The Chronicles

Serving Your Right to Know the Truth

Category: Politics

  • Nayinzira speaks out on his political career

    The name JEAN NÉPOMUSCÈNE NAYINZIRA may not ring a bell to many young Rwandans today. But those familiar with Rwanda’s political field can remember him as one of the three presidential aspirants in the country’s first democratic

    multiparty elections in August 2003 that were crushingly won by the incumbent President Paul Kagame. Nayinzira, now a retired politician, is also a former cabinet minister and founding chair of the Centrist Democratic Party (PDC). During the 2003 elections, he got a paltry 1.3 percent of the votes. The former politician now aged 68 shared his experiences with The Chronicles recently at his home in Bumbogo Sector, Gasabo District.

    Many Rwandans today wonder about your whereabouts since your presidential bid in 2003?
    Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira: Even in 2010, I had everything in place to present my candidacy (for the presidency), but I didn’t want to encounter the same problem as I did in 2003 where the National Electoral Commission [NEC], and RPF (ruling party) rigged the elections and made me lose.

    You mean in 2003, you were a victim of rigging which prevented you from scooping the presidency?
    Yes, they rigged the votes in 2003.

    You mean the NEC?
    Yes. My election team informed me of everything. It is inexplicable how I got a few votes? Why did they, at one of my campaigns, escort me with policemen who even forbid me from greeting a friend?

    Was this action targeting some candidates only?
    Yes, I only! It happened to me when I was campaigning in my home village in Gisenyi.

    What new ideas would you have brought in the 2010 contest?
    In my opinion, politicians must have the will to share ideas with others and recognise the opposition. You can’t walk using one foot. There must be different ideas in Rwanda.

    Do you believe Rwanda is ruled under the ideas of one person?
    You don’t have eyes to see? Those people living outside the country, aren’t they Rwandans? This is the same problem we had with Habyarimana who used to say refugees had no right to come back to their homeland.

    What about those offered an olive branch to repatriate but have declined to do so?
    You must be joking. Read from different declarations and discussions from different people, and tell me. You should not consider one side but observe ideas from all Rwandans, even those who are critical. In this country, some ideas are not taken into consideration. How can one say that some people are useless? And the justification they give is that some of us have nothing to offer. How? God created everyone with his/her own gift and we complement each other.

    Who do you presuppose undermines other people’s ideas in Rwanda?
    After the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, all parties were represented in cabinet except those from MRND and others who destroyed our country. But are the rest still together?

    Who do you mean?
    For example in my case, I created PDC but people manipulated me and benefited from it…..I mean Alfred Mukezamfura and Agnes Mukabaranga. I decided to leave the party to them. Mukezamfura was lucky to be appointed as Speaker of Chamber of Deputies. And where is he now? Wasn’t he condemned to life imprisonment? And Senator Agnes Mukabaranga, the actual chairperson, she is just struggling. I can’t confirm that she will remain in the helm. Yes they expelled me, yet what I did was not null and void because I helped them grow but I don’t regret it.

    What interest did your party members have in shunning you?
    Interest? They have put me in conflict with RPF. The problem I had with RPF is that they couldn’t let me bring in my ideas. You can’t condemn me into a nursery school, I, Nayinzira, at this age and you tell me to repeat the alphabet… A, B, C…I was born free!

    Someone belittled you?
    What do you think?

    In which form?
    How can you ask me such a question? Someone would try force me to embrace his ideas and then hinder me from bringing out my own views, pretending that I am abusing him.

    Since the Forum for Political Parties resolves such wrangles, do you think that at the time you encountered problems, it would have made a difference?
    No, since 1994, we used to discuss issues as Members of Parliament despite our parties affiliation. But RPF would validate polices, and no one could oppose. But I don’t look at things from one side. I remember what (Ugandan President Yoweri) Museveni told (former President Juvenal) Habyarimana once in a meeting; that he needed RPF members to ensure a strong rule.

    You mean RPF has a strong ruling system?
    Trust me; they have a peculiarity that Museveni talked about at one time. He told Habyarimana, “let these people repatriate. They have business and diplomatic expertise”. Really RPF performs well in those domains. But Kayibanda and Habyarimana’s regime did not have an open mind, no friends, but RPF has. They were good at other things but not at business and diplomacy. Another aspect RPF has fared well in is land registration. During the National Dialogue, they announced its successful completion. They’ve indeed ran the government the European way. I went to pick my land title deed. It is a good thing. The only problem with the party is its monopolistic characteristics. RPF imports and exports, they have business entities which are based on the party; everything is for and from them.

