genocide, to the five million deaths in the Congo, there is no terror tool beyond the RPF’s use. And remember the RPF is led by current Rwandan President Paul Kagame. If you don’t see the connection here, I can’t help you.

During the 1990-1994 period, prior to the genocide, the RPF used bombs and grenades to intimidate people and to terrorize them. It appears the RPF is back at its games. Most Rwandans and few other people around the world know the RPF instigated the conflict that began in 1990, and they know it was the RPF who committed mass terror for the longest period of time. While Kagame has brainwashed the world to believe he rose out of nowhere to halt a deadly genocide from destroying a nation, it is also true that Kagame terrorized that nation into submission although people remain largely unaware of this fact. Kagame is not, and has never been a popular figure in Rwanda, despite his resume of instigating (fact largely unknown by the world), and then subsequently halting the genocide. It is through terror that Kagame became the leader of Rwanda, and it is through terror that Kagame remains the leader of Rwanda. These grenade attacks are no coincidence, and they are no random acts of violence. They are calculated attempts to remind the populous of Kagame’s predilection for terror. It is a reminder that 1990-1994 could possibly be relived should they attempt to challenge him, even if by only support other challengers. The grenade attacks are terror tools used to intimidate and confuse the population, to conquer and divide amongst inconsequential affiliations. This is what the RPF does. It is what they have done, and what they will continue to do.

The world at large still enjoys a fairly moderate love affair with President Kagame. Many are ignorant to the RPF actions both in Rwanda and in the Congo. Because of most people’s familiarity with the 1994 genocide and the concurrent ignorance of the events before and after 1994, people easily give President Kagame a pass. They forgive him for his transgressions. Because as far as they are concerned, Kagame saved Rwanda and Rwandans in 1994 and that is good enough for them. But as far as I’m concerned, the lives saved in 1994 are not worth more than the lives that perished between 1990 and 1994, and 1996- today. Kagame does not deserve to remain on any pedestal nor should he be absolved from all the other crimes committed by himself and the RPF.

There is no reason Rwanda should spiral back into a deadly convulsion. People should become aware of Kagame’s tactics, and should call upon every capable party to demand civility from Kagame for once in his life. Opposition leaders are only that. Leaders of opposition. They have not won any significant influential power, nor are they any threat to the RPF machine. These deadly tactics by the status quo in Rwanda are uncalled for, unnecessary, and extremely reminscent of pre 1994 genocide.

If you think I’m being too harsh on the RPF in this post, think of all the lives that perished in 1990-1994. Think of the 1994 genocide (even if he prevailed against others, Kagame was an active participant in the death of human beings during the genocide). Think of 5-6 million lives lost in the Congo. All these deaths were preventable. Deaths that could potentially take place in Rwanda due to these elections are also preventable. Are those people any less deserving of life simply because Kagame hangs out with Tony Blair, Google, and Bill Gates? Seriously? I find it fascinating how when Kagame’s back is against the wall, that is when human rights groups, and Judges demand accountability from him, he uses weak claims of pan-African Unity and sovereignty, and respect to deflect from his criminal behavior. Yet he never bats an eye when it comes to employing and hobnobbing with  known British imperialist Tony Blair. The hypocrisy never ceases to amaze me.

Despite all that, Kagame’s intimidation tactics must end. Lives must be spared. And communities must be rebuilt. And not in terror. Stop Kagame’s terrorism now!

ETA: I realize that the Rwanda government is blaming the grenade attacks on “interahamwe.” But is anyone seriously surprised by that? Is that not what Kagame et al did all throughout the early 90s?  Colored Opinions writes:

The state run Rwanda News Agency published this report that Rwandan Police have arrested two men and that they have claimed, within less than 24 hours that “all the evidence” points to the guilt of the Interahamwe.

When a presidential candidate from the opposition was attacked my a mob, members of the police present did NOT even interfere with this attack. YET I’m supposed to believe they are so efficient they caught the two parties responsible, and by God, they belong to the 1994 genocide terrorist group, the “interahamwe.” I tip my hat to the Kagame propaganda machine, but pray that the world wakes up and prevents the 1994 genocide from happening all over again. This time we know. No one can claim ignorance anymore. No one. Not even you Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Especially not you.

Human Rights Watch Reports on Rwanda’s Internal Terror for Political Opposition Leaders

Check out Rwanda: End Attacks on Opposition Parties at Human Rights Watch or read it in full below. The whole report is too significant to simply quote things from it, so I reprinted the whole thing.  Very interesting perspective on what is going on for political opposition leaders in Rwanda.

