I am Ugandan who was born about 90KM from Rwanda and about 15 Km from DRC. In my formative years I therefore lived with Rwandan and Congolese refuges who had escaped from insurgence. The Rwandans were later called upon to go back to their country and they returned in peace. Not to say much about my experiences with Rwanda I know everyone knows that our neighbors had the worst genocide of the 20th century!
I know in Uganda where I am a member the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and knowing its beliefs people who are used to me will ask why and how I come to support RPF which has spent in power 23 years. But I have said may times that let us not compare Rwanda to Uganda because these are two different countries. I have even failed to compare Singapore to Rwanda because when Singapore was chased from the Union by the Malaysians they didn’t have resources yes but at least they hadn’t been at war and worst of all a genocide. So Rwanda is a special case that faced a genocide and at the same time it was without resources about one million people died in the process another two million people fled their country to mostly Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, DRC.
With the above introduction let me introduce why I think that it’s better for the international media and the foreigners to keep quiet about the matters of the Rwandan election;
First of all world’s political leaders and opinion-formers failed Rwanda in 1994. Bill Clinton, then US President, and Madeleine Albright, then the US representative at the United Nations, recognized this and expressed regret for their part in withdrawing the UN force from Rwanda as the genocide started. Their British counterparts, John Major, the Prime Minister, Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, and Baroness Lynda Chalker, the Minister for Africa then can’t be spared for they neglected Rwanda when it needed them most. Today however these powers using international media after Rwanda has stabilised they are talking of overstay in power to a country that is trying to complete its healing and to the country that they had wished away as a failed state that could never recover but with the RPF leadership its one ofd the fastest growing economies in Africa.
In addition to the above in March 1998, on a visit to Rwanda, U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke to the crowd assembled on the tarmac at Kigali Airport: “We come here today partly in recognition of the fact that we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred” in Rwanda.
Four years after the genocide, Clinton issued what today is known as the “Clinton apology,” in which he acknowledged his failure to efficiently deal with the situation in Rwanda, but never formally apologized for any non-action by the U.S./international community. Therefore respecting such powers to determine the direction of those they confess to have neglected would be naivety.
The media especially the British editors thought that Rwanda was a small country far away in a continent so it could rarely hit the headlines, to them The words Hutu and Tutsi sounded funny, hardly names that an ambitious news editor or desk officer would want to draw to the attention of a busy boss and claim that they were of immediate and vital importance. Therefore as the people of Rwandan continued to perish these guys looked on and never told their story. What shocks me is that the people they never helped when they were in trouble when they see them celebrated in their party colours united across the ethnic lines the same media claims that the population is happy on the outside and inside angry. I can allow to their assertion and ask them why they report the anger inside people when they couldn’t report the visible anger. I therefore say that since they have achieved the visible happiness let’s not enter into their hearts because we have no power to.
The language used by the press to describe Rwanda during the genocide reinforced the impression that what was going on there was an inevitable and primitive process that had no rational explanation and could not be stopped by negotiation or force. I can ably say that the RPF stopped it and enforced order without the influence of the media and the international community. But now that Rwanda is stable these guys think they Rwandan must give in to their thoughts that are ungrounded. I can ably say that the biggest opposition to RPF is the media that neglected the people of Rwanda when RPF helped. They can’t claim to love you now when they didn’t care about you 23 years a go!
When the massacres began in Rwanda more than 20 years ago, a French-led humanitarian mission was sent to create a safe zone, but the French actually allowed some Rwandan Hutus behind the killings to escape, France continued and dragged its feet over prosecuting people suspected of taking part in the killings.
In 1994, genocide occurred, massive exodus of the population took place, the former regime with its population and military camped few meters across the border with all sorts of arsenals ready to attack and continue the genocide agenda that had been halted by RPF. On the issue regarding the settlement of refuges in acceptable distance in a host country was totally ignored, separation of military elements from civilian’s refugees also seemed to be a no concern to UNHCR. Therefore the international community turned a blind eye and this was a total disappointment to the then fragile state of Rwanda. Despite the call by Rwandan government to relocate the refugees far away from the border, no effort was made to respect the international law in settlement of refugees. In addition thousands of them died in epidemics of diseases common of refugee camps, such as cholera and dysentery without help. When the RPF settled these later returned to Rwanda.
I therefore think that since Rwanda wasn’t of importance during troubling times those who have tried to put it together should be allowed to take their matters as a citizenry and I believe that there are no people that can be abused as they smile and dance if that ever happens any where I know people will always resist. I wish Rwandans well and I pray that they remain on the good trajectory to prosperity. I can ably tell our neighbours to put cotton wool in their ears and refuse manipulation of the selfish media and follow their hearts to the ballot.
Atuheire Brian Batenda
Co-director African Initiative on Food Security And Environment