    Can we blame the ruling party if it is blessed with business-savvy members?
    We have, in Rwanda, what we call savage capitalism. It means that some people grow richer when many others grow poor.

    Since your failed Presidential bid in 2003, what have you been doing?
    Now I have got another choice from Heaven’s order. Someone came and told me God wanted me to serve Him. I am now in the service of God. I had got an apparition ofMary who left me with a heavenly photo. There are many signs here than there are at Kibeho.

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  • Trevidic Report and the politics of commissions of inquiry since the genocide

    Two weeks ago, a team of French experts led by Judges Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux released their report into the downing of the plane carrying President Habyarimana on April 6, 1994 and his consequent death.

    The incident is widely believed to have triggered the genocide. Seventeen years later and despite the latest report, the question of who downed the plane and who is responsible for Habyarimana’s death is settled to some while disputed by others─especially critics of the RPF led government. The Chronicles’ Editorial Consultant, Dr Christopher Kayumba analyses the politics of commissions of inquiry since the genocide and argues that of all reports produced so far─over ten of them from ten commissions of inquiry concluded since the end of the genocide, the most consequential, politically and diplomatically for Rwanda and France, is the Bruguière and the Mucyo Commission reports.

    Since the end of the genocide in 1994, no fewer than ten commissions of inquiry have been set up and reports produced on this horrendous human failure once called “the crime of crimes” by the man who coined the word Genocide─Raphael Lamkin more than half a century ago.
    Variously named, there is the UN report, the OUA report (now AU) of 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur Rene Degni-Segui report of 1996, the French parliamentary commission in 1998, the French Military and Foreign Ministry Commission report, the Belgian report, the Canadian report, the Bruguière report, the Spanish judge Fernando Andreu’s report and related indictments of 40 Rwandan senior officials, the Mucyo report, the Mutsinzi report, and now the Trévidic report, among others.

    The UN report concluded by accepting the world body’s failure and put in place some mechanisms to plaster them─such as early warning mechanisms, and the responsibility to protect doctrine. The OUA/AU report also indicted the UN, and the OAU for failure as well as specific countries such as France and the United States. Substantively, beyond adding documentary evidence, nothing much came from it.

    A look at other reports, such as the French parliamentary commission report, served to exonerate the French military and political class of any responsibility in the genocide; although it accepted “errors” of judgment were committed. The Mucyo commission report named 33 French senior military officers and political leaders of direct responsibility; the Mutsinzi commission concluded that the plane carrying Habyarimana was brought down by a missile from Kanombe military barracks and named extremist Hutu elements in FAR and government as responsible.

    Judge Fernando Andreu of Spain invoked the idea of universal jurisdiction and indicted 40 Rwanda officials. While this report and related arrest warrants raised the political temperature and in some ways curtailed travels of some named officials, due to minimal influence of Spain in world affairs, questionable methodology used, limited credibility of the basis on which indictments were based and assumed limited intimate knowledge of Rwanda by Spain, these indictments did not have profound consequences as the one issued by Judge Bruguière. We shall see why.

    The Trévidic report and its possible consequences
    Then, to add further empirical evidence, judicial and political drama, on January 10, French judges Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux released their report relating to the shooting down of former Rwanda President Juvẻnal Habyarimana on April 6. Consensus exists that this incident triggered the genocide.

    After the release, the Government of Rwanda issued a statement where Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo stated that “Today’s findings constitute vindication for Rwanda’s long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994″. She added, “With this scientific truth, Judges Trévidic and Poux have slammed shut the door on the seventeen-year campaign to deny the genocide or blame its victims”.
    At a press conference the same week following the release of the report, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama told reporters that “This (the Trévidic report) is a case file that is finished as far as we can see”. He added, “To say that the plane was shot from Kanombe is not new. There is a UN report, the Mutsinzi Report, the Carlson Report, the report of eminent persons, the British Military Academy and investigations by the ICTR, which all pointed at Kanombe”. To the government, the latest report therefore, unlike the Jean-Louis Bruguière one in 2006, exonerates the RPF/A of any responsibility in the shooting down of the plane. Although the report does not categorically state so, but says the missile that brought down Falcon 50 carrying Habyarimana and President Cyprian Ntaryamira─who had sought a lift came from Camp Kanombe. The conclusion, according to the government is that those who controlled the barracks-FAR and French troops are responsible.

