Monday, April 29, 2013

Rwanda: Interview of Ms Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza with Radio Voice of Africa Kigali FM

Interview of Ms Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza with 
Radio Voice of Africa Kigali FM, on January 21, 2010

VOA-KFM: Welcome to the studios of Voice of Africa Kigali FM (VOA-KFM). My name is Ildephonse Sinobabariraga. I work in the division of information. I would like to ask you to introduce yourself.

VIU: Thank you for inviting me in your studios. My name is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza (VIU). I’m the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi political party which is not yet registered here in Rwanda but I came back to register it.

VOA-KFM: For how long have you been abroad?

VIU: I came back to Rwanda after 16 years of absence.

VOA-KFM: That’s a lot of years of absence in the country. Could compare the image you used to have about Rwanda while in Europe to the new image of Rwanda you got upon your arrival in the country since you have already been here for a week?

VIU: To tell you the truth, both images are the same. Maybe what I can say is that the City of Kigali has substantially expanded. Yesterday I was in Gisenyi. The City of Gisenyi has aged along with its streets. Frankly, with regard to the problems facing the country we found here the same information we were getting while in Europe. I got here on Saturday but if I consider what people are saying and look at the people I already met with, because on Sunday I was in Kabgayi, Gitarama and yesterday I was in Gisenyi, the conclusion is that the problems the people are reporting here in the country are exactly the same problems we were hearing about while in Europe. That’s why we took the decision to conduct political activities in Rwanda because important for us that all Rwandans should join their hands in order to build their country.

VOA-KFM:  What are those problems you used to hear about when you were in Europe and as you said, you found similar problems upon your arrival in the country?

VIU: They are problems related to fear. It is the real fear. There is fear due to the fact that Rwandans are afraid of expressing their opinions, how they see the problems.  Such fear is linked to the tragedy that ravaged our country: the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 and the crimes against the Hutus. People are still afraid of talking about these two issues.
Considering the fact that upon my arrival in the country I pointed out these two issues in and the way several newspapers were quick at distorting my statements, I find it to be a big problem. As I already said, the biggest problem we face here in Rwanda in the aftermaths of such a tragedy is the problem of reconciliation. The fact that the reconciliation process has not yet initiated in Rwanda, 16 years after the genocide against the Tutsi and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda, is the origin of such a fear. There is fear of saying that I have to whatever to avoid being victimized because of who I am or what I am. There are other people who say I cannot afford to speak out because retaliation. It is that fear I saw in the people I met with. That’s why some newspapers distort one’s statements. That is the fear among the people, the fear with strong grounds, the fear the people are talking about. There are people who speak in private but when you ask them some questions they say that they cannot say anything because by doing so they may end up in trouble. That’s a big problem. For instance, yesterday I visited detainees in Gisenyi prison. Among these detainees, there are some of them who acknowledge having committed genocide. I told them that if indeed they committed genocide, their jail tem should be an opportunity to think about what they did, understand the seriousness of their crimes, and understand how human life is sacred. They should therefore learn from their mistakes. However, there are other detainees who told me that they have been detained for 7 years without any file. This is a serious problem. It does not make any sense to hear that in a non-failed state, a country where the judiciary is functional, someone can be detained for 7 years without finding evidence for the alleged crime. The situation for such individuals is not acceptable. That’s an indication of bad governance. There are other detainees who told me that they were accused of genocide ideology. There is a man who told me that their build a village in my land property without any compensation. When I asked about such a practice, I was accused of harboring a genocide ideology and was put in jail. There are many problems due to misunderstanding and to our recent dark history, a devastating civil war and unprecedented killings among Rwandans.
Our position is that things should start from scratch. It’s paramount that we Rwandans drop our fear and have the courage to start talking about the tragedy that befell us. That means that the ruling government must let people start talking about it.  Because I noticed that some of the passages published by government sponsored media were in fact reporting things I never said.  That’s in fact the ruling government’s way of keepping people from speaking out.  In fact they prevent them from speaking out because they thrive on the lie that tells people that a genocide was committed in Rwanda and no one should dare talking about it. Such things are indeed not right. We think that it’s about time 16 years after the genocide that was committed in our country that we Rwandans have the courage to start talking about what happened to us.  A genocide was committed against Tutsis.  Those who did it must be punished just as I told the prisoners I recently visited.  Those who were not involved should not be made liable for what they didn’t do. Innocent people must be released from prison, which in turn will help Rwandans in general resume living freely in their country.
It’s therefore necessary that we talk about those things.  It’s indeed necessary that as Rwandans with our different opinions, worshiping in different religions that we accept to sit down together and find out why these killings happened to us, who committed them and what can we do to ensure that such killings don’t happen to us again.  Only then will we be empowered to work for our country’s development.  Because the fear I felt in the people, and their understanding of the events that took place does not encourage Rwandans to move forward. What we are building today would be built on sand and tomorrow or after tomorrow it would crumble again because when you examine people’s hearts and the problems/war scars they bear in their hearts because of that problem which until now looks like they are told to cover up and not talk about would certainly cause other problems down the road. We in FDU we say that Rwandans in general must have the courage to talk about the problem so that we can engage on the path of reconciliation so that we can seek unity together.  Especially what we want is that as politicians we get together to talk about that problem looking for the right path to steer our country on because even all those killings were the result of bad governance.  If we agree on the right way to define positions of authority and how people are appointed to those positions that will at least keep those killings from happening again. That will give people confidence that the government is there to represent them and not a small clique of such and such, that it is not a government of this or that ethnic group or the government of people of this or that region, but a government that represents every Rwandan so that every Rwandan sees him/herself in it and is no longer afraid to speak out in his/her own country. 

