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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Rwanda: Crushing Dissent

Liam O Ruairc • September 1, 2003

This week, Irish media gave a little coverage to the elections in Rwanda. In Ireland, little is known about the social and political dynamics of this small African country, apart from the fact that the population is divided between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups and that the Hutus launched a genocide against the Tutsis in 1994. Thanks to the intervention of the military forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (Front Patriotique Rwandais, FPR), the dictatorial Hutu regime of Habyarimana was ousted from power and Paul Kagame, the leader of the FPR, became the country's new leader.

Once in power, the FPR deviated significantly from its original 1987 programme. Its original programme was a progressive nationalist one. It was hostile to imperialism, stood for reconciliation and equality between the different ethnic groups. But after 1994, the FPR did little to win the support of Hutus. Kagame also set out to neutralise any Tutsi opponents and potential dissent. Originally, there were many different tendencies within the FPR. There were Monarchists, Republicans and even Marxists like Théogène Rudasingwa. Kagame crushed all his potential rivals. Fred Rwigema, his military chief of staff was killed in dubious circumstances. Other important leaders, such as Chris Bunyenyezi and Peter Bayingana, were also crushed. This process had started as early as 1990.

This went hand in hand with the growing monopolisation of power by a new elite composed of politicians and people of military backgrounds. Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in Africa, and the ruling clique used three strategies to accumulate power and wealth. The first strategy is through its control of the state apparatus. The second is by becoming the willing servant of the IMF and World Bank who will in return give them international legitimacy and financial loans and aid. The third is through war: Rwanda is heavily involved in the current war in the Congo. Kagame's excuse is that his troops need to protect the country from the Interahamwe militias, who carried out the genocide in 1994. However, fighting has almost ceased in the Gisenyi et Ruhengeri districts, the power base of the Interahamwe. The real reason is that Rwanda is able to plunder the riches of Eastern Congo, diamond fields in particular.

The differences of income between the elites and the rest of the population has created tensions and dissent within the Tutsi group and has resulted in the resentment of poor Hutu peasants. Jean Pierre Mugabe is the editor of the influential "Le Tribun du Peuple" newspaper. In March 1999, he was forced to flee Rwanda for his critique of the new elite, and in exile wrote an open letter to Kagame. "While most people can't find anything to eat and lack elementary health care, the ruling clique is accumulating wealth upon wealth. Injustice is now generalised to all sections of the population, be they Hutus, Tutsis or Twas, without even mentioning those who survived the 1994 genocide. The "unity" that you are promoting is that between elites, Hutu as well as Tutsi, united in their common interest to monopolise the wealth of this country." Many who originally supported the FPR in its struggle against the regime of Habyarimana are now its declared opponents because of its ethnicist sectarianism, nepotism, corruption and submission to foreign powers.

The FPR assured the people of Rwanda as well as the international community that the elections on August 25th would be fully democratic. However those elections were everything but democratic. Independently of subsequent confirmation of this fact by external observers, the government introduced in July 2003 a law forbidding any political parties it believes to have a "divisionist" ethnic agenda. In practice, all potential opponents have been accused of being "divisionists". For example, Pasteur Bizimungu, a progressive Hutu that had joined the FPR in 1990 before becoming the president of Rwanda in June 1994 until 2000 was imprisoned for setting up his own party, the Parti pour le Renouveau Democratique-Ubuyanja. Another case is the Movement Democratique Rwandais (MDR), a party of Hutu democrats, recently dissolved for "divisionism". Its leader, Faustin Twagiramungu, was prime minister for 13 months before being forced into exile.

The consequences of Kagame having been "democratically elected" for the next seven years with 97 percent of the vote will be disastrous for both Rwanda and the Congo. Because of the authoritarian and nepotic nature of Kagame's power, there are little chances for ordinary people of Rwanda, whatever their ethnic origin, to have a better life. Kagame has stated that he will intensify the war in Congo. Congo will never know lasting peace as long as Kagame remains in power. He will pursue the strategy of balkanisation of the Congo. But fortunately, this is opposed by the Banyamulenge, Masunzu, Maï-Maï Nakabaka, Dunia, Alunda ethnic groups, who have forged an alliance against Kagame's interference. The US would like to see more stability in the Congo, but is unlikely to pressure Kagame to withdraw his troops from the country, as the Bush administration is divided as what the way forward is. In the meantime, ordinary people will have to put up with more deaths, diseases and suffering.

Note: Those interested to have more information on the situation in the Congo and Rwanda should visit the following website created by people who share the political vision of Patrice Lumumba and Pierre Mulele:



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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1 September 2003


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Rwanda: Crushing Dissent
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