The Chronicles

Serving Your Right to Know the Truth

Author: Sam Minarick

  • Our party weak to contest for presidency – Rucibigango

    THE PRESIDENT Of the Labour Party (PRS) in Rwanda, Jean Baptist Rucibigango told The Chronicles in an exclusive interview that his party is weak and not ready to contesting for the presidency in 2017 when President Kagame is expected to end his second and final constitutional mandate. Hon Rucibigango said “…PSR is not ready” and in 2017,

    “we shall still be organising ourselves…we have no money to open up offices [out of Kigali]….we are still interested in giving civic education” to our members.

    The leader of PSR also wondered “who would be interested in leading a country like Rwanda still divided along ethnic lines” among other problems cited. The ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front party candidate President Kagame is serving out his last term of office – but already, a small coalition partner the Rwanda Labour Party (PSR) categorically affirms it does not aspire to take over the highest office in the land.

    Besides stating that his party is not ready to lead, he added: “That [seeking the presidency] has never been part of our political programme,” said party leader, Hon Jean Baptist Rucibigango in an interview with The Chronicles last week. “We do not want power. Our programme entails advocacy for the social welfare of all Rwandans.”

    The motivation behind this position, Rucibigango says, is because parties focus more on taking the presidency – overlooking the concerns of the electorate. As to whether the constitution should be amended to make room for President Kagame to rule until he sees fit to leave, Rucibigango preferred not to speak about the issue saying, “leave me out of that debate”.

    The PSR party rose as a university student movement in the 1980s. In 1992, following mounting internal and donor pressure on ex-Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana to open up political space to his critics, PSR was born. It had observer status during the 1993 Arusha talks that eventually led to a peace deal meant to halt the advancing Rwanda Patriotic Army rebels.

    PSR would eventually break up just before the 1994 genocide– in what was blamed on the ruling MRND party. The current leadership even accuses the splinter group – which called itself the United Democratic Workers (RTD), of being part of the execution machine for the genocide. Over the years, it has been in coalition with the dominant RPF – backing President Kagame in the 2003 and 2010 presidential polls. During the parliamentary elections in 2003 and 2008, PSR along with six other small parties agreed with the RPF to field a single list of candidates. PSR received one single seat among the list of 42 slots on the coalition list. Rucibigango is party leader and the only PSR Member of Parliament.

    Why is PSR not ready to contest for the presidency?
    “You could win power by playing the ethnic card,” says the lawmaker. “PALIMEHUTU manipulated the Hutus and won more than 80 percent of the vote, or ZANU-PF of [President Robert] Mugabe sidelined others through the same tactic. “PALIMEHUTU’s rule did not last for even ten years as it was deposed in 1973 despite winning more than 80 percent of the votes earlier!” adds Rucibigango.

    “Am trying to illustrate to you that putting political power at the front of a party’s political programme, is not a good idea. PALIMEHUTU ruled for less than ten years!” So who does PSR intend to back come 2017? Rucibigango is non-committal, and prefers not to even speak about the subject.
    “We just elected President Kagame last year,” he argues. “In the next six years, we are much more concerned on improving the lives of Rwandans than who will replace the RPF candidate.”

    When put to him that some parties have publicly said they want the constitution amended to allow President Kagame continue ruling past 2017, Rucibigango simply retorted: “I have not yet thought about that…The discussion about that [President Kagame seeking reelection] should end there. If others have decided, it is their choice.”

    When we informed him that the Ideal Democratic Party (PDI) of Internal Affairs Minister, Sheikh Musa Fazil Harelimana had made it clear they wanted President Kagame’s two term lengthened, Rucibigango said the parties had an unwritten understanding not to comment on each other’s affairs.
    “That can result in criticising others…that could be the culture elsewhere, but in Rwanda we have chosen the path of mutual respect…actually we should end that discussion or the interview stops.

    “Besides, choosing who PSR will support is not the choice of Rucibigango. NO! It is a long process that involves all party organs right from the grassroots,” says the lawmaker, but he declines to divulge the number of party members on the PSR register. “We have many members – actually even you [The Chronicles reporters] are members because you are employees; the challenge we face is resources to organise our members,” Rucibigango says, before adding: “Besides, even if I had a particular figure, I would not tell you. That is a secret every party keeps.”

    Dr. Jean Baptist Mberabahizi under fire
    Among the founders of PSR is exiled politician Dr. Jean Baptist Mberabahizi – who is currently Secretary General of the European-based wing of the United Democratic Forum Inkingi (FDU-Inkingi), the party of embattled opposition politician Victoire Ingabire who is on prosecution in the country over several serious charges.

    Rucibigango says Mberabahizi has “no personality”. “He left PSR…joined the RPF after the war and is now with Ingabire. Would you take such a person seriously?” poses Rucibigango, adding that he had attempted to woo Mberabahizi against joining Ingabire, but it was too late.“He has no ideology,” he recaps.

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  • Close of a divisive story, end of an era?