    In talk-show on Rwanda Television and Radio Rwanda last Saturday, Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana, who was a member of the Mucyo Commission and later the Mutsinzi Commission, echoes the government’s position that the Trévidic report vindicates findings of the Mutsinzi commission. The same position was taken by Professor José Kagabo; also a member of the Mucyo Commision. However, government critics, including Habyarimana’s son, Jean Luc Habyarimana and former RPF Secretary General turned dissident Theogene Rudasingwa, among others vehemently reject the idea that the report exonerates the RPF or President Kagame. Therefore, while it’s possible that the issue of who shot down and killed Habyarimana might not be politically dead, in judicial terms, it is likely that the indictments ordered against nine senior RDF by former judge Bruguière might be rescinded by judge Trévidic. If this eventually officially takes place, it will be a great political victory for the RPF, president Kagame and his government.

    The Bruguière report and its consequences
    Judge Marc Trévidic is the man who replaced Judge Bruguière and charged with continuing and looking into the validity of Bruguière findings.
    On November 17, 2006, Judge Bruguière had released a report that categorically accused former RPA/F senior officers, including its then leader and now President Paul Kagame of committing the crime. At the time, Bruguière called on the ICTR to try Kagame. He also sought permission from the French prosecution authority to issue indictments to nine senior RDF officers. Three days later, on November 20, the Paris Prosecution authority agreed and issued the arrest warrants.

    In the arrest warrants, Bruguière claims that “The destruction of the presidential aircraft triggered an insurrection and a climate of extreme confusion giving rise to numerous rumours concerning the origin of the attack” which, “…immediately triggered a violent reaction by Hutu extremists which directly led to the genocide of the Tutsis minority”. By claiming that the downing of the plane “triggered an insurrection” and not genocide and then goes on to say this “directly led to the genocide…” critics of Bruguière and his methods claim this is a denial of genocide. That he did not set foot where the crime was committed and all his witnesses are either dissidents or individuals with a bone to pick with the Kagame government did not help matters.
    Those who perished in the plane, besides former Presidents Juvẻnal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, include Dẻogratias Nsanzimana who was chief of staff of the FAR, Col Ellie Sagatwa, who was a director in the president’s office charged with military affairs, Maj. Thaddẻe Bagaragaza, Juvẻnal Renzaho, who was foreign affairs’ advisor to the president, Emmanuel Akingeneye, personal doctor to President Habyarimana, Bernard Ciza, the Minister For Planning of Burundi and Cyriaque Simbizi, the Minister For Communications of Burundi. Also perishing in the plane was the French crew, including the pilot Jacky Heraud, co-pilots Jean-Pierre Minaberry and flight engineer, Jean-Marc Perrine.

    Widows and relatives of the crew together with the Habyariman family brought the case before the French judicial authority seeking justice. After eight years of investigations, critics say playing politics with the investigations, judge Bruguière concluded that “Testimony provided by witnesses, particularly Tutsi members of the F.P.R., former members of this political movement and former soldiers of the A.P.R., including members of the personal guards of Paul Kagame, investigations undertaken and material evidence gathered particularly with respect to the missiles establish that Paul Kagame, with members of his staff, conceived, meticulously planned, recruited soldiers charged with carrying it out and supervised the execution of this operation following the Arusha Agreement of August 1993”.

    With this conclusion, he proceeded to indict nine very senior former RPA and now RDF officers. They include Gen James Kabarebe (current minister of Defence), Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa (now in exile in South Africa), Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga (current CDF), Gen. Jack Nziza, Sam Kaka, Rose Kabuye, Jacob Tumwine, Franck Nziza and Eric Hakizimana. As is clear, targeting the military hierarchy in this way was interpreted back in Kigali as some a kind of mini coup d’état for Rwanda. No wonder then that upon the release of the Trẻvidic report that contradicted the basis of the indictments, the BBC reported that, “Kagame ‘cleared of Habyarimana crash”.

    President Kagame, while addressing members of the Leadership Fellowship last week also acknowledged that he was happy with the new findings. He however added a caveat by saying that “While I am happy with the findings and everybody in this country seems to be very excited, I am not excited,” the President said. “The reason is simple – have we been waiting to be cleared by a French judge? Were we, all along, waiting to be absolved (of any wrongdoing) by a foreign judge?”

    The effect of the Bruguière report
    The Bruguière report and consequent indictment of nine former RPA and now very senior RDF military officers caused major ripples within the political and diplomatic hierarchies not only in Rwanda and France, but across the European continent and beyond. The effect of issuing arrest warrants was immediate and profoundly consequential. Only four days after issuing arrest warrants on November 20, 2006, the Kigali government gave the French envoy in Kigali 24 hours to leave the country and closed down the embassy; including the French Cultural Centre in the heart of the City.

