It is remarkable that the Rwandan president’s own wife has already understood the dangers of criminalizing a whole population group. In her own speech in the same event, she emphasized that criminal responsibility was individual and “every knee will have to kneel for itself”.
It has almost become a tradition in his improvised speeches to hear Rwandan president Paul Kagame spit his anger and express his contempt for Western donors and other foreigner s who do not share his peculiar ideas about governance and political freedom. He does not miss any opportunity to slam what he calls their attempts to give him lessons, while he has no lesson to receive from anybody. We have heard many insults and derogatory words, but an outright threat to “hit” the president of a sovereign neighbouring nation, this is something even those who know him for a long period would not easily had predicted. On Sunday June 30, in a speech to the “youth connect” meeting convened by the Ministry of Youth together with his wife’s own Imbuto foundation, Paul Kagame threatened Tanzanian President Kikwete in unmistakable terms that he will wait for him at the right place and hit him, in response to the latter’s suggestion that Kagame initiate talks with the armed Hutu opposition FDLR.
“And those whom you recently heard speaking for the Interahamwe and FDLR, saying that we should negotiate with them. Negotiate with them? As for me, I do not even argue about this issue because I will wait for you at the right place and I will hit you!! I really did not… I didn’t even reply to him, I never arg… uh… it is known, there is a line you can’t cross. There is a line, there is a line that should never be crossed. Not once. It’s impossible!!…”
From these words pronounced partly in his hallmark unstructured Kinyarwanda mixed with English, Kagame made clear that he is still deeply angered by the mere suggestion to engage in talks with political opponents. That is why he vowed to wait for the right opportunity to strike back at Tanzanian President. It is unheard of in world diplomacy, to see a head of state threatening to hit another head of state of a sovereign nation in time of peace.
This threat should be taken seriously. Kagame has already proven in the past that he is able to strike his adversaries and silence them. Whether fellow presidents or his own (former) trusted collaborators, his prowess in murdering those he thinks are his enemies would not shy from a comparison with L. Sulla’s famous bragging. Melchior Ndadaye, Juvénal Habyarimana, Cyprien Ntaryamira, Laurent-Desiré Kabila are all heads of states in whose assassination he has allegedly had a hand. Théoneste Lizinde and Seth Sendashonga, are former collaborators eliminated in covert operations from afar. The last known feat in this series is the failed assassination of his former army chief of staff Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who survived a shooting in Johannesburg, South Africa. The lesser known cases of eliminated military officers who had knowledge of damaging secrets of his cruelty or could become rivals for power in the military, is no less impressive.
The grudge against Kikwete has other sources as well. Kagame’s big ego does not suffer being second to anybody. Being overshadowed by Kikwete as the most visible leader in the region is an additional source of personal resentment towards the charismatic Tanzanian President who, in less than a year, has been honoured by the official visits of the presidents of the two most powerful nations in the world. The recent attempt by Kagame, Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta to bypass Kikwete and meet in Entebbe without him underscores a rampant feeling of discomfort at the growing strategic importance of Tanzania in the region.
Tanzania’s resolve to play its full role in restoring peace in the region has borne him many enemies among the neighbours who most benefit from the chaos they have helped perpetuate in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Uganda and Rwanda will namely be the losers if peace returns in the region because violence has long been their cover and their opportunity to loot Congolese resources. But whether they like it or not, Kagame and Kaguta will have to understand that time for peace has now come.
Kagame doesn’t seem to notice the changing circumstances however. In his self-righteousness, he said in the same speech that he was the paramount example of tolerance because he accepts to live in the same country with an ethnical group of genocidaires. He said that allowing Hutus to stay alive is the biggest political space he could think of, anywhere in the world. He urged the Hutus, even those who were not born at the time of the mass slaughters of 1994 to repent and ask forgiveness on behalf of their ethnical group (Suddenly. There are ethnical groups in Rwanda again!). He made them understand that they owed their lives to him because his soldiers would have slaughtered the entire Hutu population that he characterizes as a genocidaire ethnical group, was it not for his magnanimity that forced him to stop the RPA soldiers. In return for RPF soldiers not slaughtering all Hutus, he urges them to bear the burden of perpetual guilt, because, according to him, crimes were committed on their behalf.
It is remarkable that the Rwandan president’s own wife has already understood the dangers of criminalizing a whole population group. In her own speech in the same event, she emphasized that criminal responsibility was individual and “every knee will have to kneel for itself”. She underlined the importance of liberating the youth from the burden of event in which they did not take part. When Kagame’s own wife starts signaling that she has understood the dangers of his principal political principle (criminalizing all Hutus), the peace in the region can’t continue to be held up by just one individual.
This is what Tanzania has understood much earlier. But Kikwete also knows that those who sow chaos in order to harvest in violence will not easily give up their booty. By accepting to step in, to make his voice for peace heard, Tanzanian President Kikwete knew there was a price. It is now up to the entire population of the region (Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and obviously Tanzania) to step in and stand with President Kikwete, ensure his protection and denounce any attempt to threaten his physical integrity.
Dr Alexis Habiyaremye