Frank Habineza: The man in the cold

19430004_10154598060380965_1659209489114458191_nFor a gunslinger coming out of town to challenge the sheriff, one must be a sharp shooter – well Frank isn’t, or if he is, he has no bullets.

This isn’t a campaigning piece. Like I’d declared to the Supreme Court when I filed an amicus curiae in his support, I am not affiliated to the Green Party, I am just, as a Human Rights lawyer sympathetic to men in the cold.

So I thought I’d be, once again, magnanimous with my fellow countryman’s courage. His presence to Rwanda’s political landscape is healthy. Unlike what many would have you believe, he isn’t a threat to our stability, quiet on the contrary.

More than what he says, what he represents is something positive; his party’s existence is a message that you can place yourself on the sidelines of the ruling party and exist, unbothered, something that this country has lacked throughout the years, and which many still find undesirable.

So I pull my hat off to frank for his perseverance. For not having given up and exiled himself – like many did. And most of all, for having been nominated to run.

More than many, he is a good role model to me. I may not vote for him in the next elections, but I will consider it, out of respect to the fight he is on.

Today we have Mr. Kagame as president and that makes our choice easy. Like voting for the ANC during Mr. Mandela’s tenure. It may so happen in future, God forbid, that we are deeply unhappy with the RPF’s leadership and it’s allies – it’s happened before; certainly for the ANC. Then, we must have Franks already firmly installed in the trenches.

In the current Rwandan political dispensation it is all the hardest to be in opposition, it is not swimming against a tide, it is swimming against the hurricane. Yet Frank is. Some ridicule him, others accuse him of all the vices, but having briefly worked close to him I can say he is a sane, smart, and most of all courageous man.

He could have written a long letter of apology and asked to be reintegrated into the RPF – most have; he could have publicly endorsed the candidate of the RPF before his own party even endorsed him: Most have!

He decided to hold firm. With the reduced means at his disposal, his members systematically denied employment, he is onto a struggle, not necessarily in his favor, but he is showing others that it is ok to think differently.

Sycophants and novices who know nothing about what it takes, what it is like to be in his shoes, have used public platforms to laugh at him, he looks at them, shakes his head and takes it in. I find some grandeur in that.

Frank will not win the elections. The Green Party may not even exist in the future. But he will be remembered as a man who dared. Who silently walked his path, in the cold, in the misery and took everything in.

I can’t tell the state of mind of each one of Frank’s members, but the joke is not on them, but on those who laugh at Frank…

Rwandan parties are not allowed to receive foreign funding and that’s a good thing – otherwise you’d have foreigners meddling in our internal politics.

Yet if the RPF allegedly represents ten percent of Rwanda’s tax base, more than fifty is held by its members and even more by its clients and suppliers; in other words; people hostile to Frank and his small party.

I don’t necessarily share his vision of Rwanda, so I can’t tell what he is up to, but this piece is about stating what he represents to me, and you are free to define it for yourself: Defiance, daring, courage; all the qualities that are dearly needed in a country with a very strong ruling party.

In fact, I hope within the ruling party itself senior cadres, within the framework of dialogue and consensus, possess or emulate and exercise Frank’s faculties.

Indeed recent studies have shown that for a strong ruling party to do well sustainably it must be highly democratic and meritocratic internally, lest its members get high on their own dope.

I pray that after these elections, some gesture is done in his favor, and in favor of his party members – if anything just to give them some basic respect. For if his party came to disappear, with it will vanish an interesting feature of our political landscape.

Well done on making it on the ballot box Frank. If you need anything from me, I’ll be happy to help, in line with my personal beliefs. I wish you well in the campaign ahead.