VOA-KFM: I have one question. All those things are what you’ve criticized that they don’t work. Then is there things the government did in these 16 years past genocide you would praise upon your arrival in Rwanda? What are they?

VIU: I don’t think it’s my role to praise what the ruling government did well.  They have enough people in charge of speaking for them. I don’t think that’s my job.  What brought us in the country is to do politics aimed at correcting what we know doesn’t work.  As to giving praise to the ruling government, they have plenty of people to do that, they are the ones who should do that.

VOA-KFM: Let us talk about your party FDU-Inkingi.  It is a party that was operating abroad and you say that you come back to register it. And if I’m not mistaken you have also publicly declared that you will be running as a candidate of your party for the post of President of the Republic in these presidential elections.  Have you in this week you’ve been in the country started the process of getting your party registered? Do you expect that it will be registered any time soon?

VIU: Thanks. During these first days, what I wished to do as I’ve already said I went to Kabgayi, I went to Gisenyi, and I plan to go other places, is to first have an idea so to speak of the home standing in the country.  I will maybe talk based on what I found in those two places but maybe I will find out some more after I visit other areas.  It’s good indeed that in these first days one would want to see where the country has come right now so to speak, and where those problems stand before one would work with other Rwandans in the country to find a way our party can be registered. Normally the law says that party registration takes on month even though it doesn’t look that it works that way because we have the example of the party that advocates the defense of the environment and democracy in Rwanda (Green Party).  When you considered the time that has passed since it requested to be registered and the problems it has faced, we stand ready to face the same problems. But we hope that the government, the people in the government, understands now that it is time to heed the principles of democracy in Rwanda.  We cannot continue to say that because a genocide was committed in Rwanda we cannot open the political space. Because they need to understand that the genocide was committed because there were people who had monopolized power, and did not want to yield to others, did not want to give access to other for them to feel free in their country.  I think that the ruling government understands that, and that it cannot afford to make the same mistake other made, locking out people, continuing to close the gates, keeping people from enjoying their freedom or from doing politics the way they see fit.  I therefore truly hope that our party will be registered because so far I see no reason why it would not.

VOA-KFM: But you said that the Green Party has waited over a month without being registered.  What makes you believe that your party will be registered in a month or so?

VIU: I have no proof to that but I do not want to render a sentence to those in charge of registering the party, saying that they will not approve me when I have not yet asked for registration.  That would be rendering a sentence on things that don’t exist.  The day they refuse to register it they will explain why they refused to do so.  Maybe we could talk about that at that time.  But now I’m positive I see no reason why they wouldn’t register the party. I see no reason why I would render a sentence to people at this time saying that they will not register the party.

