Progressive and regressive policies plague Rwanda’s government
President Paul Kagame has made significant advancements in his native Rwanda, since he was elected over a decade ago. The government’s devotion to transparency, exemplified by their providing of detailed budget reports, has been most impressive when dealing with international aid.
Many foreign governments and charities working with the Rwandan cause have been so enamored with the government’s work that they have agreed to inflate their total contributions. Most of the international support has been left directly in the hands of Kagame and his ruling party – the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
In 1994, commonly referred to as year zero, more than 800,000 ethnic Hutus and Tutsis were systematically killed in what has become one of the most publicized genocides in recent times. However, since year zero, Rwanda’s emphasis on domestic issues has allowed it to become one of the most successful nations in the region.
Kagame has faired reasonably well in terms of foreign policy. The country has been commended by the international community for the contribution of Rwandan troops in peacekeeping details in the Sudanese province of Darfur.
Further, Rwanda has experienced an ease of tensions with France. As Rwanda’s closest western ally, France was harshly criticized for their shameful inaction during the genocide. In turn, France has refused to drop charges against several members of Kagame’s party, blamed for shooting down former President Juvénal Habyarimana, the event that was the catalyst for the country’s genocide. However, with increased trade and diplomatic ties with France, Rwandan authorities have stated that the two nations have reached an undoubted time of reconciliation.
While the RPF has made substantial progress, the international community has indeed witnessed several actions of a regressive nature. The RPF has yet to take responsibility for the killings of thousands of civilians after the genocide and for carnage that ensued in Congo in pursuance of the “génocidaires” who sought asylum.
With an election pending this August, Rwandans have experienced a stifling of political freedoms. As of late, a criticism of political candidates or parties has become a forthright justification for incarceration.
As well, many new and popular opposition parties have been barred from registering while other party leaders have claimed that the government has encouraged civilians to assault them.
In the 2003 general election, the RPF successfully captured 95 per cent of the vote. All evidence today suggests that Kagame is aiming to break his preexisting record. His recent strategies have included stifling all manners of “plural politics” which, from the government’s perspective, “led to mass killings” in 1994.
As the Kagame government is recognized as the legitimate governing body, it becomes a delicate struggle, as many nations, including Canada, do not wish to undermine Kagame’s authority as head of state.
With extensive experience in the field of post conflict reconstruction, Wilfrid Laurier University professor Alistair Edgar observed that “you must quietly encourage proper structures of democracy by using the power of persuasion.”
Edgar believes that Kagame and many of his ministers are still “seeking political legitimacy; they just have to work on good habits.” Edgar added that, “Kagame is a very careful and calculated leader.”