(English) RWANDA: THE ILLEGITIMACY OF THE TRIAL OF VICTOIRE INGABIRE UMUHOZA CHAIR OF FDU-INKINGI

1. Introduction

The detention in Kigali since October 14, 2010 of Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Chair of FDU-INKINGI confirmed the Rwandan proverb that says that nobody can argue with one’s own undertaker. 1

In our press release published on June 19, 2011, we demonstrated the political reasons behind the sham lawsuit filed by the RPF against Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a mock trial, which opened in Kigali on June 20, 2011 and will resume on September 5, 2011 2.

The arrest of Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza for the alleged crimes was done under the draconian laws enacted by the regime to protect itself against any opposition. Theses laws cannot guarantee a fair justice as they emanate from a regime that took power through terror. They thus pose serious problems of legitimacy.

Indeed, what credibility should be given to a legislation that was enacted under pressure by a parliament that has its own legitimacy through a party-state, the RPF, which took power through a bloody military struggle? The question now is to know whether a judicial system that is controlled by one man, who cumulates all powers, albeit President of the Republic, can truly render justice, especially to the opponents of the regime against which the judiciary seems to have been tailored to counter.

In fact, the RPF has developed an arsenal of laws intended to overawe opponents 3. The RPF believes that Rwandans should abide by fear 4 rather than conviction, persuasion, as this is the case in civilized and democratic nations. It is curious, but revealing, that all these draconian laws, on divisionism (2002) and genocide ideology (2008) were enacted each time before an election. It is equally significant that all persons who claimed to the highest office (Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza in 2010, Dr. Theoneste Niyitegeka in 2003, Pasteur Bizimungu (1994-2000), have been convicted or charged in courts as if it was a crime of lese majesty to propose an alternative to the disastrous governance of the RPF.

Never in the history of Rwanda or Africa a sitting head of state dared as President Kagame did, to call his opponents by demeaning nicknames such as excreta (umwanda), worthless game cards (ibigarasha), useless, nothing, etc .5 A head of state has never been applauded in modern history by the parliament for having said that “when his regime decides to physically eliminate his opponents, it never misses the target.”

2. A gap between declarations and practice

In its preamble, paragraph 9, the Rwandan Constitution reaffirms the commitment of the legislator to the principles of human rights as they were defined by:

o the United Nations Charter of June 26, 1945

o the UN Convention of December 9, 1948 on the prevention and punishment of genocide,

o the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948

o the Convention against all Forms of Racial Discrimination of March 7, 1966

o the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of December 19, 1966

o the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of December 19, 1966

o the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women of  May 1, 1980

o the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of June 27, 1981 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child of November 20, 1989.

However, in practice, the regime that was set up by the RPF does just the opposite. Originated from an armed rebellion, the RPF regime never abandoned the methods it used in the bush. Moreover, it still manages to exploit the guilt plea of the West for their failure to intervene during the 1994 genocide as a smokescreen. 6

The declaration of human rights and citizen of August 26, 1789 expressly recognizes the principle of sovereignty: “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. Nobody may exercise authority which does not expressly emanate from that principle”.

A democratic decision can only be popular if it effectively and objectively benefits all. On the contrary, a decision by a government or state to ensure its own stability may well be legal but still be devoid of any democratic essence and legitimacy.

In a democracy, elected officials derive their legitimacy by virtue of their election. It is during free and transparent elections that the people delegate their power. Elected officials are accountable to the people who gave them mandate because the people are the only sovereign. However, this implies that said representatives should be chosen through free elections and that they do not do allegiance to an individual but to the sovereign people. This is not the case in Rwanda, despite what the current president of Rwanda says. The elections are not free. So are most of the officials elected by indirect suffrage smoothly eroded in favor of the regime or directly appointed by the Head of State, to whom they owe allegiance.

“Real” democracy guarantees fundamental freedoms, including: freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of the press, no arbitrary arrests, the existence of a judicial system based on fair laws, freely established by the people or their representatives.

A cursory reading of recent reports by Amnesty International 7 and Human Rights Watch 8 demonstrates that the situation is off the mark in Rwanda.

The Rwandan Constitution is indeed accompanied by binding of the organic laws, including the vague law on genocide ideology, designed to nip in the bud any criticism. According to Amnesty International, “human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents cannot publicly criticize the authorities. Those who dare to speak out are liable to prosecution and even imprisonment”.

