By Jean Bosco Rutikanga
Many people often join rallies around the world (mainly in Europe and USA) to protest for the release of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, the chairperson of the yet-to-be registered Rwandan opposition political party FDU, who is currently incarcerated in Rwandan jail. To many, Victoire Ingabire is a hero. She is that lady who dare to challenge President Kagame’s regime in many areas of its governance.
But why do you support her?
Do you support her just because she is opposed to Paul Kagame whom you hate so much? Or is it because she is one of a few women in Rwandan political opposition? Do you support her only because she is a Hutu like you? After all, in the run up to the presidential elections in 2010, a large part of the Rwandan media portrayed her candidacy as ethnic line based. It was widely written that she tried to rally Hutu people to vote for her by making a speech and asking for their loved ones to be remembered too.
I hope you don’t support her just because you pity her now she is in jail in Rwanda due to her opinion and due to her attempt to exercise her freedom of speech. According to President Paul Kagame, in his speech to the Rwandan youth on the 30th June 2013 in what was called “youth connekt dialogue”, these kind of western principles of democracy and freedom of expression don’t apply to Rwanda. In other words, she stood no chance in Rwanda today because, having spent 16 years in exile in Europe, her application of these universal principles is more likely to be “western” in the eyes of the current regime in Rwanda.
If that is why you support her, just don’t bother.
If you follow Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza for those reasons, please don’t bother. Don’t bother because she couldn’t care less. You need to learn more about her and her line of thought before you decide to either support her or despise her.
Very unfortunately many people in Rwanda learnt about Victoire Ingabire through the government-controlled mainstream media in Rwanda, just after her return home from exile. They never asked what she has been up to before then. They never wanted to find out what made her come despite all the danger she faced as an opposition party leader who dared to challenge the almighty Paul Kagame in the presidential elections of 2010.
Why support her then?
Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza should be supported because of all her work she has done all of her political career. She should be acknowledged to have unified the opposition as a peaceful alternative choice into the country’s politics. She ‘s always been in favor of fundamental change and reconciliation. Since 1997, she co-engineered political alliances, party coalitions and unification. That is exactly what made her current political party FDU-Inkingi what it is today.
Once back in Rwanda, one of her first steps was to form a permanent consultative council of opposition parties in Rwanda with the Democratic Green Party and the PS-Imberakuri party. Presently FDU is now sharing a platform with the new Rwandan National Congress, a political party, originally made up of ex-members of RPF party in government.
Are all those alliances, coalitions, unions, council and platform ethnic based? I don’t think so.
So, a closer look on her political endeavors shows that she has done a lot of work in terms of reconciliation, peaceful political change and dialogue. All of her work was not on ethnic lines. Instead, it has always been all-inclusive to all ethnic groups in Rwanda. She made no distinction in her choice of partners and allies other than on the basis of peace, truth and true reconciliation principles. This means for those of you who want to support her, you should be ready to embrace these principles or just don’t bother.
An alternative to following Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
If you can’t follow her on these principles, you have got another alternative: Just join President Paul Kagame. His line of thoughts n reconciliation is based on collective guilt for one ethnic group on the other. Our current president believes that, every child, adolescent, and young adult of Hutu descent or blood should apologize for the crimes committed “in their name” by their Hutu parents and relatives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. However be aware that this Kagame’s line of thought is likely to foster social fragmentation and popularization on the basis of ethnicity. Just to quote La Tribune franco-rwandaise, “Kagame’s invented collective guilt of Hutu upon their generations a thousand times illustrates the promotion of a legacy of hatred and mistrust.”
Jean Bosco Rutikanga
The Hague University
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