THE LAST WORD | Andrew Mwenda | Diane Rwigara has been lionised by sections of the Western media and its cheerleaders in our region. She is the lady who announced her intention to run against President Paul Kagame in the August presidential election. Unfortunately for Rwanda but certainly fortunately for Rwigara, she failed to raise the necessary signatures to become a presidential candidate and instead decided to forge them.
In spite of that, sections of the Western press begun to claim that she was the strongest candidate against Kagame. They even suggested that the electoral outcome would have been different if she had been allowed to run.
It is very hard to avoid extreme frustration with most reporting on Rwanda, especially when you have been close to that nation’s society and politics. The combination of extreme ignorance and overt prejudice that informs media reports, academic studies and international (read Western) human rights reports in blinding. How can this small and poor country attract this attention far in excess of her geopolitical weight and value? We can speculate later.
Sometimes I suspect it is because Western world cannot accept an African success story that is not made and defined in Paris, Brussels, Washington and London. Rwanda has defined herself. At every twist and turn, it has kept a tight control over her destiny. When it faced genocide, it ended it by itself. When it faced a collapsed state and economy, it pulled itself up by its own bootstraps. It seems some feel this example should not be allowed to hold.
It is in this context that we need to understand the obsession with Ms Rwigara. She is a daughter of Assinapole Rwigara, a Tutsi businessman who made a fortune under the Hutu extremist government of President Juvenal Habyarimana. This is a government that practiced apartheid against the Tutsi, whom it later tried to exterminate in the swiftest genocide in history. Apparently, Habyarimana enriched a few Tutsis businessmen, knowing that being a marginalised and demonised minority, they could not threaten his power. Rwigara was one of the beneficiaries.
Consequently, many Tutsis inside the country and in exile suffering under the yoke of this cruel government looked at Rwigara as a traitor who had sold himself to their tormentor for a fortune. To many Hutus, he was an opportunist who should not have been allowed to prosper. Thus, when the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) launched its armed struggle in 1990, Hutu extremists sought to settle scores with him. Realising that his position was untenable, Rwigara fled the country and now began to support the RPF.
To many Tutsis who knew him, he was an opportunist who had profited from an oppressive government; and only ran away when his honeymoon with their tormentors ended. To many Hutus, he was a traitor who ran away and was using his fortune to finance a revolution that sought to overthrow a system that had enriched him. It is in these circumstances that the genocide was incubated and took place.
Inside Rwanda, every Tutsi (and many Hutus) suffered extreme person loss. Tutsis watched their parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunties, grand parents, – every member of their immediate and extended family – being slaughtered. Some witnessed their mothers, daughters, aunties and sisters raped in front of them. It is impossible to find a single Tutsi family without the scars of this genocide, gruesome memories they have to live with forever.