From 4th to 07th December 2010, General Paul Kagame was in Brussels attending the 5th edition of European Development Days. It was a controversial visit for a President accused by the United Nations over grave human right abuses and crime that could be classified as genocide.
President Kagame failed to show up at his Keynote Address on first day of the Development Days. He was replaced by his minister of foreign affairs. His meeting with the Belgian Prime Minister, Yves Leterme was also cancelled for “agenda reasons”.
The outcome of this visit is similar to his last July visit in Madrid where he was due to meet with the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. We recall that, during the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Madrid, the Spanish Prime Minister withdrew from a UN-backed meeting with Paul Kagame.
What was he actually expected to contribute to this heads of states meeting. Kagame’s government has developed Kigali. The last time I visited my country, the city looked clean, with glassy buildings, top hotels and large supermarkets well stocked up with western items. This is exactly what western business community, tourists, journalists and diplomats tend to praise about Kagame’s development effort but Kagame’s work has a heavy price.
The so called “Rwandan development miracle” streams from illegal exploitation of Congolese mineral resources. Rwanda-backed mining activities in Congo have caused over six millions of deaths. That is the price for the work he has done only for Kigali city and the welfare of a very tiny group of urban English-speaking people holding 90% of Rwandan economy.
Kigali’s vibrancy reminded me of Johannesburg of 1950 – 1980. The level of inequality and the lack of opportunity that the rest of the Rwandan population is living in today are appalling. Either the elite and rich class in Rwanda is unaware of the level of poverty in rural areas or has no sympathy towards the exploited French-speaking lower class. Don’t expect the western businessman or diplomat to notice but if they do, they are likely to turn a blind eye and mind their interests.
Such insensitivity from the ruling-class of Rwanda is rightly comparable to the white South Africans’ lack of sympathy towards the plight of poverty-stricken legally-segregated non-white population during the apartheid era.
South African Democracy Education Trust, in their book: The Road to Democracy in South Africa: 1960-1970, talks about the Apartheid era as a “time of political arrests by the thousand, loss of employment if one was politically active, bannings and house arrests, widespread police assaults, torture and prosecutions under special apartheid laws, and the use of extensive judicial flogging. It was horrendous time for those sickened by the government juggernaut”.
There is similar pattern in the political climate in Rwanda which is marked with multiple arrests of military officials, collective arrest and torture of demonstrators, politically motivated incarcerations of the democratic party leaders such as Ms. Victoire INGABIRE of the FDU, Mr. Bernard NTAGANGA of the Social Party and Mr. Deogratias Mushayidi of PDP and journalist arrest and assassinations.
Paul Kagame’s record on human right violations seem to catch up with him despite his highly financed PR efforts. Prior to his visit in Brussels, Rwandan embassies, External Security and military intelligence operatives were ordered to mobilise as many members of the ruling-party as possible from around Europe where they live posing as refugees, and to sponsor their trip to Brussels in the bid to back up the President’s controversial visit.
There was also a large number of anti Kagame protesters and tracts pointing to the recently released UN experts report named “Mapping Exercise” in which Paul Kagame’s army is accused to have committed war crimes against Congolese people and what could be classified as crime of genocide against Hutu Refugees in Congo.