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.