 

3. An important contradiction within the system

The major problem is the conflict of interest of a legislative power whose many members are appointed (or sponsored) by the executive, whether for Members (article 76) or Senators (article 82). Yet, the Senate is responsible for the approval of organic laws (article 88), especially the law on candidates for the Presidency (article 103), the appointment of judges at the Supreme Court (article 144) and the High Court which has the grip on party discipline (article 149). The whole chain is well controlled and locked up in a pyramid by one man, the head of the Executive.

Concerning the law on elections, one can identify articles that deny political rights (article 9-10), articles that give way to any kind of abuses from the above (article 21-22-23.4-37) and articles that favor the ruling party whose draconian decisions are often confused with the Institutions of the State (article 71-73).

For an informed observer, the current situation of gross violation of fundamental freedoms of the individual is deliberate. Indeed, the democratic opposition in exile and legal experts had already criticized the draconian intentions of the draft Constitution and the resulting laws since February 2003. 9

The Rwandan Constitution was drafted in order to consolidate and legitimize the domination of power by the RPF in order to thwart any democratic opposition capable of challenging its hegemony. This is what President Kagame proudly called the “wall of law” during his weekly conference of February 9, 2010, a wall that would be difficult for the opposition to overcome before it can challenge him. 10

By reading the Rwandan Constitution one can see that this Constitution is far from being a set of rules for managing the power balance in which every citizen participates freely in the governance of their country. On the contrary, the Rwandan Constitution appears to be a program that sets out rules allowing only politicians currently holding power in Kigali to legitimize one’s self and reinforce each other.

Instead of considering the separation of powers that characterizes true democracy, the Constitution establishes an absolute power in the hands of an omnipotent President, with no guardrail.

Although the separation of three powers is recognized in Article 60, the text contains many provisions that maintain a de facto confusion between the powers.

It is surprising for example that, contrary to the Chamber of Deputies which may be dissolved by the President of the Republic, the Senate, whose most members are appointed by the President, cannot be dissolved during the entire term of eight years. Considering the prerogatives of the Senate specifically highlighted in Article 107, the Constitution locks up the succession of the President even in case of his legitimate impediment or loss of elections. This privilege does not exist elsewhere.

The preeminence of the power of the President of the Republic is also enshrined in Article 76 which provides the method of selecting members of parliament. Indeed, this article, which would cause a scandal in other lands, stipulates that the Chamber of Deputies is composed of 80 members, including 27 members that are not directly elected: 24 women representatives are designated by the district councils and cities all of which are in the hands of the regime, two members are appointed by the National Council of Youth which is equally infiltrated by the regime, and one member is appointed by the Federation of Associations of the Disable which is funded by the regime. As a result, the deputies that are directly elected (of course upon a thorough screening by the regime) represent less than 50%. Even if they were brave enough to overcome the hand of the regime they could never pass any bill of law.

When we all know that the President of the Republic appoints the Senate directly or indirectly through the administrative organs that are dominated by his party; that he can dissolve the Chamber of Deputies and that he is not politically accountable to the Parliament, it is obvious that we are indeed faced with an authoritarian system, in short, a dictatorship.

 

4. Denial of political space to the democratic opposition

The Arusha Peace Agreement, which the RPF signed in 1993 then nullified upon seizing power following its military victory in 1994, recognized the universality of the democratic principles. 11

The main violations of political rights are contained in the Law No. 18/2008 of 23/07/2008 relating to the Punishment of the crime of genocide ideology that the regime pledged to revise before the UN commission on Human Rights (AI Index: AFR 47/004/2011). This law was deliberately passed in order to silence the opposition and all internal and external narratives of the Rwandan history that contrast with the current RPF rhetoric. Indeed, this law which deliberately mixes up in vague terminologies “divisionism”, “genocide denial’ and ‘revisionism” into the crime of “genocide ideology” is also used to promote the impunity on crimes committed by some RPF members. It also aims at depriving the people of any serious debate about their future, in order to perpetuate the absolute control of public life by the single party RPF.

Since the announcement of the date of presidential elections in August 2010, three new political parties tried to register so that they can run against the incumbent President Mr. Paul Kagame. Despite 16 years of monopoly on power and political space, 12 the RPF was afraid of the competition and barred these parties from registering. Indeed, everything was done to bar the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda of Mr. Frank Habineza and FDU-Inkingi of Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza from holding their constituent assemblies, while everything was also done to implode the Parti Social (PS-Imberakuri) which had previously been approved. Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is in prison along with the Chairman of PDP-Imanzi, Deo Mushayidi and Bernard Ntaganda, Founder and Chairman of PS-Imberakuri.

