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Opinion: Harvard Platform is Justice for Kagame and Rwanda

The United States of America has urged the Burundian President Pierre Nkurunzinza to release 2000 political prisoners and lift ban on media.

A statement released by the Department of States on Wednesday also hailed the appointment of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa by the East African Community Heads of State Summit yesterday in Arusha to mediate the Burundi crisis dialogue replacing President Museveni of Uganda.

“The United States urges prompt action by the Government of Burundi to implement President Nkurunziza’s promise to release at least 2, buy prostate http://dejanmilutinovic.com/wp-admin/includes/class-wp-ms-themes-list-table.php 000 detainees. We also call upon the Government of Burundi to lift all restrictions on media, adiposity create conditions for citizens to safely express dissenting views, and drop charges against and release political opponents,” Part of the statement reads.

The EAC has been the forefront of resolving the internal conflict in Burundi since the beginning. The peace talks were taking place in Entebbe, Uganda facilitated by the regional block.

“We welcome the signs of intensified regional and international commitment to resolving the Burundi crisis. This includes the appointment of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the full-time facilitator for the regionally mediated dialogue and recent commitments by the Government of Burundi to the UN and African Union (AU) to release political prisoners and allow independent monitors,” the US added.

“The US also recognizes the AU High Level Delegation’s success in securing the Government of Burundi’s acceptance of 200 AU human rights and security observers, and we urge the government to allow these officials complete and free access to perform their duties by signing the memorandum of understanding associated with their deployment without delay.”

The Burundi crisis that erupted last year when Nkurunzinza decided to run for the third term in office has claimed over 400 lives according to human rights bodies and displaced hundreds of thousands to the neighboring countries.

The Super Power also wants immediate resumption of peace talks.

“The United States looks forward to the East African Community immediately announcing a date for the resumption of dialogue with all stakeholders, both those inside and outside the country.”
By Morrison Rwakakamba

On February 25th 2016, see http://dan.rabarts.com/wp-admin/includes/import.php The Harvard Crimson published an Op-Ed by Harvard Business School student Sacha Yabili titled “How Harvard Abdicates Its Moral Responsibility.” In the piece, order http://chopcult.com/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-icons/templates/images/secure.php Yabili chides Harvard for “rolling a red-carpet” for an African “dictator”— President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Sacha is the latest addition to an organized bevy of Kagame’s critics who keep repeating similar and possibly rehearsed accusations even when truth is spoken to them or purported ‘evidence’ of Kagame ‘crimes’ is deflated by truth.

While Paul Kagame admittedly may not be the “ideal” paragon of democracy, ed there seems to be a well-oiled conveyor belt that sustains lies against him.

This is why I consider it an act of justice and morality by Harvard to offer a platform for Kagame to tell his side of the story.

At the John F. Kennedy Forum, Kagame was put on the spot over a number of repeated allegations and he offered his point of view. He was amiable, thoughtful and respectful in his responses.

Quoting Belgian ‘Rwanda scholar’ Filip Reyntjens, Sacha Yabili talks of  “incontrovertible” facts that have emerged to corroborate Kagame’s alleged crimes. Reyntjens says Kagame is “probably the worst war criminal in office today.”

Never mind that Reyntjens’ basis for such a sweeping conclusion has no incontrovertible basis and is mere conjecture, probably driven by sentiments related to his own past history.

Reyntjens was a long-term senior advisor to former President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda. Habyarimana’s followers and lieutenants were accused by witnesses of plotting and executing an organized genocide that claimed over one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in one hundred days in 1994. Many have since been convicted. Where is the morality of “scholar” Reyntjens in all this?

Most commentary on Rwanda and Kagame bypasses context. Rarely do folks step on to the balcony and engage with complexity that Rwanda is.

The kind of balancing, re-negotiation of historical loyalties and restraint Kagame and his team have had to master in order to hold the country is of legion. Other countries should perhaps be learning from and not ridiculing them.

Yabili writes that in 2008, 40 Rwandan officers were prosecuted by the Spanish judge Fernando Andreu Merelles for “genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism.” It is important to note that prosecution is different from indictment.

Were 40 Rwandan officers prosecuted? Not at all. The highly publicized accusations against 40 military officials were found to be baseless by Spanish courts. In fact, Yabili, in standing for Harvard’s “veritas” (truth) academic integrity should have shared that the Spanish case was in fact an attempt by genocide sponsors to accuse the very group that put an end to it while world watched. Something akin to giving a platform to Nazis to accuse the Jews for planning the holocaust. Was this fact difficult for Yabili to present to the world or just too inconvenient for his set narrative?  What’s going on here?

Term limits

Moreover, the group that is popularly responsible for the killings in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the “Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda” (FDLR) – that executed the genocide before fleeing to DRC.

Yabili is not finished. He writes that “Kagame – de-facto leader of Rwanda since 1994 – has set an adverse precedent by pushing a constitutional reform that granted himself the opportunity to stay in power until 2034.”

Did Kagame hit the campaign trail to mobilize for this constitutional reform? No. Debate on term limits is mostly emotive and has many faces. For example, what Yabili calls “adverse precedent,” millions of Rwandans call favourable precedent – in fact, 98.3% of Rwandans said ‘yes’ to the constitutional amendment that would allow Kagame to run for another term.

In seeking to extend tenure for Kagame, Rwandans reflected on their own context and weighed the odds. They decided not to gamble their future on untested leaders — for now. Besides, what is moral about term limits when people have democratic rights to elect leaders they want?

What was the context and motivation of Americans when they allowed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to stay on a bit longer? Why would it be moral for Israel or United Kingdom not to have term limits and immoral for Rwanda to act in similar way?

Why are developmental states that are trying hard to uplift the lives of their people the very ones that are most viciously attacked? Are they being punished for defying “conventional wisdom” on how African countries are supposed to behave?

For example, Rwanda is one of the few countries that achieved all the MDGs and was just cited by the UN Human Development Index as having made the most progress worldwide in the last 25 years. But most important is that Rwandans believe President Kagame is a revolutionary leader with a mission that needs to be fulfilled irrespective of how long it takes.

Many continue to look at him not as a career politician but a guardian of Rwanda’s transformation and dignity.

Many continue to compare him with grand master Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore who reigned for 34 years. Just like it was moral for Harvard University to host Lee in 1967 and 2000, it was moral for Harvard to host Kagame in 2016.

Morrison Rwakakamba is a Ugandan HIID Merit Scholar & Mason Fellow in Public Policy Management, Harvard Kennedy School

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