Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rwanda: Mr. President, even absolute powers have limits

By Didas Gasana
The Newsline
December 2, 2010

The US media reported last week that President Paul Kagame wants Peter Erlinder- a US lawyer who defended opposition leader Ingabire Victoire- back in Rwanda to face ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘divisionism’ charges.

An additional aggravating circumstance (not related to the charges slapped against him), according the media reports, is that the renowned lawyer-cum-academic has considerably helped draw the world’s attention to the ‘UN Mapping Report’, that was released October 1, detailing over 600 incidents of war crimes and probable acts of genocide committed by Kagame’s forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Had Albert Einstein been alive, he would have called President Kagame insane, for the genius once noted: “Insanity is doing same thing over and over and expect different results.”

True to Einstein’s definition of insanity, Kagame has done the same things over and over again, and has expected different results.

Before Erlinder, who was detained and released on bail in the Rwandan capital Kigali, Kagame had asked for extradition of quite a good number of people in exile, to stand trial in Rwanda.

Fresh in memory is Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and Col. Patrick Karegeya, Kagame’s former Chief of Staff and spymaster, respectively. The two are currently exiled in South Africa, but he is trying to have them ‘extradited’ to face charges of terrorism and endangering state security.

This, notwithstanding the fact that during his campaign trail in Bugesera town, Eastern Province, Kagame said that Kayumba and Karegeya pose no threat to national security. What a contradiction.

Hotel Rwanda Hero Paul Rusesabagina, too, has been added to the list of Kagame’s wanted men, for funding a terrorist outfit.

Kagame has sent his prosecutors and spin doctors all over the world to convince foreign governments to hand over genocide suspects in their territories to Rwanda, to face trial. And in this effort, he has not been so successful, largely owing to the fact that few believe his honesty and uprightness.

But unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand that many know that what makes him think he can have all he wants is the absolute power he wields in Rwanda, the thought that has made him believe he is a demigod.

However, he should dig deeper to know why his extradition requests have been snubbed, and also come to terms that his ‘absolute powers’ may, for now, be limited to Rwanda, and that even those so-called absolute powers have limits.

This simple deduction should drive him to a bigger picture of how limited and unsustainable his power is in the wider community of civilizations; that he has absolute power to seek Kayumba’s extradition but he is powerless to influence it. The same applies to Prof. Erlinder, Rusesabagina and many others.

It also indicates that he has absolute power to jail Victoire Ingabire but is powerless to suffocate the democratic waves she initiated.

And it also indicates that Kagame had power to jail Karegeya but he now has no power to deny him airtime on international media. He has the power to repress his citizens but he is powerless to wash away the resentment they hold against him.

Kagame should also know that with his absolute power, he has shut down the independent press (Umuseso and Umuvugizi), but he can’t stop The Newsline from publishing from abroad, and that he absolutely controls the judiciary but is powerless to stop Human Rights Watch from exposing his excesses.

He has the power to kill his opponents but he can’t kill or jail the whole nation. His absolute power allows him to dish tax-payers money to Race Point to sell a glossy picture of him, and the Parliament asks no question, but he has no power to stop ‘Rwanda Briefing’ from circulating in the corridors of power in western capitals. For those of you who may not know, ‘Rwanda Briefing’ is a policy document authored by Kagame’s former close associates Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, Col. Patrick Karegeya, Maj. Dr.Theogene Rudasingwa and Gerald Gahima that critically examines Rwanda’s problems under Kagame, his central role in Rwanda’s governance crisis, and suggests recommendations.

In essence, Kagame needs to see beyond the reach of his power to realize its limits but, more importantly, he needs to realize how unsustainable his power is.

He has the power to oppress people for some time but he needs a lecture on how his oppression is a nursery of a future revolution. Perhaps he should pick a lesson from former US President Ronald Reagan’s speech on January 17, 1983, in which he said: “History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.” The same president also noted that regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.

Kagame also needs to broaden his horizons to realize that there is a degree of his tyranny the Rwandans can’t tolerate. He also needs to know there is a line of oppression they can’t stomach, and that when they rise up in arms, he will be among the casualties.

If you don’t believe in me, at least believe in Thomas Jefferson, who noted, in American Declaration of Independence, that ‘the citizens can bear with tyranny while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security’.

So, two lessons for Mr. President: your absolute power has limitations, and more importantly, in your absolute power lies your absolute downfall. Your predecessors can attest to this, wherever they may be.

In the next edition, this column assesses President Kagame’s character and his state of mind.

The author is the Deputy Managing Editor of The Newsline
Cell phone: (+250) 788305549

Related Materials:
DRC: Mapping human rights violations 1993-2003

Rwanda Briefing by Nyamwasa & Co.


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