Paul Kagame is the president of Rwanda. Time and again, he has been linked to assassination attempts on the country’s opposition politicians. But again this is a man who Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister is supporting for introducing good governance. The question is, has Blair been tricked into believing that Kagame is free from corruption and not guilty of political intimidation? Apparently, Kagame seems to have surrounded himself with a lethal secret service apparatus that have been accused of doing his dirty work.
Tony Blair’s good governance initiative is not only in Rwanda, but also present in Sierra Leone and recently introduced in Liberia. But unlike his Rwandan counterpart, the Sierra Leone president does not engage in political intimidation of opposition politicians. And the press in Sierra Leone enjoys unprecedented media freedom. The Sierra Leone leader is a fine example of a true statesman who enjoys worldwide acclaim for his commitment to good governance.
The differences between the two leaders are apparent. As one engages ruthless determination to quash any opposition to his barbaric rule and the other entertains opposition to improve on his credentials. Rwanda as a country, has suffered in the hands of those it entrusts with the mantle of running its state. And the people have been let down and have suffered the indignities of being treated as second class citizens by its own leaders. Millions have been killed in the quest for tribal domination, where one tribe engages in ethnic cleansing to wipe out any trace or existence of the other.
Recently, it has been revealed that Foreign security operatives were involved in the shooting of a Rwandan military officer in Johannesburg, South Africa’s foreign ministry has said. Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa was wounded outside his house last month. He had fled to South Africa earlier this year after falling out with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. Rwanda has denied accusations it tried to assassinate Lt Gen Nyamwasa. Four people have been charged with his attempted murder. They are reportedly from Tanzania, Somalia and Mozambique. “It also involves a country with which we have good and strong diplomatic relations,” foreign ministry official Ayanda Ntsaluba said, refusing to name the country involved. His wife, Rosette, said a lone gunman approached the car after the couple returned to their house from a shopping trip on Saturday 19 June. The gunman told the driver of their car to allow space so he could aim at Lt Gen Nyamwasa, she said.
Rwanda had asked South Africa to extradite both Lt Gen Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegeya, a former colonel in the Rwandan army also living in exile in South Africa. Lt Gen Nyamwasa is accused of being behind grenade attacks in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, earlier this year in which more than 30 people were injured and one person was killed. Mr Ntsaluba said the general, who has denied the grenade allegations, was seeking asylum in South Africa. “This matter involves security operatives and an attack on a person who has gone through the correct legal channels to seek asylum in South Africa,” the foreign ministry’s director general said.
A week ago, Rwandan journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage, who had been investigating the general’s case, was shot dead outside his home in Kigali. The Rwandan authorities say that two men have been arrested for that attack, which they say was a revenge killing, denying reports it was linked to the exiled general. Since arriving in South Africa, Lt Gen Nyamwasa has accused Rwanda’s leader of corruption charges Mr Kagame denies.
There have been several recent defections from the military ahead of elections due in August. Lt Gen Nyamwasa played an important role in the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Mr Kagame, which put a stop to the 1994 genocide and which is now in power. But France and Spain have issued arrest warrants against Mr Nyamwasa for his alleged role in killings in the lead-up to and during the genocide, along with other senior RPF figures.
Mr Kagame is viewed by many in the West as one of Africa’s more dynamic leaders. However critics have raised concerns about his more authoritarian tendencies and the government has recently been accused of harassing the opposition ahead of the elections. It seems there are serious lessons the Rwandan leader can learn from his Sierra Leonean counterpart, who seems to believe that good governance can only be achieved by a free press; free from any political interference, and that opposition politicians should be given a free hand in subjecting the government to accountability and criticism, albeit through the constitutional framework of the law. Although the country’s opposition SLPP party chairman, John Oponjo Benjamin, has flouted this principle time and again by holding personal-vendetta-ochestrated press conferences to voice his opinion about government policies instead of going through the legitimate parliamentary procedures, this has not limited the general freedom of expression atmosphere that exists in the country.
Rwanda need to move on and shed its devastating past and embrace a future that embodies freedom, respect and dignity for all its people. And those who are presently engaged in running the country, should hang their heads in shame as they once more subject their people to the horrors of oppression, albeit in a different way.
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