Friday, May 28, 2010

Rwanda: A Citizen’s Weekly Open Letter to Paul Kagame

By Aimable Mugara
Rwanda Human Rights and Democracy
May 26, 2010

H. E. General Paul Kagame
Office of the President
Republic of Rwanda
P.O. Box 15 Urugwiro Village
Kigali – Rwanda
Fax: +250 572431

Copy:

Prosecutor General
Martin Ngoga
National Public Prosecution Authority
BP 1328
Kigali – Rwanda
Fax: +250 589501

Commissioner General Emmanuel Gasana
Rwandan National Police
Kigali – Rwanda
Fax: +250 586602

Chief Executive Officer
Editor-in-Chief
The New Times Publications SARL
Immeuble Aigle Blanc
P.O. Box 4953
Kigali – Rwanda

A Citizen’s Weekly Open Letter to General Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda

Dear General,

There are 11 weeks left before the elections. This is my eleventh letter and there are 11 letters left. This week, we heard about the sad ending of the soccer game between the Congolese (DRC) soccer team TP Mazembe and the Rwandan team in Kigali during the Kagame Cup. We also got confirmation from the Commonwealth and the US State Department that they will both be sending observers for the August 2010 Rwandan “elections.”

The brawl that took place in Kigali involving the TP Mazembe team is symptomatic of what happens when innocent civilians are murdered. Upwards of 5 million citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo have died as a result of the war started by the RPF army since 1996. This is by no means to excuse the behavior of the soccer players who started the brawl. But I have no doubt that the memory of their fellow citizens who were killed as a result of the RPF army actions played a huge role in starting the brawl in what should have been an otherwise innocuous game. We Rwandans will need to live with and suffer the consequences of RPF’s mistakes in the Democratic Republic of Congo for many many years to come.

As for the upcoming “elections”, I recently found out that Rwanda is not alone in jailing female opposition candidates who may have a chance of winning free and fair elections against the incumbent candidate. Another African country, Ethiopia, has jailed its opposition leader Mrs Birtukan Mideksa. The “crime” against her of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” is very close to the trumped up political charges against Mrs Ingabire in Rwanda. Another similarity is that just like you insist on disrespecting Mrs Ingabire by never saying her name and often referring to her as “some lady”, Mr. Meles the Ethiopian Prime Minister also rarely refers to Birtukan Mideksa by her name. It appears that you and Meles are learning from each other, but unfortunately the wrong kind of lessons.

Today in the United States, Mr. Carson, Assistant Secretary of State summarized the recent activities in Rwanda that appear to restrict the freedom of expression including “suspending the licenses and activities of two newspapers, reversing the work permit of a Human Rights Watch researcher, and arresting and later releasing on bail the opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire. Two political parties, the Green Party and FDU Inkingi Party, have been unable to register.” As a Rwandan, every day I feel ashamed that in 2010 my government behaves as if we are in the Dark Ages more than two thousand years ago.

I really hope that someday I will be proud to be a Rwandan. That day will come when all Rwandans are guaranteed all the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every day that goes by makes me lose faith in the ability or the will of your government to guarantee these rights to all citizens. But I keep on hoping that you may make the right choice and change things for the better, or that the people of Rwanda can be allowed to freely and fairly express their will at the ballot box and vote for an administration that stands for these rights.

Aimable Mugara
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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