Rwanda: End Attacks on Opposition Parties
Intimidation of Political Opponents Increases in Advance of Presidential Election

February 10, 2010

(Kigali) – Opposition party members are facing increasing threats, attacks, and harassment in advance of Rwanda’s August 2010 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged the government to investigate all such incidents and to ensure that opposition activists are able to go about their legitimate activities without fear.

In the past week, members of the FDU-Inkingi and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda – new opposition parties critical of government policies – have suffered serious incidents of intimidation by individuals and institutions close to the government and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). One member of the FDU-Inkingi was beaten by a mob in front of a local government office. The attack appeared to have been well coordinated, suggesting it had been planned in advance.

“The Rwandan government already tightly controls political space,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These incidents will further undermine democracy by discouraging any meaningful opposition in the elections.”

The Rwandan government and the RPF have strongly resisted any political opposition or broader challenge of their policies by civil society. On several occasions, the government has used accusations of participation in the genocide, or “genocide ideology,” as a way of targeting and discrediting its critics. The current RPF-dominated government has been in power in Rwanda since the end of the 1994 genocide.

Victoire Ingabire, president of the FDU-Inkingi, has faced an intensive campaign of public vilification since she returned from exile in the Netherlands in January 2010. She has been widely condemned in official and quasi-official media and described as a “negationist” of the genocide for stating publicly that crimes committed against Hutu citizens by the RPF and the Rwandan army should be investigated and those responsible brought to justice.

Beating of Joseph Ntawangundi
Ingabire received a phone call on February 3 from the executive secretary of Kinyinya sector, Jonas Shema, who told her that she should come with her colleagues to the local government office to collect official documents required for their identity cards. When Ingabire and Joseph Ntawangundi, a party colleague, arrived outside the local government office, they were met by a group of people. Two men jostled Ingabire, grabbed her by the arms, and stole her handbag, which contained her passport. The attackers shouted, “We don’t want génocidaires here!” and, “We don’t want people with genocide ideology!” Ingabire managed to run to her car unharmed; some of the men threw stones at the car as it drove off.

The men then turned on Ntawangundi and beat him severely. He described to Human Rights Watch being attacked for about 45 minutes by scores of young men who punched him, kicked and scratched him, threw him into the air, and ripped his clothes. They stole his watch, glasses, and shoes. The attack appeared to be designed not only to hurt Ntawangundi, but also to humiliate him. At one point, at least six people held him in the air, with his feet apart, and carried him toward a tree. They insulted him and shouted phrases such as: “We don’t want you here! You have no right to an identity card!”

The attack appears to have been well organized. On several occasions, when the beatings became particularly brutal, individuals who appeared to be leading the group ordered the others to stop – for example, when the assailants each picked up a stone from a pile on the ground and prepared to throw them at Ntawangundi.

Several witnesses told Human Rights Watch that policemen and members of the Local Defense Force were present during the attack, but did not try to stop it – nor did Shema, the executive secretary, seem to make any effort to call for assistance.

Eventually, alerted to the attack by other members of the FDU-Inkingi, police from the nearby station intervened. The mob followed Ntawangundi to the police station and stayed there for about 10 minutes. The police claim they have opened an investigation, but have declined to provide any information on whether there has been any progress or any arrests made.

When Human Rights Watch representatives met with Ntawangundi the day after the beating, he was visibly suffering from his injuries and was finding it painful to walk. Although he had been given pain medication when he went to a hospital for treatment, he said pain remained in his kidneys, back, and head.

Rwandan government and police authorities have offered a different version of events, claiming that residents of Kinyinya who had been waiting for their identity documents for a long time became angry and reacted spontaneously against Ingabire and her colleague when they allegedly jumped the line. This version was broadcast widely on Rwandan and international media.

In a telephone conversation with Human Rights Watch, police spokesperson Eric Kayiranga minimized the incident, but said that the police were investigating. Human Rights Watch tried to contact Shema several times, but he was unavailable.

Arrest of Joseph Ntawangundi
Three days later, on February 6, police arrested Ntawangundi on accusations of participation in the genocide. They told him that a gacaca court, a community-based court set up to try crimes committed during the genocide, had convicted him in absentia. He was initially detained at the police station at Remera, in Kigali, but was not told of the specific charges against him. His Rwandan lawyer was not allowed to see him on February 6, though a foreign lawyer was allowed to see him the next day. He was transferred to Kimironko prison on February 8.

The FDU-Inkingi has stated that Ntawangundi was living abroad during the genocide, and that he had never heard about the accusations against him until the day before his arrest when an article containing these allegations was published in the New Times, a Rwandan newspaper that is closely aligned with the government.

Read the rest Here.