 

5. Legality or legitimacy?

To be able to govern a people, each nation-state adopts laws that guide the rights and obligations of each citizen. Because the law is a set of rules from the sovereign authority, it requires all individuals to abide with it or otherwise face sanctions. To do that, the law must be clear, fair and equitable.

For a law to be fair, it must emanate from a sovereign authority, and since sovereignty belongs to the people, a law can only be fair and legitimate if it is established by the people’s representatives, freely and sovereignly elected without any coercion or intimidation. If a law is challenged by a large proportion of the population, it falls within the framework recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stipulates that “it is essential that human rights are protected by a set of law so that the people are not forced, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression.”

The Law No. 18/2008 does not meet these criteria of clarity and cannot be efficient because it is subject to many abuses. Indeed, because it was conceived in bad faith to serve a political agenda, the legislature has been forced to use vague and ambiguous terminologies to address the concerns of the Executive.

That’s why the legislature struggled to define the ideology of genocide: “an aggregate of ideas that are manifested in behavior, speeches, writings and all other acts aimed at inciting others to kill groups of people because of their ethnic origin, nationality, region, color, physical appearance, gender, language, religion or political opinion” (Article 2). Even judges acknowledge that they are struggling to limit the scope of the law 13 and mostly refer not to their conscience but to their survival and their jobs. There are cases where judges have been fired or put in jail for having rendered a verdict that contrasts with the wishes of the regime.

Article 3, specifically in its paragraphs 1 and 2, does not bring any more light because it does not clarify in what the crime consists and becomes even too subjective: “1. persecutions, intimidations and degrading treatments through speeches, writings or defamatory acts that aim at spreading evil or inciting hatred; 2. marginalize, utter taunts, abuse, insult, offend, create confusion aimed at denying the genocide that occurred, sow discord, revenge, alter testimonies or evidence about the genocide that occurred…” leaving therefore a wide room for speculation.

Not only the text is very vague and very subjective but also the penalties are heavy: 10 to 25 years imprisonment, to be doubled for repeat offenders. The sponsor of the bill (dignitaries mostly RPF members) misled the legislature which fell into a dangerous globalization up to the violation of the rights of the minors which are punishable the same way as the adults (article 9) as well as parents, guardians, adoptive parents, teachers and school principals that would have “inoculated” the ideology of genocide into these minors (Article 11).

 

6. Attempts to annihilate political opponents

Upon taking power by force, the Kagame’s regime and his government abused their dominant if not exclusive position by manipulating the genocide against Tutsi in 1994.

Whoever, Rwandan or foreigner, does not abide with the RPF narrative of the chronology of the events that took place in 1994 is punishable by imprisonment. The case of the Belgian priest Guy Theunis and the U.S. attorney Peter Erlinder are recent examples. Concerning Rwandans, the RPF secret services regularly distribute shameful lists 14 of alleged criminals which they submit to Interpol prior to launching any criminal investigation. This maneuver, whose sole purpose is not only to limit political and social actions of individuals that are targeted but also to intimidate these individuals, is supported by some unscrupulous organizations, loyal to the current regime, which confuse the rights of the RPF and Human Rights.

Far from rendering justice to the victims of the genocide, these lists create new injustices, namely, toward innocent people who have never been involved in that crime. It seems like the only goal of these lists which are constantly renewed is to cover up the massive crimes against humanity committed by some military and civilian leaders within the RPF and its army. The President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) recently admitted in an interview with the EastAfrican magazine that indeed the court failed to prosecute the crimes committed by the RPF. 15

 

7. Conclusion:

The political party FDU-INKINGI is convinced that democracy is the only form of governance that can put a definitive end to the cyclical conflicts that have regularly plunged Rwanda into mourning for decades.

The regime of General Kagame has no moral authority to judge the Chair of FDU-INKINGI Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Indeed, General Kagame and his inner circle have a great responsibility in triggering and executing the Rwandan genocide. The crimes committed by the same Kagame in Rwanda before, during and after the genocide have been well documented. The readers can find more information on human rights violations in Rwanda in the links provided below in the annexes.

The crimes committed by the Rwandan regime in the Democratic Republic of Congo have just been unveiled in the UN Mapping Report. According to the UN reporters, these committed against Hutu refugees could even be qualified as genocide. 16

We’re not seeking for a fair justice because we cannot expect it from a regime that tramples on human rights and has confiscated the judicial system. We demand an outright abandonment of all charges against our party Chair, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and against all political prisoners.

