Tag Archives: Great Lakes of Africa

Rwanda to become a failed state by 2030.

Rwanda’s Economic Success Keeps Western Scrutiny About Human Rights Abuses at Bay

Charles Wachira July 19, 2021

Lake and volcano in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda / credit: Wikipedia/Neil Palmer
Lake and volcano in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda / credit: Wikipedia/Neil Palmer

Rwanda is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and is ranked second in Africa as the easiest place to do business. In addition, this landlocked country boasts the world’s record for female representation in parliament. And it’s the only African country that manufactures “Made in Africa” smartphones.

These milestones make for impressive reading in the Western world, so accustomed to morbid news from the most corrupt region of the world.

This has also led major global brands including the world’s biggest car manufacturer, the world’s biggest nuclear company by foreign orders, a major U.S. multinational telecommunications company plus a retinue of other global corporations to set up shop in a country the size of the U.S. state of Maryland.

In the paternalistic eyes and hearts of foreign development partners in Africa, Rwanda is obsequiously referred to as the “Singapore of Africa,” a moniker that gives the impression that all is hunky-dory in this “land of a thousand hills.”

Rwanda’s economic and social accomplishments—while impressive—mask the underbelly of one of the world’s cruelest states, led by Paul Kagame.

Here, freedom of expression is muzzled. Extrajudicial killings are institutionalized. Show trials are routinely encouraged. Forced disappearances are embraced, while private businesses are forcibly seized by a regime that operates like the Nazi Gestapo.

Despite evidence of Kagame ordering his political opponents to be murderedarrestedjailedkidnappedassassinated and tortured, the international community has continued to turn the other way. Why is that the case in Rwanda, but not in countries like Ethiopia, where U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for a ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid to flow into the Tigray region?

Rwandan President Paul Kagame / credit: cmonionline
Rwandan President Paul Kagame / credit: cmonionline

The President and the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) have built and fine-tuned over the decades a totalitarian police state in which criticism of the government, or any semblance of dissent, is criminalized and often results in death for those who dare to speak out, said Jeffrey Smith, founding director of Vanguard Africa. He told TF in an email exchange, “There is no independent media, nor independent human rights groups or a political opposition that are allowed the minimum space to operate. The ruling RPF, in essence, has been wholly conflated with the state,” says Smith.

The 1994 genocide killed about 800,000 people drawn mainly from the minority Tutsi community, including moderate Hutus, while the rest of the world silently looked on. But Rwanda has since experienced an economic recovery that has been inextricably linked to Kagame, who officially took power in 2000.

In a controversial 2015 constitutional referendum, Rwandans voted overwhelmingly to allow Kagame, 63, to stand again for office beyond the end of his second term, which ended in 2017. He won elections held the same year with nearly 99 percent of the vote. In theory, he could run twice again, keeping him in power until 2034. His current term ends in 2024. 

So why does the Western world play blind and deaf to the excess exhibited by Kagame? In other words, why the complicity in crimes and misdeeds in Rwanda ever since the end of the genocide?

“Rwanda has performed exceedingly well on the economic front. It’s seen as a success story in a continent that is dotted with malfunctioning states,” Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) told TF in a telephone interview. “The international donor community loves a good story and Rwanda serves as an example.” 

Mudge added Western collective guilt after the 1994 genocide also weighed in. 

The United States and the United Kingdom, like other Western governments, did not intervene in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Nonetheless, both U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair later emerged as moralists and humanitarian interventionists, claiming human rights as one of the guiding principles for U.S. and British leadership in the world. This argument has since been used to bomb Yugoslavia, and invade Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

However, a U.S. diplomat quoted in the New York Times in an article aptly titled, “The Global Elite’s Favorite Strongman,” explained the reason the West disregarded the atrocities happening in Rwanda. “You put your money in, and you get results out. We needed a success story, and he was it.”

French President Emmanuel Macron / credit: The White House
French President Emmanuel Macron / credit: The White House

In late May, French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Rwanda, formerly a French colony, in a gesture largely aimed at fixing a glacial relationship that had broken down as a result of the latter having backed the former extremist government in Rwanda, including supporting and training its military, which committed genocide.

In addition, France is determined to win back its influence in former French colonies in Africa, including in Rwanda. Some have begun cooperating with other powers, among them China and Turkey, said Arrey E. Ntui, a researcher with the International Crises Group (ICG).

“The French Government is currently not that popular in Africa as a result of its past exploitative history with African states,” said Ntui. “The current leadership in Africa is assertive and takes no prisoners. This calls for France to tread carefully because there are emerging nations that are willing to partner with Africa without a condescending attitude. So it would have been foolhardy, for example, for Macron to censure his Rwandan counterpart on account of real or imagined human rights abuses happening in Rwanda.”

Since his inauguration in May 2017, Macron has visited 18 African countries out of 62 states he has so far visited, a sign that he is determined to claw back the influence France once had when it counted 20 countries as its colonies within the African continent.

But should the world expect an insurgency anytime soon in Rwanda? 

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a former presidential contestant who has been jailed for 15 years for daring to challenge Kagame told TF the Kagame government took power after a war and genocide. 

“I would say that all these crimes committed in our country have traumatized Rwandans,” Umuhoza said. “Moreover, there is no room for dissenting voices in Rwanda. If one criticizes the government they are immediately labeled as the enemy of the state. Under such circumstances, people live in constant fear of expressing themselves. But this silence worries me a lot because it can lead to implosion in Rwanda one day.” 

U.S. National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends Report published every five years says the world is “at a critical juncture in human history” and warns that a number of countries are at high risk of becoming failed states by 2030—Rwanda being one of them.

