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Rwanda is often highlighted globally for its large numbers of women in elective politics. But those are women who only sing Paul Kagame’s praises. Dianne Rwigara and Victoire Ingabire are different. They have exposed the inhuman, fearful and anti-African character of Kagame and his regime. These fearless freedom fighters challenge Rwandans and Africans to resist despots and their foreign backers.

If President Kagame ever sought the help of a psychotherapist he would present with a history of sleeplessness, little appetite for food, a tendency to turn violent, an inclination to hide most of the truth about his victims, an exaggerated estimate about his accomplishments and an aggressive appetite for being celebrated as the sole hero and architect of a Rwanda he thinks he has modernized. A patient and investigative psychotherapist would note, however, that his patient is evasive, revealing much by what he does not say than what he says. The psychotherapist would note Kagame’s thin structure in luxurious attire, an absent-mindedness, delusions of grandeur, an obsessive paranoia that drives him to chase to death, jail or exile his perceived enemies, and a strange desire to get a kick out of dehumanizing them.

Nothing demonstrates Kagame’s inhuman character and total disregard for the life and dignity of Rwandan citizens more than his treatment of two young Rwandan women leaders, Dianne Rwigara and Victoire Ingabire.  Rwigara, like Kagame, is Tutsi. Her father, the late Assinapol Rwigara, was among one of the earliest financial supporters of the rebel Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) that carried Kagame into the costly military victory of 1994. He was assassinated on Kagame’s orders in 2015. Ingabire is Hutu.

Ingabire and Rwigara attracted Kagame’s wrath simply by declaring their intentions to run in Rwanda’s sham Presidential elections of 2010 and 2017. In both elections, Kagame run unopposed, receiving votes he precisely wanted: 93% and 99% respectively.  Ingabire has been in jail since 2010 on trumped-up charges of revisionism, genocide ideology and supporting armed rebellion against Kagame’s regime.  Rwigara, her mother, and siblings have recently been detained, their property destroyed or confiscated, in a very shameful and blatant display of Kagame’s inhuman behavior.

One wonders then why a much beloved ruler who nearly gets perfect votes would be so angry, vengeful and violent. The answer is inherent in this previous statement.  Kagame has never been loved by either Tutsi or Hutu. Tutsi feared him as he rode on the wave of an armed refugee movement against Rwanda’s internal brutal dictatorship amid Hutu factionalism. Some Hutu who were marginalized by the Habyarimana regime tolerated him for a while, only to lose faith in him as one who would unify, heal, and build an inclusive political dispensation.  

The price for Kagame and a small band of Tutsi officers capturing state power in 1994 has been staggering in terms of lives lost. The violent capture of state power by Tutsi elite ended a relatively short interlude of 32 years of a Hutu elite effectively in power, in a centuries-old history of Tutsi monarchs in power. Both Tutsi and Hutu have suffered genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. While some Hutu’s who were responsible for the crime of genocide have been prosecuted and punished, Kagame and his band of Tutsi officers who committed similar crimes against Hutu remain untouched and untouchable.

Kagame rules with fear, impunity, exceptional brutality, and deception. From the jungles of Luwero Triangle in Uganda in the 1980s, he learned the craft of unleashing terror on populations. From the 1990’s his conquests in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have emboldened him to master the art of dictatorship through a portent blend of coercion and deception, killing, and assassinations without minding about the obligation to account for his actions.

In this, he is assisted by a fearful Rwandan society, a predominantly sectarian elite in opposition, and silence among the ruling elites across Africa. Above all, he is assisted by the enormous overt and covert aid that the United States and the United Kingdom Governments have generously provided since Kagame came to power.

Rwandan society has paid a very heavy price in three violent transitions since 1959, namely, from monarchy and colonialism to independence, the overthrow of the Kayibanda regime in 1973, and the overthrow of the Habyarimana regime in 1994. The disruption, destruction, and human cost of genocide have left many exhausted, polarized, submissive, and fearful of any change that promises much and yet does not redress the root causes of dictatorship and violent conflict.

To whip emotions of Pan-Africanism, Kagame will, once in a while, castigate the West and call Africans to unite, if possible under him. His Pan-African rhetoric has paid him handsomely. He is now the President of the African Union.  Nineteen African rulers were in Kigali to pay homage to him as Kagame crowned himself president-for-life on 18th August, 2017. African rulers could not have forgotten so soon that Kagame has inflicted more damage on Africans in the Great Lakes region than Presidents Idi Amin and Sese Seko Mobutu.

Dianne Rwigara and Victoire Ingabire have exposed the inhuman, fearful, and anti-African character of Kagame and his regime. These women leaders are fearless freedom fighters whose struggle is part and parcel of the Pan-African struggle. Their actions beckon us Rwandans and Africans to resist local despots and their foreign backers.

* DR. THEOGENE RUDASINGWA is a former Ambassador of Rwanda to the United States and served as Paul Kagame’s Chief of Staff. Contact: ngombwa@gmail.com

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