When I met Mike Campbel and Louis Fick, the white Zimbabweans who’s land had been taken by their government and given back to the black indigenous, it was just outside the South African Constitutional court. They had come to register a judgement in their favour, passed by – the now defunct – SADC tribunal. They wanted the Court to order that Zimbabwean property in South Africa be confiscated to compensate them for their land; they eventually won in court, but diplomatic consideration came in the way…
Between two sentences concerning their land, I noticed that they couldn’t resist criticising the ZANU-PF and Mugabe; his dictatorship tendencies; the fact that he rigged elections. Then I remembered that the ZANU-PF had accused them and other white farmers of forcing their black workers to vote for the opposition; I saw men with a cause, which had suffered from the noise around it.
This morning I was having an open discussion with a colleague on Rwandan politics; like I always do when I am abroad. Personally I have no problem expressing my views in Kigali. But others prefer to open up once abroad; but fair enough. I have never experienced real intimidation; what I experienced was empty threats from self-righteous saints, injured in their pride…
So fine, I listened as he raised some serious points on public expenditure flows in Rwanda, and the right of access to information.
He complained about the KIST building, which was collapsing, only five years after it had been built; he talked of the colossal loss of King Faysal Hospital still unaccounted for. He explained that the Parliamentary Account Committee had mentioned these cases but never followed through. He talked of the cost of the ‘Rwanda Days’ in Europe and America and RwandAir which has never broken even since its creation ten years ago, and wondered if these ventures were not white elephants.
The colleague – let’s call him john; John was raising some serious points, that I promised to tackle here on my blog, hoping that I would get some answers next time I meet the relevant authorities. – so, over to you Transparency, Parliamentary Account Committe (PAC) and Auditor General (article has been tweeted/e-mailed to them).
‘Why haven’t you raise these issues in Rwanda?’ I asked; John looked around, and said:‘Ahaa, I fear to be sent to jail like Ingabire or killed like Karegeya’, to the nodding approbation of the Ugandans and Kenyans around us… I was devastated! I saw there a man with a cause that may suffer the noise around it!
I looked at him, and asked myself what Karegeya: a defecting chief spy orchestrating grenades attacks in Kigali, Ingabire who openly revised the genocide and is collaborated with the FDLR, both had to do with reporting cases of misuse of public funds; I simply said to him: ‘don’t worry, we do not know who killed Karegaya, and Ingabire doesn’t do public-expenditure tracking…’
There was nothing wrong with what he were saying, there was something wrong with how he said it. He intentionally amalgamated unrelated stories to make the situation look desperate, without aiming at a solution. It is called ‘spinning’! he didn’t aim at positive change, or at any change at all; he just wanted to appear clever and relevant.
As a human rights activist, this is what makes my work very difficult. It is difficult for me to associate with these colleagues, even though we share the same concerns.
Thanks to them, the space for real engagement with the state narrows, as we are all dismissed as a cohort of reactionary intellectuals, indoctrinated by ‘imperialist’s ideologies’, serving retrogressive interests – which will only lead to perpetual misery of the black man, and chaos in our land (sorry, this sounds like a mouthful) in Rwanda they have a name for them: ‘Ideologically bankrupt’
I was in parliament last week and watched as MPs spoke, one after the other, and all converging to the fact that BBC should be banned in Rwanda. There is no debate here, this is not democracy, I thought to myself; Parliaments shouldn’t seat around and unanimously agree on banning radios? But I found myself agreeing with them – I even went out and protested!?!
I wanted to start a show that promotes contradictory debate in Rwanda and the region, but I found myself having a debate-free first show, where everyone agreed that BBC2 has crossed the line. This is one of those moments where I doubt myself…
There are rules: objectivity for media and human rights watchdogs; and upholding rule of law for government. Sadly, watchdogs and media feel exempted from observing the rules, but they are scandalized when, as a result, government applies special measures to them.
Only in Rwanda are defecting spies and terrorists considered opposition figures. By being completely biased, these agencies narrow the gradually expanding space, and undermine our activities on the ground.
I am saddened to say that the government is probably the only progressive actor in this game. On the one hand, if it were up to sycophant human rights activists: the current government would be a saint, and half the critical NGOs would be shut down; gays and lesbians would be criminalized and abortion would be forbidden lock, stock and barrel.
If it were up to foreign watchdogs and the BBC however, we would have daily strikes, Victoire Ingabire as minister; government negotiating with FDLR; Karegeya and Kayumba registering political parties with accepted militia wings.
But then we would be just Africa; with rampant insecurity, stagnant economy, visible misery and chaos. Or worse still, we would be DRC or Somalia; guarded by UN peacekeepers and making desperate calls to the UN and the international community to help us.
As for the BBC2, it would have daily breaking news! Announcing latest death tolls and enabling International NGOs to access massive funding to conduct humanitarian responses…
I spoke to a European diplomat last week; he asked me why Karegeya was killed in South Africa. I asked him why Assange and Snowden were in hiding, fearing for their lives; in Europe! I asked him why Ben Laden was summarily executed; he answered that that was different…
Posted 30th October 2014