    As Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, rightly observed, the recent findings of a judicial inquiry commissioned by French judges, Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux, perhaps marks the end of an era. It’s a story, from genesis to exit, based on a labyrinth of diplomatic furor, conspiracy theories, accusations and counter-accusations between France and Rwanda vis-à-vis, the former’s role in the 1994 genocide and RPF alleged role in downing the plane carrying Habyarimana.
    In a press conference soon after the release of the findings, Karugarama dismissed claims that the report was not the end to the conflicting theories about the circumstances that surrounded the downing of the Falcon 50 jet that was carrying former President Juvenal Habyarimana. “This is a case file that is finished as far as we can see,” he said. The downing of the Falcon 50 jet has generated almost a dozen commissions of inquiry to get to the bottom-line of saga including the controversial Bruguière report, UN report, the Mutsinzi Report, the Carlson Report, the report of eminent persons, the British Military Academy and investigations by the ICTR.

    The latest inquiry corroborates the Mutsinzi Report that the missiles that killed the former leader, his Burundian counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira, a French crew, among others, were launched from Kanombe military base, which was under the full control of Habyarimana’s elite units. The two competing theories of the incident, since hardly anyone disputes that the event was a spark to carrying out a systematically organized genocide, was that “Hutu extremists” from the Rwandan military killed the president to derail a power-sharing agreement. The other theory is that the RPF carried out the attack as the opening phase of their invasion, which quickly followed the assassination.

    Upon the release of the report, Louise Mushikiwabo, Foreign Minister and Government Spokesperson said. “With this scientific truth, Judges Trévidic and Poux have slammed shut the door on the 17-year campaign to deny the genocide or blame its victims. It is now clear to all that the downing of the plane was a coup d’état carried by extremist Hutu elements and their advisors who controlled Kanombe Barracks.”

    Most world media also say that the report “has not been released publicly,” but this hasn’t stopped them from running sensationalist headlines. Probably after the public release of the report, the few dissenting voices would rest their second thoughts. For the moment, it is our sincere hope that the report brings to an end the issue of who downed former president habyarimana’s plane. The next step we hope should be to name and bring to book the actual perpetrators behind the crime.

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  • Despite skepticism, 2012 could be the year for SACCOs

    This is the time of the year when financial institutions, particularly the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank present the country’s growth projections that in most cases depend on economic trends of the previous financial year.
    To make forecasts, one has to first review the previous year as well. While we wait on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning MINECOFIN and National Bank of Rwanda to do that and officially present figures of the actual outlook, we can at least be abstract, that by the end of 2011, growth is poised at 8.8 percent.

    We also know from Governor Claver Gatete that the projection for economic growth in 2012, despite depending on the prevailing Euro zone debt crisis, oil prices and a weaker dollar weigh, is 7.6 percent.

    However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seems to be carrying a little skepticism about the latter. After carrying out Rwanda’s third review of Rwanda’s economic performance, under the Policy Support Instrument (PSI) in December, the body warned that 2012 might not be as rosy as anticipated, unless reforms are stepped up, to boost prospects.

    I find this a little contradictory. However, among the many warnings IMF signaled, there was one about the development of SACCOS that should not go without being deliberated. For the layman, SACCOs are just saving institutions and any discussion about them is pretty boring. SACCOs is basically an abbreviation for ‘Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations’.

    These co-operatives are developed on the basis of this philosophy, “… creating the opportunity for people to take responsibility for their own financial organisation.” Among very many advantages, a democratic process is an integral part of the SACCO and encourages people to take control of their own financial affairs.

    According to that IMF, in Rwanda “… the establishment of a transparent and sustainable institutional structure to supervise SACCOs needs to be fast-tracked. The hiring and training of 60 supervisors was an important first step.Given the speed of rolling out these cooperatives as full-fledged lending institutions, and the risks involved, it is imperative that the necessary institutional structure be put in place without delay.” That is a warning from the IMF.

    Now, who dares disagree with the IMF? Myself, armed with barely a few pointers, on the state of Rwanda’s SACCOs, I will attempt to differ a little positively.

    Last year, Governor Gatete told the quarterly publication, Le Banquier, that NBR expects to have a SACCO in every sector in the whole country and 416 SACCOs in total. Already by September last year, 383 SACCOs had been granted authorization to start granting loans and district Mayors have already shown commitment to this cause.

    The governor said, “Among those operational SACCOs, 17 have fully been licensed and we expect to have all Umurenge SACCOs licensed by the end of this financial year. We have also noted that Umurenge SACCOs deposits significantly increased to reach Rwf14 billion. The loans portfolio is around Rwf2 billion and we recorded an upward trend.”

    Anyone’s worry about SACCOs in Rwanda would probably be management of the growing numbers. Also there could challenges on their working environment and probably the security of the funds. The SACCOs’ staff members could also benefit from training from NBR.

    SACCOs are advantageous in a way that they create the opportunity for people to take responsibility for their own financial organization. Savings are mobilised locally and returned to members in the form of loans.

    The ideal model invests 80 percent of mobilised savings to members in the form of loans. The money stays and works within the members.SACCO interest rates on both savings and loans are generally better than rates given by banks and the reason for this is that SACCOs have very low overheads compared to banks which pay low interest rates on savings but charge higher interest rates to cover their overheads.

    And since they also educate their members on financial matters by teaching prudent handling of money, how to keep track of finances, how to budget and why to keep away from hire purchases and loan sharks, if management of numbers is the biggest worry, may be NBR might consider combining some of them into groups and probably this could bring efficiency.

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