The German Foreign Minister recently visited Africa and described Rwanda as an “anchor for stability”. On the contrary, the true characterization of President Paul Kagame’s ruling clique is that the last 20 years have been a reign of terror with a distorted and deceptive narrative that criminalizes and marginalizes Hutus in particular and all his opponents in general.
German lessons for an unstable and destabilizing Paul Kagame regime
An open letter to the German Foreign Minister
Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Federal Republic of Germany
WERDERSCHER MARKT 1
Dear Honorable Dr. Steinmeier,
You have just concluded a trip to Africa that took you and your large delegation to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Kenya in search of partners for Germany. You were quoted on 23 February 2015 by Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, as saying that Berlin was interested in African countries that foster regional stability. You were further quoted as saying that “Rwanda is such an anchor of stability, despite its deficit in democratic governance, and its tense relationship with its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo”.
As an African and a citizen of Rwanda, I do have a profound obligation and responsibility to convey to you, your government and the German people my concerns regarding Germany’s relationship with Rwanda based on a false characterization.
The true characterization of President Paul Kagame’s ruling clique is that the last 20 years have been a reign of terror with a distorted and deceptive narrative that criminalizes and marginalizes Hutu in particular and all his opponents in general; over- reliance on violence and war-making nationally and regionally; “Tutsi-fication” of the leadership of the military and all security institutions while eliminating imaginary competitors; transformation of the ruling RPF into a rubber stamp to enforce his will while eliminating real or perceived contenders to power; usurping and over-centralization of legislative, executive and judiciary powers; complete closure of space for political parties, civil society, independent media and intellectual activity; personal control of a financial empire that is spread across public and private sectors; and, a mindset of a serial killer and mass murderer who relentlessly acts with impunity against all Rwandans and citizens on neighboring countries,, especially in the Democratic republic of Congo.
Therefore, what you described lightly in passing as a “deficit in democratic governance” and “tense relationship with a neighbor” constitute the very essence of a dictatorial regime that is undemocratic domestically, and belligerent towards its neighbors in the Great Lakes region. Such an undemocratic and belligerent regime is inherently unstable, and, as history shows, a negative force that destabilizes the region.
As a German citizen and distinguished leader, you are familiar with German society in history. It is a society that has contributed enormously to human civilization in culture, philosophy, theology, science, technology and almost every human endeavor, especially the very idea of human freedom. Germany has produced Beethoven, Mozart, Kant, Goethe, Hegel, Marx, and thousands of other eminent minds that have shaped our world as we know it.
Yet, the same society that has given so much to the world has also produced destructive wars and distorted minds in the likes of Hitler, Goring, Goebbels, Himmler, Ribbentrop and all other architects of Nazi Germany. I believe that in your life you have had to ask yourself how society in general, and individual human beings, could be both destructive and constructive, a force for good and a force for evil. These are questions that Germans had to deal with in a post-WWII divided Germany. It is the quest for answers to these questions that ultimately enabled Germany to be re-united, and to build a strong, prosperous, peaceful and democratic society.
Rwandans may be poor but they too think about such things as freedom, democracy, institutions, peace and shared prosperity. Since the 1994 genocide that affected every Rwandan living and unborn, Rwanda under President Paul Kagame remains unwilling to confront a difficult legacy and to find answers that respond to the needs of a whole society in an enduring way. This is both dangerous and unsustainable, making Rwanda both unstable and destabilizing to its neighbors.
Here are seven German lessons with universal significance that you may consider as you grapple with a decision to invest Germany’s economic, political and diplomatic capital:
First, unity of the people is where the strength is. Although Kagame might be tempted to compare himself to Otto Von Bismarck, often described as the “iron chancellor” who united warring principalities into one strong Germany, the comparison stops at the “iron’ characterization. Bismarck united a people and built lasting institutions. Kagame divides people and usurps the power of institutions.
Second, wars of choice, whether to colonize, gain territory, loot, or create an ill-conceived utopian society have limitations and are profoundly destabilizing. Germany lost the First World War and the Second World War with consequences that impoverished and destabilized not only German society but also the whole world. Rwanda is not an island; it is situated in a volatile region. Paul Kagame’s actions have had disastrous consequences beyond Rwanda’s borders.
Third, the conclusion of wars in which victors determine a new narrative, and dictate the terms of peace, can indeed be temporary and illusory, creating conditions for the next round of deadly conflict. Such was the condition of Germany during the inter-war years (1918-1939). The victors imposed what Germans felt were harsh conditions. Hitler and the Nazi party rose on the wave of this growing discontent and frustration, and ended up imposing on German society and mankind the highest cost ever in human history. Paul Kagame rose in conditions of national tragedy and international abandonment. He now has absolute powers, with a party and security institutions to support his unquenchable thirst for power at home, and adventures within the region. There is a build-up for new rounds of conflict that will make previous ones look like a picnic.
Fourth, appeasement does not work. You recall that as Europe accelerated to WWII, European leaders scrambled to appease Hitler, in the hope that they will dissuade him from a war course. While then U.K. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain will be always be remembered for appeasing Hitler in Munich, in the 21st Century it is Kagame in Kigali who is frequently appeased by every who is who among Western powers and their multilateral institutions: USA, U.K., France, Belgium, Germany, IMF, World Bank, etc. None of this appeasement will dissuade Kagame from his course to entrench himself using constitutional or un-constitutional means, or venturing into open or proxy wars of plunder in the region.
Fifth, occasionally war becomes necessary and inevitable because it is just, and every people or nation have to choose on which side they will fight. Italy’s Mussolini and Imperial Japan chose to fight on Hitler’s side. There are many brave Germans who resisted the Nazi regime and perished. The British, French, Americans, Russians and many millions around the world joined hands to resist, fight, and defeat Hitler and his Nazi regime. One man can cause evil; it may take hands of many to resist and defeat this evil. On what side is Germany and other Western powers? On the side of dictatorship or on the side of Rwandan people in their struggle for freedom, justice, democracy, peace and shared prosperity?
Sixth, post-WWII Germany, divided and destroyed, was built by Germans themselves, and helped by others from whom it had to learn and obtain critical support, as in the Marshall Plan. The greatest innovation and ingenuity of Germans, however, was to re-organize German society to immunize it against dictatorship and aggression, on the basis of the rule of law, democracy, institutions, economic progress and partnership with neighbors. It is this soft power as a force for good that has sculpted a strong German society from the ruins of WWII.
Seventh, and finally, as the great German thinker Johan Wolfgang von Goethe once famously said, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Rwandans know that they are not free. The Kagame regime tells Rwandans and the world that they are free. There are some in the world at large who either agree with this falsehood, or simply think and act as if it does not matter probably because these are Rwandans or mere Africans. I sincerely hope you are not one of them.
Rwandans and Africans are looking for partners, based on mutual respect and dignity, to build free, united, democratic, prosperous and peaceful societies. The Kagame regime has failed to do first things first. Instead of anchoring development on basic freedoms, institutions and democracy, it pushes for a Hitler-like economic progress, financed and extoled in large part by Western donors. Rwanda’s socio-economic experiment is a bubble waiting to blow up in the near future. German investors are better off not investing in such a sham scheme.
Please accept, Honorable Dr. Steinmeier, my highest considerations.
* Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa is Coordinator, Rwanda National Congress (RNC), Washington D.C., USA. E-mail: [email protected]
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