A regime that is based on such illegitimacy, whose leaders launched the war against their country and its people in 1990; carelessly  forced millions of their compatriots into internal exile and pursued refugees to massacre them; committed crimes against humanity starting in Muvumba and Byumba from 1990 to1993; Ruhengeri from 1994 to 2002; Kibeho in 1995; DRC from 1996  to1998; Gisenyi in 1997; are wanted by French and Spanish justice systems and are targeted by the UN Mapping report for having committed what could be qualified as genocide; how can the leaders of such a regime  claim to have the moral authority to continue to lead the country and govern its people and prosecute opponents who are just requesting  political changes?

Those leaders who believe that political change can only occur by force; the leaders who turned Rwanda into a gigantic prison; those leaders whose top head is General Kagame cannot render any fair justice.

It is time for all democratic forces and the Rwandan civil society to come together for a peaceful political change and to allow all Rwandans to hold an inter-Rwandan dialogue highly inclusive to pave way to a profound transformation of the country’s governance and implement equal justice aimed at ending the culture of impunity.

Done in Brussels on September 1, 2011

For the Coordinating Committee of FDU-Inkingi

Joseph Bukeye: Delegate in charge of mobilization

Annexes:

http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2011/05/31/justice-compromised,

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/world/africa/20rwanda.html?_r=1,

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/06/07/rwanda-serious-concerns-regarding-freedom-expression,

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/06/26/rwanda-stop-attacks-journalists-opponents,

http://www.ohchr.org/en/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/RDCProjetMapping.aspx,

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/10/148549.htm,

http://amnesty.org/fr/region/rwanda/report-2011,

http://amnesty.org/en/region/rwanda/report-2011,

References:

1 Ntawe uburana n’umuhamba

2 http://www.fdu-rwanda.com/index.php?id=43&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=597&cHash=a17487d157

http://www.fdu-rwanda.com/index.php?id=43&tx_ttnews%5btt_news%5d=647&cHash=811b2ba0b5

3 http://rwandinfo.com/eng/rwandan-constitutional-law-and-the-oppression-of-political-opposition-and-dissidents/

4 “… In too many countries … no honest Judiciary to hear case history, no independent media voice to Give Him; no credible to Political Party is His views, no free and fair election ET Where Could choose historical leader … … Societies Held together by fear and repression May offer the illusion of Stability for a time, purpose built upon They Are That Will Eventually fault lines tear asunder … “President Obama’s Middle East speech: 19 May 2011;

5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoxLZrodVfY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nd06P11-URc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vO9Zad51kJc&list=PL61855DF5D971C053&index=4&feature=plpp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMYdXNMswXI&feature=related

6 http://www.uidaho.edu/class/borah/symposium/rudasingwavideo

7 June 2011 AI Index: AFR 47/002/2011 May 8, 2011 1 -, ref. 56432-758-2

9 http://www.eurac-network.org/web/uploads/documents/20101214_13552.pdf

http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/ccr/country-7259-8.pdf

10 http://ishemaonline.com/spip.php?article48

On February 9, 2010, President Kagame told the BBC radio the following: “I know there is a wall, a wall made of laws, a wall made of many things. This situation should push people to be wise enough and take time to understand the real meaning of these words; to know that it would not be easy for anyone from inside the country or from abroad to violate such a wall that makes up the country of Rwanda”.

11 Articles 5, 6 and 7

12 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtSLaYGUC80&feature=player_embedded#!

13 Lawyers without Borders

14 The first list drafted since coming to power contained 428 people. In 1996 it was revised and enlarged up to 1946 people. The list was corrected on December 31, 1999 to include the name of the late president Juvenal Habyarimana, and was updated on March 19, 2001 to increase the number of names to 2898; compared to the previous list, they removed 36 people and added 801 new names including Pierre Celestin Rwigema who was head of the RPF government for 5 years, he is at No. 2279, and this was done after he fled the country. In 2007, the regime foreign intelligence services made a list of 40.0000 “genocidaires” living abroad.

15 EAST AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY, 17th July 2011 … Responding to some criticisms That the ICTR prosecuted only ethnic Hutus and Tutsis left out Who Have Been Part of the 1994 conflict, Byron said: “Well to Some Extent That is Right.”

16 UNHRC, 2010 DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, 1993 to 2003, Report of the Mapping Exercise Documenting the MOST serious violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Committed within the Territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Between March 1993 and June 2003, August 2010.

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