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Rwanda: Stop the ‘victim games’ and handle issues boldly

Protestors demonstrating against the arrest of Rwandan President Paul Kagame's aide, Rose Kabuye, in 2008. (Photo: AP)
Protestors demonstrating against the arrest of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s aide, Rose Kabuye, in 2008. (Photo: AP)

The arrest of Rwanda’s chief spy, General Karenzi Karake sparked protests across the country in an attempt to mount pressure on the UK government to release him.

I followed closely the stories of his arrest and his initial trial in the UK, my mind went back to seven years ago when Germany arrested Lt. Col. Rose Kabuye and immediately sent her to France to answer Jean-Louis Bruguière’s accusations.

Rwanda’s genocide history is unique, and it is affecting the country’s relationship with the Western world.

It’s a pity that these countries, especially the “super-powers”, did nothing to intervene while Tutsis were being slaughtered.

It is even true that some countries, like the former colonial masters, had a role to play in causing the genocide against the Tutsis, which claimed the lives of over one million people.

But the approach of organizing street protests denouncing their judiciary doesn’t work in countries that have independent justice systems. It can only work in countries like Rwanda, where the government will mobilize its own people to go onto the streets as a way of making a point.

Slogans like “We say no abuse of justice”, “Stop confusing the world on Genocide”, “Demeaning Africans is unacceptable…” will not help at all.

Returning to the light

It was an arduous task to bring a country that had experienced genocide back on track, as the country’s economy was completely down, and its infrastructure left in ruins.

How do you manage a country with brokenhearted people, with no hope for the future?

How do you lead a society that has both genocide survivors and their killers?

It was difficult, but Rwanda’s great men and women managed to deliver themselves from the darkness to the light of hope.

We can do better with friends

There’s no doubt that after the 1994 Tutsi genocide, Rwanda couldn’t move ahead alone. The tiny nation with weak institutions needed support from the International community.

In an effort to make things right despite of their guilty conscience, some countries like the UK, the US and Belgium led the rest to support Rwanda to revive its economy.

It’s not only the money we needed, but also their diplomatic support, which I have no doubt we were always assured of.

How could Rwanda’s genocide be recognized and justice for the victims achieved, without setting up the International criminal tribunal for Rwanda(ICTR)?

I know some politicians may say otherwise; attacking the ‘vanity of the court’, with millions of US dollars spent on only dozens of perpetrators who went on trial.

But what we cannot argue on; is the quality judgements, and the precedent set by the Arusha based court.

The success we want

We have delivered ourselves from genocide, but a thorny path still lies ahead of us.

We still need the UK, Belgium, US. And don’t forget we need Burundi, the DRC and Tanzania on our side as well.

Storming Germany and France did not help us in the past, when Lieutenant Colonel Rose Kabuye was arrested in Germany in 2008.

Insulting them would not help us at all!

Railing against the UK over the arrest of Lieutenant General Karenzi Karake will not take us to higher heights but instead will undermine us.

Of course, it is humiliating to our country if a Spanish judge decides to issue indictments against government officials.

I’m not saying that we should bow to their will, but it matters how we go about showing our discontent.

Is our diplomacy working?

I loved president Kagame’ speech of 25 June 2015, when he was addressing high ranking officials in a swearing –in ceremony of the new education Minister and other officials.

He said, “we will keep our heads cool, just keep your heads cool, because some of these things can drive people to a level of anger that you may even make a mistake… I’m trying to make mine(head) cool must keep my head cool, I’m trying, I’m struggling, am not finding it easy … but it’s important…”

Mr. Kagame added, “This struggle will take a long time and require a lot of patience. But even more, it will require a lot of thinking and doing.”

Walking the talk

Yes, we better walk the talk, instead of being driven by anger. Diplomatic channels should be open to discuss issues, instead of storming friends and risking alienation.

The AU security summit should have happened before, not after, the arrest of General Karenzi Karake, and engaging these partners would have done a lot to avoid the humiliation of our generals.

Seven years were enough for Rwanda to completely deal with Fernando Andreu’s indictments and avoid this mess.

Today it’s the UK arresting a Rwandan General. Yesterday it was the Germans: who knows who will do it tomorrow?

Not all unfair

We can’t pretend to think that the whole world hates Rwanda and force ourselves to believe that everything happening against us is unfair.

If our country is to stand rooted and firm, we have to stop seeing ourselves as deserving sympathy simply because of our history .

We have to deal with our historical issues candidly, so as to move forward .

It is time to stop the “victim games” and handle our issues boldly.

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