In 1990, the RPF and her armed wing the RPA invaded Rwanda, promising, among others, the restoration of democracy, rule of law, human rights and an end to a refugee problem. The revolution begun with a prophet, but 21 years later, it has ended with a policeman. The RPF under Kagame now epitomizes best what my friend George Ayittey calls ‘crocodile liberators’. Although some of my friends insist the 90 invasion was illegitimate; I kindly ask we leave the legitimacy or absence thereof of the invasion, and think, 21 years later, how Rwandans would get rid of Kagame’s brutal ruthless dictatorship that is killing and repressing either divide of our population, has effectively suffocated our liberties and freedoms, and ultimately, how we establish a sustainable democratic political entity.
The future of Rwanda has occupied me for some good years, and the present regime’s political trajectory became glaring to me since over a decade ago- one that is driving Rwanda to another self destruction, if unchecked. Those who are familiar with my work as a journalist in Rwanda would attest how my colleagues and I tried to fight this dangerous direction of doom our country is facing, only to be subdued by the coercive instruments of the state.
That Kagame is a dictator, solely driven by self perpetuation in power, needs no further elucidation. How he has hijacked and sacrificed the RPF ideals in pursuit of unaccountable power is a glaring reality. How he has polarized the Rwandan society and the region is all there for all of us to see. Yet how this modern dictator should be faced remains our unanswered question. I have done quite substantial reading about dictatorships, armed struggles, non-violent revolutions, yet none appears likely (or rather easy) at this time:
1. Armed struggle, coup, elections or international community
An armed struggle, in my view, is highly unlikely, despite its grave consequences. Political dispensations obtaining in the region largely disfavor it in the moment, and so are geo-political interests. Besides this, and more importantly, this is the strategy Kagame is best prepared for.
According to Gene Park, to many, a coup against a dictatorship might appear to be relatively one of the easiest and quickest ways to remove a particularly repugnant regime. However, there are very serious problems with that technique. Importantly, it doesn’t change the existing maldistribution of power between the population and the elite in control of the government and its military forces.
In Rwanda’s present situation, elections are simply a farce-unable to effect a political change. What we have is electoral authoritarianism. Many Rwandans are now suffering under a brutal dictatorship, or who have gone into exile to escape its immediate grasp, live in constant fear of Kagame’s omnipotent secret agents. Kagame has exported international terrorism to many foreign capitals, including Nairobi, Maputo, Pretoria, London, Kampala etc. Most of those in exile do not believe that the oppressed can liberate themselves. They believe that only international help can be strong enough to bring down the Kigali regime.
This may sound comforting, but not without problems. Such confidence is totally misplaced. Usually no foreign saviors are coming, and if a foreign state does intervene, it probably should not be trusted.
Those relying foreign intervention need to know that foreign states will tolerate, or even positively assist, a dictatorship in order to advance their own economic or political interests; may be willing to sell out an oppressed people instead of keeping pledges to assist their liberation at the cost of another objective; will act against a dictatorship only to gain their own economic, political, or military control over the country; become actively involved for positive purposes only if and when the internal resistance movement has already begun shaking the dictatorship, having thereby focused international attention on the brutal nature of the regime.
Dictatorship in Rwanda exists primarily because of the internal power distribution. The population and society are too weak to cause the dictatorship serious headaches; wealth and power are concentrated in too few hands. Although dictatorships may benefit from or be somewhat weakened by international actions, their continuation is dependent primarily on internal factors.