This is a response to a blog article entitled 'Mr. Mwenda your article on Rwanda is heavily one sided and probably compromised' available at http://ugandaspeaks.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/mr-mwenda-your-article-on-rwanda-is-heavily-one-sided-and-probably-compromised/. It was written in response to Andrew Mwenda’s 'Rwandans again disprove sceptics' available at http://independent.co.ug/index.php/the-last-word/the-last-word/3-the-last-word/3323-rwandans-again-disprove-sceptics
Dear Stephen, allow me to make a few comments on your post. However, please note that my intention is to do so in the most respectful and cordial way position. In the event that my tone sounds disrespectful or 'ugly,' please pardon the limits of my diction of the language of this forum;-
I begin by stating that I have a problem with the heading of your piece especially with the use of the word ‘compromised’. It is arguable that Andrew’s piece is one-sided, however, I do not think that the mere fact that he agrees (or seems to agree) with Kagame's governance and developmental policies, means Mwenda is 'probably compromised'.
I would suggest that a further elucidation on why you arrive at this would help. As I understand it, our Constitution allows everyone freedom of speech and expression - which freedom, i presume, allows one to criticise - but also to 'support / agree' with a position. In the premises, I think mere agreement or support does not necessarily mean 'compromise' unless one had a stated position which one has departed from and we can be able to systematically identify this strain of compromise -
'Opposition' based 'democracy'
Further, you also state that ‘there was no opposition' (in Rwanda) during the last elections. This is, in my humble opinion, a very wide statement. It would probably be more authentic if you substantiate on what you mean by an ‘opposition' and whether the ‘opposition’ must only come from a system that has nothing to do with the current status quo as one could borrow the inference from the reasoning of Professor Kelsey when he opined that a revolution is one which completely overhauls a status quo.
I therefore find hard to appreciate your criticism of the opposition in Rwanda. We have seen opposition parties in Uganda arise from the status quo- as should always be the case. However they still qualify to be oppositions even without a political following or without political space. Look at the Dalai Lama, the monks in Tibet, Aung San Suu Kyi, and many other examples. More so, we have seen political coalitions all over the world that discard the idea of an opposition - for a while - UK, Zimbabwe, Kenya or in some cases members of the opposition are incorporated into the new government - see USA's Secretary for Defence ( advise me if I am wrong). Look at the modern democracies in Israel, France, and Italy - (even Russia where President Putin is now Prime Minister?) etc. Is that an affront to a proper opposition? I wonder.
In my humble analysis - if one can call it that, I do not think that for one to be an opposition member in Rwanda, such a person/persons must only be like Victoria Ingabire who was arrested for inter alia. denying the genocide. However, without breaking the rules of sub judice - if at all they apply-, Legislation that criminalises denying of holocausts is not unique to Rwanda alone. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_denial). Neither are allegations of state sponsored killings unique to Rwanda alone ( http://world-ice.com/Articles/Assassinations.pdf or http://www.iespolicy.org/files/08.27.09%20Chyanda.pdf )
The Democracy Peril
I am therefore compelled to ask what a ''respectable democratic process'' should look like - before we ask the broader questions of whether democracy is really the way to go anyway. Look at the case of Botswana hitherto applauded for its democratic tendencies. Compare it to the ouster of Mbeki or the de-nationalisation of Chiluba and Kaunda from President(s) to non-citizen(s). The story(ies) of undemocratic processes in what we applaud as democratic nations run like an endless river drip in and out of Africa.
I am not happy with the fact that a coalition government can be formed when people have EXPRESSLY stated their views through the ballot box. Does this make it less or more of a democratic process? I wonder especially recalling the words of one long gone - "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (Winston Churchill, House of Commons speech Nov. 11, 1947).
The aforementioned notwithstanding, please do not misunderstand my reservations as a hoodwink to cover Rwanda's failures in ‘democracy’ or ‘human rights’. (I place these two words in quotations marks because they mean different things for different people). Rather, I would like to learn to know more. For example, what yardsticks do we use when gauging the state of Rwanda as ‘an enclave in repression in that part of Africa’ as compared to Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia or Somalia? Better (or worse) still, let us compare it to say other states be it USA, Canada, Jamaica or even Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan or any other country? Are any of these countries exemplary and if so, what yardsticks are used?
I guess all that I am saying is that statements like ''Who does not see that democracy and human rights in Rwanda have hit the skids and are on a roller-coaster.'' OR ‘‘the recent events coming out of that country have provided a clear indication of what governance in that country is like.'' Or ‘‘Rwanda seems to be turning into an enclave in repression in that part of Africa'' OR ''Rwanda seems to be turning into a country of fear'' are hard to appreciate by folks like me who need more than just the statement to believe the statement.
Of course, no doubt. Just like Andrew Mwenda, you are entitled to hold these views. However, if these views are meant to help others like me, to appreciate or realise ''the truth'' that Andrew has hidden from our eyes, we need much more evidence to counter one position as against the other. I have for example, questioned a few people who are currently living and working in Rwanda. People who told me (and I do not know if it is true) that voted early this month. People whose account of the events in Rwanda seem to be different from what you insinuate above. Their version of the events seems to be different from what you write. However, that does not mean you have no iota of truth in what you say. However, it means they, like Andrew, might be appreciating a different Rwanda from what we know or hear about. That is why I find it hard to discount the version of Mwenda outright as either one sided or compromised. This is because, unlike me and many others, he was IN Rwanda at the time in question. He observed the elections and followed the debates. He questioned the president at a recent talk show as reported by David Kiiza- Musoke(http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/975168/-/x3a4e0/-/index.html ) at least there is photographic and print evidence for all this. Is that enough justification for us to accept his views as gospel truth? No. Is it still possible to discount his views? Again, in my humble opinion, No.
It is true as you state that 'REPRESSED AFRICA (emphasis mine) seems to be taking the view that when a leader does something good for the country, we should celebrate at the favour he has done ‘his’ people.'' Indeed this is, with due respect, a no-brainer. It is and has always been the vote-buyer. It is politics. It is life. Like the proverb states in one of our Ugandan local languages, ‘a pumpkin that is going to bear fruit, starts with a flower.’ We vote for people because of what they HAVE DONE or what they WILL DO (once again emphasis mine). To discount the 93% votes given to Kagame as a result of a non-existing opposition is in my view problematic. In the absence of evidence to show that those who wanted to vote for the opposition were forced, hounded out of their homes and 'made' to vote, I will find it hard to believe so. Remember that while many of us will assume that Presidents like Kagame or others like Mugabe, Hitler, Museveni, or even Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi have no place in today’s world, they are propped there for a variety of reasons – spelt as majority voice otherwise called democracy.
Humanity has a will. The will to choose. We choose to vote or not to vote. By casting my vote or refraining from voting, I have 'participated' in the same way as one who voted for the 'opposition' whatever that means.
Last but not least, I do agree that we should condemn leaders who are ‘‘heavy handed’’ Who as you state, 'think... everybody who has a different opinion does not deserve any space''. However I should add that such condemnation must be done on the basis of credible or at least convincing evidence rather than mere conjecture. In the event however that such condemnation is based on the latter, it should be made clear.
If in writing this peice, I have broken the rules that I seek to apply, i accept my shortcomings
I thank you