    At the time, opinion was divided on whether or not the decision to severe all diplomatic relations was wise. Some quarters feared this would bolster France’s resolve to isolate Kigali and increase its support for dissidents. Others, including the President believed the issuance of arrest warrants against almost the entire top leadership of the RDF was aimed at intimidating, silencing and crippling the capacity of RPF to govern and was some kind of coup d’état and could not be tolerated. So, he had to act; and act boldly.

    And the arrest warrants were not only curtailing senior military officials from doing their work by not traveling, but European countries seemed keen to enforce them. Their first casualty was retired Lt. Col Rose Kabuye who was arrested at Frankfurt Airport on 9 November 2008 on her way to prepare President Kagame’s visit to Germany. In a show of defiance, when asked whether she could be tried in Germany or be extradited to France, she chose the latter. Today, charges against Rose have been dropped─another political and diplomatic victory for the Kigali establishment.

    Further, within a space of less than a year following the release of the Bruguière report, Rwanda had commissioned another commission of inquiry into the shooting down of president Habyarimana’s plane. This is what came to be known as the “Mutsinzi Commission” headed by former Supreme Court President Jean Mutsinzi. It was set up on 16 April 2007 and charged with investigating Habyarimana’s plane crush and who was responsible.
    Less than a year later, on August 5, 2008, another independent commission released its report into the role of France in the 1994 genocide. This commission was chaired by former Minister of Justice and now head of the Genocide Commission, Jean Mucyo. The Mucyo Commission, which held public hearings and publicised the French’s alleged role in the 1994 genocide was also profoundly unsettling to the French political and military establishment.

    First, during public hearings, eye witnesses accused the French military of varied crimes including rape, training militias and manning roadblocks where interahamwe militias targeted Tutsis for slaughter. Remarkably, at the conclusion, the Mucyo commission named 33 senior French and military officials as well as political leaders, including current French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé; former President Mitterrand and his top aid Dominique de Villepin, his General Secretary at the time Mr. Hubert Védrine; his Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, among others. This act was heavily embarrassing and unsettling to the French government. On top of this, insiders tell me that the French were aware that the Rwandan government was planning, if they didn’t counter Bruguière indictments, to issue their own indictments against named French military officials and political leaders, including its current Foreign Minister.

    It seems the thought of a small land-locked country, formally part of its “sphere of influence” indicting its officials, and the likely embarrassment it would cause, more than expelling its envoy was too much for the French to stomach. This seems to have forced the French political establishment, particularly President Sarkozy and his close allies to soften and agree to re-establish diplomatic relations and political cooperation. Thus, it is possible to say that although very much hated in Kigali, Bruguière did far more good to Rwanda than has been examined. What has so far been the focus is his questionable methodology and zeal to incriminate former RPA senior officers and the RPF.

    The less investigated side of the consequence of the Bruguière report and indictments is that it served to demystify French power and taking away the fear factor from the Rwandan establishment. That Rwanda belled the cat is not something many, including the French expected. For the French, are said to have been, since the end of the genocide undermining the Rwanda government variously with limited response from Kigali. By openly choosing to fight the French government, the Rwandan government did what no other government had ever done in Africa. It set a precedent.

    While most humans are gripped by the fear of failure, God and death and most European governments these days fear terrorism and unemployment than anything else, most African governments by far fear the developed world or their former colonial masters more than anything else. This makes the humiliation France faced of giving its envoy 24 hours and publicly naming her officials as genocide perpetrators and rapists unprecedented. Rwanda was setting a ‘bad’ example to the French satellite states on the continent to act likewise. The key problem for France then was how to stop Rwanda from doing so or succeeding. Was France going to go native and continue using force or hard power or was it going to adopt a less hardline stand and cooperate with Kigali?

    Both options would be costly, and perhaps embarrassing at the same time. Now the French authority, headed by President Sarkozy decided to take a less hardline but politically and diplomatically humbling stand. On balance then, if there are things Rwanda has done that have earned her and her citizens genuine respect from foreigners, it is the humbling of France by expulsing her ambassador, closing down the embassy and commissioning an investigation that publicly named French political leaders and military officers’ individual involvement and responsibility in the genocide.

    This act, and consequent reopening of diplomatic relations based on mutual respect, will, when history is written in future among the best. This watershed moment ranks along two other Kagame actions that seem to have brought immeasurable respect to Rwanda. The first is the defeat of the Ugandan forces in Kisangani in three battles and the fight against corruption. The first qualified the Rwandan army as supreme and helped shed off any lingering questions about the determination of Rwandan leaders to be their own bosses (before then, some Ugandan military officials underrated Rwandan officials). On the other hand, the fight against corruption has earned Rwandese respectability to the extent, for example that some foreign countries do easily accept Rwandan driving permits in case their holders want to change─because they believe they are genuine.

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  • 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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