Recently, a Rwandan opposition political leader returned home after 16 years outside of the country. She is the first woman to attempt a run at the presidency of Rwanda. Upon landing at the Kigali Airport, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza headed to the genocide memorial at Gisozi. During an interview with a member of the media, she expressed words that virtually every Rwandan living inside Rwanda is too terrified to utter. She said that the memorial shows the genocide committed against Tutsis in Rwanda but leaves out massacres committed against Hutus. In Rwanda, it is a cardinal sin to mix these two issues. The issue of genocide against Tutsi’s is well acknowledged and is a reminder of Rwanda’s dark past. What is intriguing is that it is sacrilege to acknowledge that there were crimes against humanity and massacres committed against Hutus. The major issue with these crimes against humanity is that they were committed by the RPF (Rwanda’s current ruling party) as Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations have pointed out time and time again. The big issue with Ms. Umuhoza’s speech is that she is telling an “inconvenient truth”.
As soon as Umuhoza made these comments, government newspapers such as New Times, government officials, other government sponsored media organizations, and several genocide survivor organizations went on a full blown attack against the politician and called for her prosecution on charges of divisionism and genocide denial. The question here is this: how does saying that Hutu’s were killed deny that Tutsi’s were killed? How does saying that Americans were killed in the recent earthquake in Haiti deny that Haitians were killed? This genocide denial charge and divisionism are crimes that the Rwandan government added to the tiny country’s laws in order to muzzle opposition and to silence any voices of dissent. It was predictable that Ms. Umuhoza would face such talk and it is conceivable that she may have to answer to these charges in court. This will be Rwanda’s way of blocking her candidacy to the presidency as she poses a real threat to actually win Rwanda’s upcoming elections if they are held in a free and fair manner. President Paul Kagame and his cronies will stop at nothing in order to retain power in Rwanda. However, saying that Hutu’s were killed is far from saying that genocide did not take place in Rwanda.
It remains to be seen whether Umuhoza’s party will be allowed to function inside Rwanda. There are virtually no opposition parties in Rwanda. The country is essentially a one party state that is run similar to many of the former communist countries in terms of governance. Last year, an opposition party; Social Party – Imberakuri (PSI) was allowed to function in Rwanda. This major landmark in Rwanda’s political sphere has produced numerous appearances by PSI’s leader Bernard Ntaganda before the Rwandan Senate to answer to charges of divisionism. They are threatening to suspend his party from the country’s political scene. The Green Party has attempted to formally register and been denied time after time. The Green Party’s gatherings have been characterized by attacks and beatings of it’s members and leaders by Rwandan government forces. With outrage of unfounded claims of divisionism and genocide denial, Rwanda’s muzzling of opposition and voices of dissent, Umuhoza’s party have an insurmountable task on their hands to get the party officially registered. In the end, Rwanda is proving what many have said for years that opposition and disagreement with the government is met with zero tolerance. Freedom of speech, a fundamental right was dead long ago.