In yet another expensive ritual, 1930 delegates of the ruling party RPF, from all over the country were invited to endorse Paul Kagame as their candidate, in the forthcoming so called presidential elections. In a country hit by famine which has forced thousands to flee to neighbouring countries in search of food, it was great relief and privilege for congregation from the hinterland to forget their plight for a couple of days and enjoy the luxuries of the capital in the modern newly built RPF Party headquarters. On June 17, 20017, The delegates paid back by unanimously endorsing their benefactor, who received 1929 out of the 1930 votes as one vote was nullified. According to Andrew Mwenda, who claims to be a confidant of President Kagame and the first lady said that President Kagame revealed to him that the vote which was annulled was his. https://www.independent.co.ug/kagame-unbelievable-truth/. This means that President Kagame instinctively feels indeed that he does not deserve to lead the country but lacks the courage to step down.
As the opposition political platform, composed of Amahoro PC, FDU-Inkingi, PDP-Imanzi, PS Imberakuri and RNC, has already pointed out, the cost of the two rituals i.e. the endorsement of the ruling party candidate and the forthcoming presidential elections exercise is a total waste of resources and a mockery of democracy and indeed an offence to human intelligence. The elections are just to confirm what people are alleged to have expressed in a flawed referendum designed and pushed by the ruling party to keep General Paul Kagame in power. Indeed, in his new year message 2016, President Kagame declared that he had accepted to lead the country in the following seven years, meaning that the so-called August 2017 presidential elections were a mere formality.
The electoral commission has now gone further to remove anyone who might seriously reduce the number of votes for President Kagame by refusing to accept four presidential candidates who are credible challengers to Paul Kagame. The four candidates rejected include the sole woman candidate, Ms Rwigara Nshimiyimana Diane. Yet this is the country that boasts of being the best in the world in empowering women. Another lady who dared challenge President Kagame in 2010 elections, Mrs Ingabire Umuhoza Victoire, is now serving a 15-year sentence.
In his acceptance speech to the ruling party, President Kagame said that he never wanted to be President and that he has never developed an appetite to be President. He said, “I never get used to it “because “I never wanted this position in the first place”. He also pointed that in the last referendum he accepted to stand again because the pressure of those who wanted him to leave power, which included himself, was “less informed and meaningless”. He then promised to reduce the factors that force the people to ask him to stay on. He subtly showed his preference for a young person to replace him something that might not have gone well with the old guard who might have felt that they were in line for succession, but all the same is a nice bait for the young people who constitute the majority which he needs.
This is of course a disingenuous lie. President Kagame is well known for loving power and being intolerant of any challenger to his throne. He is also notorious for not respecting his word. All those among his former comrades in arms who disagreed with him or were presumed to be a threat to his authority are either in prison, in exile or dead. Key among his former comrades who fell out with him include: General Kayumba Nyamwasa former chief staff, who has escaped three assassination attempts and Colonel Patrick Karegeya, who was strangled in South Africa. Key opposition leaders including Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and Deo Mushayidi are in prison after show trials like those of Stalinist Russia.
Furthermore, it is public knowledge that General Paul Kagame foiled the implementation of the Arusha Peace Agreement signed with the former government of President Habyarimana in 1993 because he stood little chance of getting the top job in a broad-based government with an apolitical army. Following his military victory in July 1994, he created the post of Vice President which he combined with the Minister of Defence eyeing the post of President. After consolidating his power base in the country, he ousted the post genocide President Pasteur Bizimungu, in 2000 and sent him to prison.
His statements are a clear testimony that his word cannot be trusted. Here is a bit of what he said about his 3rd term: “There is no reason whatsoever to change the constitution, this is my last term”. “If there is no one to replace me by 2017, I will have failed”. “If they choose a bad leader that is what they deserve”. “It is my duty to ensure that we respect the constitution”. Those who compare me with other African leaders who cling on power “don’t know who I am” etc. If we went by his statements, he has failed as a leader; he has betrayed the constitution he swore to protect.
The prospects of another 17 years of the same political recipe: repression, political and social exclusion , extreme inequalities, gross violation of human rights marked by” arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture; harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; and restrictions on civil liberties; restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties, hence denying citizens the ability to change their government through free and fair elections” might lead to revolt like it has happened in Rwanda before and elsewhere.
The international community is letting down the Rwandans in supporting such a regime or just continuing to do business as usual with a regime hell bent to lead the country into another political violence. The Rwandan opposition platform is working hard to pre-empt such a potential tragedy and could succeed if the international community was willing to support the efforts.
Done in Ottawa on 29th June 2017