Charles Wachira is a foreign correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya, and is formerly an East Africa correspondent with Bloomberg. He covers issues including human rights, business, politics and international relations

Towardfreedom

The State Department briefing on Democratic Republic of Congo of July 23rd, 2013

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index

Ms Jen Psaki is the spokesperson of the United States of America State Department and the former spokesperson for Barack Obama.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on yesterday’s question about the Thursday UN meeting on the Great Lakes and —

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — what you might be able to tell us about the violence in Congo that has driven refugees, to Goma specifically, between the Congolese forces and the M23?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s your understanding of that situation?

MS. PSAKI: I can give you an update on that. Thanks for your patience. Let’s see here. I just want to make sure I give you the most up-to-date here, Scott.

Well, let me say first that we, of course, condemn M23’s latest round of attacks on the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s military. M23’s renewed fighting seriously undermines regional and international efforts to peacefully resolve the situation in eastern D.R.C. The Secretary, as you mentioned, is going to be heading to New York on Thursday to chair a meeting of the National Security Council focused on the Congo and focused on the situation in the Great Lakes. I expect I’ll have more to say on that tomorrow in terms of the agenda and what he’s hoping to accomplish while he’s there.

QUESTION: Has the Obama Administration approached its allies in Kigali about their support for the M23?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any update for you on that in terms of contacts.

QUESTION: Well, it’s the allegation of Human Rights Watch that the Rwandan military is directly supporting the M23 both in training —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and in the recruitment of demobilized Rwandan soldiers. Is that a view that is shared by the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we believe there is a credible body of evidence that supports the key findings of the Human Rights Watch report, including support by senior Rwandan officials to the M23 and of Rwandan military personnel in the D.R.C. We call upon Rwanda to immediately end any support to the M23, withdraw military personnel from eastern D.R.C., and follow through on its commitments under the framework.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that President Kagame is aware of that, or is this just being done by some senior Rwandan officials?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more specifics on it for you.

QUESTION: I just want —

QUESTION: Call on the senior Rwandan officials to stop – et cetera, et cetera, et cetera – I’m not trying to – I just don’t remember exactly what it was —

MS. PSAKI: To end its —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — to end any support to the M23.

QUESTION: Right. Or what?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s what we’re calling for, Matt.

QUESTION: Just out of the goodness of their hearts they should stop doing this, because they’re nice guys?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I’m suggesting. That’s what we feel needs to happen.

QUESTION: Well, what’s the – I understand. And then how are you prepared to make the case that – how are you prepared to punish them or use leverage to – what kind of leverage are you using to make your case here?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any leverage to outline for you today.

QUESTION: In other words, none. It’s kind of just an empty appeal, an empty call.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it was a very powerful case made in the Human Rights Watch report.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure it was – raised the eyebrows of others as well. So we’re continuing to call on them to take action.

QUESTION: Do you know if this – if the view that you just expressed is shared over at the White House?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, it is.

QUESTION: It is shared at the White House.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Then why has this Administration not done anything to pressure President Kagame into ending the support for M23?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I don’t have any context to outline for you. This is a position that’s shared broadly in the Administration. Obviously, the Human Rights Watch report is something that we – I just stated we agree with and we share the concerns with it. But beyond that, I don’t have much more for you.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask – in the past —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — the Administration, and particularly from this podium, you’ve been quite careful to not single out any of the (inaudible) players in that region.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it – what is it in the Human Rights Watch report that has led you to this conclusion today that you can specifically call on Rwanda to end any support for the M23?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Human Rights Watch report was specific about support by senior Rwandan officials to the M23 and Rwandan military personnel in the D.R.C. That’s something, obviously, that raises concerns for us. And that’s why we are calling for Rwanda to immediately end any support to the M23. So it was specific about that issue.

QUESTION: And you believe, generally, that the Human Rights Watch has produced a credible and —

MS. PSAKI: We believe there’s a credible body of evidence presented in the report.

QUESTION: That the – then the – that that – of their report that they compiled that they put together. So in other words, you take them seriously, you take this organization – you respect this organization as a credible rapporteur on human rights issues?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I know where you’re going with this —

QUESTION: Do you?

MS. PSAKI: — and I’m speaking specifically to this report —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — and our agreement with the credible body of evidence —

QUESTION: So – so —

MS. PSAKI: — in this report.

QUESTION: So any concern they might have about other cases – individuals stranded in Russian airports, for example – you wouldn’t necessarily agree with.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not making a sweeping claim here, Matt. I’m speaking to this specific report.

QUESTION: Can I return to that question?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Was so you’re saying that the military believe that the military is supporting these armed rebel – the M23, and that it’s not that Kagame himself does not have a role?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t speaking to Kagame himself. I don’t have anything more on that.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I’m speaking specifically to support by senior Rwandan officials to the M23.

QUESTION: So it’s officials within the military.

MS. PSAKI: And of military personnel.

QUESTION: So usually when the U.S. makes that kind of statement, I mean, it does affect aid to these countries.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, would there be some – would the Secretary be rolling out some kind of plan or warn Rwanda during the Congo – during the Security Council meeting that if they continue doing that, you could withhold aid? Because last year – I just brought up the story on July the 1st – the U.S. called on Rwanda to stop supporting. And they clearly have not.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So this would be the second one in a year —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that you’d actually warned. Does it have implications for aid?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on next steps. Obviously, this is of concern. But beyond that, I don’t have any update for all of you.

QUESTION: It might be worth looking at, because Lesley’s absolutely right.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You did call for this to happen —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — it didn’t happen. And one of the – and potentially you might want to look at whether one of the reasons that it didn’t happen was that because you didn’t threaten them with anything, you didn’t use any leverage. You just issued this empty call that has no teeth behind it.

MS. PSAKI: We will take that all into consideration.

Source: The State Department, the United States of America.