The Chronicles

Serving Your Right to Know the Truth

  • South African Airways extends launch

    SOUTH Africa’s national carrier has postponed the re-opening of the Kigali route to January 2012 – cancelling an earlier launch that had been planned for October 31 this year.

    SAA said some before the first date elapsed that the Johannesburg-Kigali-Bujumbura route will return on January 17. Despite frosty relations between South Africa and Rwanda, SAA indicated the changes are motivated by business factors. The route was suspended about three years ago as SAA reorganised its business to focus more on profitable routes.

    “We have seen more demand from both recreational and business travellers for expanded routes and travel options and this move helps meet that demand,” said Theven Krishnam, SAA’s head of Australasia. “Rwanda is growing as an economic and cultural as well as tourist destination…” he added.
    The return route from OR Tambo International Airport to Kigali and on to Bujumbura will be served by the A319 aircraft that carries 120 passengers. There will be three flights per week. Clients can book on the maiden flights from the SAA website and other reservation agencies.

    SAA – considered a prime carrier on the African continent, is a publicly listed company with the South African government also holding a stake. Kigali and Pretoria are silently embroiled in a spat following the attempted assassination of exiled ex-army chief Kayumba Nyamwasa. Rwanda denies any role.

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  • Another Burundian Govt official named in FDLR racket

    The husband of Burundi’s police chief, Brig Gen Générose Ngendanganya, is the latest Burundian official to be named as facilitating the activities of the Rwandan FDLR rebels, The Chronicles can reveal. Mr. Nepomuscene Masirika, a senior official with the Burundian disarmament commission, is the contact person of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in Burundi. Through Burundi, the rebels are able to transit their minerals to the international markets. The Burundi route is also used for provision of supplies including arms.

    Details about Masirika’s collaboration with the FDLR rebels are published in the latest UN investigation on armed groups in the region which was submitted to the Security Council December 30. But it was difficult for the UN panel to find hard incriminating evidence.
    “While, according to diplomatic and political sources, Masirika continues to be in contact with FDLR, the Group has not been able to verify any concrete material support between him and the Rwandan rebels,” says the report.

    Masirika is apparently a former senior officer in the Rwandan ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana’s government. It is not clear if he is Rwandan or Burundian, and no details are available on the history of his marriage to Burundi’s top police officer. Masirika uses the false name of François Niyibitanga in Burundi, according to the report.

    When contacted about the new revelations, Burundi’s envoy in Kigali, Amb. Remy Sinkazi said he was even unaware about the UN report. “I need to read the report first, consult with my government and then get back to you,” said Sinkazi in a phone interview with The Chronicles on Friday. What is clear is that his wife Brig Gen Générose Ngendanganya was a senior commander in the CNDD-FDD rebel group of current Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza. Since Nkurunziza came to power in 2005, she has held senior security-related positions.

    Masirika is the second official in President Nkurunziza’s government to be linked to the Rwandan rebels. In 2009, the same UN panel named General Adolphe Nshimirimana, Burundi’s intelligence chief as providing logistical support to the FDLR. Nshimirimana and the Burundian government vehemently denied the allegations. As indication that relations have never been better, several Rwandan dissidents have been rounded up in Burundi and handed to Kigali without any due process of the law. Notable among them is jailed opposition politician Deogratias Mushyayidi.

    President Kagame and his Burundian counterpart remain very close, at least from the regular visits each pays the other.

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  • EALA seeks amendment of EAC treaty to enable universal suffrage

    The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has proposed the amendment of article 50 of the EAC Treaty to allow members of the regional assembly to be elected by the electorates instead of national parliaments.
    The five East African countries will start applying uniform rules and procedures for electing members to the regional House from next year if the heads of states approve the proposal. The proponents of the amendment say it avoids recent expensive legal suits. EALA members said the move was aimed at increasing people’s participation in the regional law making body. The Assembly has since last week been meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi.

    Currently, nine members of the EALA are selected from each national parliament of the five EAC member states. The proposed law, which aimed at reducing the influence of the national parliaments in the affairs of the regional assembly, has also fixed the EALA term at five years and introduced the 30 per cent gender rule for its membership.

    The regional MPs currently enjoy a five year term but EALA itself has had no definite life span or guideline on replacement of old members, a lapse that has often led to longer recess periods. The bill proposes 90 days as the maximum period within which the national parliaments must replace EALA’s retiring or outgoing members.

    EALA Speaker, Mr Abdirahin Abdi, said in the House on Friday last week that already the Assembly had submitted its proposals to the EAC Council of Ministers for a decision. “The Assembly is of opinion that members of EALA should be elected by the people in their respective countries.

    But the decision to amend the treaty is in the hands of the Council of Ministers,” he said. The proposals were submitted last year.
    Meanwhile, the Assembly has been informed that plans are underway to upgrade the troubled EAC passports from regional to international status.
    Starting 2012, the passports will be printed on a wider scale and will operate within the whole region, alongside the national passports but the internationalisation of the same could be before the end of next year, the EAC Parliament heard last week.

    Addressing the EA Legislative Assembly plenary session, the chairman of the EA Council of Ministers, who doubles as the Burundian EA Affairs Minister, Ms Hasfa Mosi, did not offer a definitive month when the passports would start operating beyond the region. “The task force made the case studies from Belgium and Italy and found no legal requirements to internationalise the EA passports,” she said.

    The process started in 2005 with the council of ministers directing the secretariat to work out a way of internationalising it, and a task force of immigration experts was also put in place to design it with security features but later stalled as they waited for Rwanda and Burundi to include their security features. Also known as the new-generation passport, it will appear in Diplomatic, Service and Ordinary categories.

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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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