VOA-KFM: While still on this issue of the party, beside you who came as the party chair to register the party here in Rwanda, one would wonder are there others you work with in the party or do they too plan to come to Rwanda or are you the only one who came to register the party for it to continue working abroad?

VIU: I would like to remind that I came with four people.  I didn’t come alone.  But there are other party members left behind for reasons we often spoke about in the past.  Because many of them are refugees, they asked for papers for them to come to their country and until now those papers have not been delivered.  I hope that in the coming days I will be able to go see agents of immigration to ask them why those people have not been issued travel documents.  Because it doesn’t make sense that they spend their time beating the drums for the refugee hosted in African countries to come back by force, when they deny travel documents to those refugees hosted by European country if they ask for travel documents to go back to their country.  It doesn’t make sense.  I just hope that that issue will be settled.  You also wondered if the party will continue to work abroad.  That’s not true because we’ve decided to transfer all our political activities here in Rwanda.  There are Rwandans in Rwanda. This is a party for Rwandans. We have members and others will join us soon.  That’s not an issue.

VOA-KFM: A short while after you landed at the airport you went to the memorial.  As you came back from there many Rwandans may have been offended by your talk at the memorial.  From many Rwandans that were interviewed or maybe from a few who where asked it was clear that they rejected what you said there.  How will you work with Rwandans that have started fighting you?

VIU: We need to find out how many those Rwandans were? Who exactly those Rwandans were?   Why did they say such things?  We know fairly well the politics of this country. I’m coming from Europe but I know the way politics is done here.  Calling on somebody somewhere asking him/her to say such and such, is the kind of politics Rwandans don’t want anymore.  What we are saying is that no politician should use the tragedy that befell our country to use it to lock out everybody else.  That we will not accept in FDU-Inkingi. At Gisozi what I said to Rwandans is that a Rwandan genocide was committed, which was the reason why as soon as I arrived in the country I couldn’t sleep before I visited the memorial reminding us of the tragedy that befell the country.  But I reminded everyone that we couldn’t stop at the genocide perpetrated against Tutsi only because there were also crimes against humanity that were committed. Those crimes the people they were committed against would also like the government to reserve a time for them to remember their loved ones so that people empathize with their sorrow.  The problem I heard from people, people like those of Ibuka is that they believe those things should never be talked about.  It doesn’t make sense how people can say that some killings should be talked about but that other killings should not. We, the Rwandan people, have suffered. What I ask people is that we have the courage to look at the tragedy that befell us.  It’s us Rwandans who carried it out. I don’t agree when we dare to say that it came from the white people or from some other people.  No white person grabbed a machete to go chop down somebody, no white person pick up a Kalchinikov to go lock students in their class room to shoot them all out.  All of that was done by us the Rwandan people among ourselves.  We need to accept that truth.  We need to examine that truth.  We also need to take the right long range plans.  But we don’t like that some people for their own political gains keep people from saying what they think, invoking that tragedy, that calamity that befell Rwandans. That indeed must end.  And to those people who live in fear because of these things, I aked people to come out their fear and have the courage to face problems like these, because that’s the only way we will rebuild our country and will prevent the youth of tomorrow to run into problems like these. But covering up, covering up like covering burning fire with ashes, that fire will one day burst open again.  So what we want is that Rwandans quit covering up the sorrow they have, the pain they suffered.  What we want is that Rwandans in the pain they suffered in that tragedy that befell Rwanda, if people are given a chance, if they are given a chance to talk about it, look together for ways they can help each other, look for ways we can lift our country up in peace and harmony.

VOA-KFM: I think you say all that as Victoire.  Who is that Victoire who says that she wants Rwandans to move forward again, to hold hands again in unity?

VIU: I’m married.  I have three children.  I studied accounting here in Rwanda.  I worked in the Rwandan Ministry of Finance in Customs before continuing on to study in Holland.  There too I studied Finance at the University.  After that I worked in an American company for 9 years. In April of last year I resigned my well-paying job preparing to come to my country to do politics.

VOA-KFM: Good.  Thank you. We truly thank you.

VIU: Thank you too.

This transcript is also available in Kinyarwanda.



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