Monday, May 28, 2012

The Untold stories about Ethiopia and Rwanda

By Jacqueline Umurungi
Inyenyeri News
May 25, 2012

In the series of untold stories I will expose and display in the light how autocratic regimes operate unhindered as long as their international backers feel secure both economically and politically. For the purpose of this article I will compare the two presidents as comrades, former liberators, now tyrants and how they have managed to keep the world and some of their citizens in the world of lies.

Birds of the same feathers flock together.
In July, 2009, in one of the colorful  ceremonies surrounded by his Generals  President Kagame  awarded medals to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Federal Republic of Ethiopia and the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania for their contribution in the liberation of Rwanda. Again for the purpose of this article my focus will be on President Meles  Zenawi and Paul Kagame respectively.

To put this into context one has got to know why these medals were handed over or continue to be handed over and whether they (medals) mean anything more than just pieces of bronze, gold or silver. I figured out from my chat with one of experienced political analyst and veteran on the political affairs in the great lakes region and there seems to be a race to name as many heroes as possible in any of the camps available in the Great Lakes region.

It is tricky, whereas these guys keep awarding medals to themselves and the international world leaders continue to recognize and award medals and praises them, they have fundamentally ignored the atrocities committed by these comrades and how oppressive they are to their own people.

Is there a relationship between democracy and economic development?
While addressing the World economic forum on Africa 2012 which was held in the Ethiopian Capital, President Meles Zenawi argued that he does not believe that the two concepts are intertwined,
“My view is that there is no direct relationship between economic growth and democracy historically or theoretically. But my view is that democracy is a good thing in and of itself irrespective of its impact on economic growth. And my view is that in Africa most of our countries are extremely diverse, that may be the only possibility, the only option of keeping relationships within nations sane. Democracy may be the only viable option for keeping these diverse nations together. So we need to democratize but not in order to grow. We need to democratize in order to survive as united sane nations. That’s my view. But I don’t believe in this night-time, you know, bedtime stories and contrived arguments linking economic growth with democracy. There is no basis for it in history and in my view a basis for it in economics. And there is no need to have this contrived argument because the case for democracy and can stand and shine on its own
However, this sounds like sour grapes to the biggest democracy of the world and President OBAMA while visiting Ghana in 2009 told the Ghanaian people and the whole world that was listening to his speech that both concepts are intertwined and inseparable. 
“Development depends on good governance. History offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people that govern by consent and not coercion are more prosperous,they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy that is tyranny. And now is the time for that style of governance to end…. In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society.Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives…. History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions. With better governance, I have no doubt that Africa holds the promise of a broader base of prosperity”
In George Orwell’s allegorical stories he mentions how liberators become so corrupt with power and turn into despots and tyrants. Doubletalk and doublespeak told in “political language” are rather delightful because they “make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” So, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” George could have added, “Dictatorship is democracy. Tyranny is liberty. Poverty is wealth. Famine is plenty. Censorship is press freedom. Brutality is civility. Mendacity is veracity. Opacity is clarity. Shadow is reality. Depravity is morality and greed is good.”

Indeed, this is what President Paul Kagame calls, clean streets, good roads and boasting of a parliament with 53% gender balanced, one of the best in the World. This is what Meles Zenawi calls “democracy is the only option of keeping relationships within nations sane”.

Kagame’s authoritarian turn risks Rwanda’s future
“Some of his most outspoken critics were allies of Paul Kagame’s presidency helped heal genocide-torn Rwanda. But now he must listen to critics, not imprison them (Stephen Kinzer Guardian 27, Jan.2011).

Stephen starts by highlighting on the achievements of the President of Rwanda and the turbulent history the country has gone through and questions the sustainability of these achievements without proper and solid foundation of democracy. He argues that President Kagame has not given any sign of facing this challenge, instead has continued to scorn his critics. He further argues that, although it was unwise to be harsh on opposition during his first term of office, it was at least defensible. He says that it is time for him to change and listen to his critics.

The defeated genocide army, which still dreams of returning to power, the four men convicted this month, however, became prominent because Kagame himself elevated them to high office. He trusted them once – and should listen to them now.

This man was referring to former Kagame’s allies who turned political opponents who were convicted just because they managed to question the president the direction of the vehicle his driving on behalf of the Rwandan people.

The same political traits have caught up with comrade Meles Zanawi, in its annual report in 2011; Human Rights watch outlined how ruthless the Ethiopian leader has become a prey on his political opponents using draconian laws.
“The Ethiopian government is exploiting its vaguely worded anti-terror law to crush peaceful dissent.  The anti-terror law itself is a huge problem. The international community, especially the European Union, United States, and United Kingdom, should ask the Ethiopian government hard questions about why it is using this law to crack down on peaceful independent voices”
Both leaders should therefore learn from history and take the challenge to engineer peaceful transition to inclusive, democratic governance in time to avoid renewed widespread violence and sectarian bloodshed.


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