Wednesday marked 50 years of independence for Rwanda. However, as they reflect on an eventful post-independence journey that has been fraught with as many minefields
By Moses Walubiri
Wednesday marked 50 years of independence for Rwanda. However, as they reflect on an eventful post-independence journey that has been fraught with as many minefields as glowing examples of the resilience of the human spirit, the anniversary comes on the cusp of the RPF’s 18th anniversary in power.
Eighteen years ago, on July 4, Rwanda was drawing curtains on its darkest episode of its troubled post-independence odyssey.
After more than three years of fighting, the victorious Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) under the command of Paul Kagame captured power effectively, ending a genocide that had claimed about 800,000 lives.
This saw thousands of Hutu refugees — including alleged masterminds of the genocide — flee to Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they have continued to provoke the regime in Kigali.
This, according to political observers, has been the reason behind Rwanda’s ‘interest’ in Eastern DRC, which has, at times, forced it to shore up di f f e ren t armed groups aimed at neutralizing the genocidal forces (Intarahamwe).
Although Rwanda has refuted claims that it is propping up Congolese reneged Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, history of its perennial security concerns over its border with DRC shows otherwise.
In 2000, Rwanda forces went into combat with the UPDF in Kisangani after efforts to mop up dissident forces operating in DRC went terribly awry.
Similarly, another mutinous Congolese soldier, Laurent Nkunda, was rumoured to have operated in the Kivu area with the support of the Kigali regime.
Although he has since been taken off the stage following his arrest in 2009, Nkunda’s continued ‘house arrest’ in Rwanda has done little to dispel whispers that the former war lord is merely a pawn in Rwanda’s bigger scheme, to keep an eye on its lawless western border.
Amid all these security concerns therefore, how safe is the ‘land of a thousand hills’, 18 years since Kagame’s forces took over?
While meeting journalists on Friday, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Frank Mugambagye, downplayed Rwanda’s security concerns, especially on the domestic front.
Through a multipronged approach, the RPF has maintained a firm grip on Rwanda.
The recently concluded Gacaca court system— a system of community justice tailored to fostering healing and moving on from the genocide — has expeditiously dispensed justice to thousands of genocide victims.
The Kigali regime has also expended enormous resources on lifting millions of Rwandese from poverty through investment in infrastructure, human resource, health insurance and creating an enabling climate for business.
“All Rwandans walk with their heads held high because their dignity has been redeemed. Rwanda is on course to become a middleincome country by the year 2020,” Mugambagye said.
President Kagame’s 93% victory in the 2010 presidential polls seems to vindicate Mugambagye.
However, the continued detention of opposition figure, Victoire Ngabire Umohoza, has forced political observers to raise a red flag over shrinking civil liberties in Rwanda. Mugambage, however, gave an explanation for Ngabire’s woes: “She is in jail over her connections with FDLR in DRC, which she has not denied.”
With many individuals opposed to Kagame in exile, Rwanda has become hyper security conscious.
Some of Kagame’s former close military allies — Patrick Karegeya and Kayumba Nyamwasa — are exiled in South African, with the latter famously surviving an assassination attempt that has been blamed on Kigali.
As Rwanda continues to trade barbs with the UN over its alleged support for Ntaganda, Kigali is deeply conscious of the threat posed by the ruckus in Eastern DRC.
18 years of RPF: Is Rwanda any safer?