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Rwandan crisis deepens as Kagame begins
seven-year term
By Alex Lefebvre
13 September 2003


Rwandan President Paul Kagame was sworn in Friday to a seven-year term.
Kagame won a landslide victory in the August 25 presidential election,
which took place amid a clampdown on organized political opposition in the
country and widespread allegations of electoral fraud.

The international press generally presented the elections, the first
since the 1994 ethnic genocide between majority Hutus and minority Tutsis, as
a democratic transition. However, the social conditions facing the
country and the repressive run-up to the elections themselves show that Kagames
government has been unable to solve any of the social and economic
problems that led to the genocide.

According to official voting results, the US-backed Kagame won 95.1
percent of the vote. The challenger attracting the most attention, French- and
Belgian-backed Hutu moderate Faustin Twagiramungu, received 3.6
percent. A third candidate, Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira, whom some press reports
described as running on a platform of divine inspiration, received 1.3
percent of the vote.

Observers indicated that the outcome of the elections was never in
doubt, as Kagame accused his opponents of stoking ethnic divisionism, a serious
crime in post-1994 Rwanda. Thanks to this charge, Kagame arrested
Twagiramungu supporters, denied them the right to hold meetings and
confiscated their campaign leaflets. The Rwandan government reportedly
confiscated so much of Twagiramungus campaign materiel that he was
reduced to a couple of cars. On election night Twagiramungu announced that his
campaign was ready for prison.

The US humanitarian organization Human Rights Watch issued a statement
accusing Kagames Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of tightening control
in the name of unity. It quoted Kagame as saying in a speech: I can even
say that the outcomes of these elections are known. Those elected will be
individuals who are 100 percent in line with the current political
agenda, aimed at building the country.... Anyone who would bring in
divisionbecause I know that the views of those who intend to come back are based on
divisionwill not be elected.

In the French daily Le Monde, EU voting observer Colette Flesch praised
the elections as an important step towards democracy. However, she went
on to say that she had seen evidence of ballot-stuffing in several voting
precincts and that Kagames supporters, present at all polling
stations, were intimidating. For unstated reasons rival candidates decided not
to send their supporters to the polling stations. Flesch also noted
widespread evidence that Kagame had misused public funds for his re-election
campaign.

The New York Times wrote that the election had all the trappings of
democracy, adding that observers dispatched at polling places across
the country on Monday had few complaints. However, in a more accurate
comment on Kagames real social support, it added that Kagames backers were
terrified that his opponents might draw attention to the fact that,
under him, benefits have largely accrued to a layer of Tutsi businessmen and
government officials.

Under the tutelage of the IMF, the Rwandan government under Kagame has
tried to create a favorable climate for international investment, reducing
corporate taxes and eliminating taxes on exports. Rwanda is scheduled
to join the southern and eastern Africa free trade area in 2004. The
governments economic policy has been to promote its connections with
the Tutsi diaspora and depend on its relatively well-educated urban
workforce to attract investors seeking to develop a cheap-labor service industry,
thus getting around Rwandas lack of manufacturing and industrial
infrastructure.

Social and economic conditions in Rwanda are disastrous. Over 65
percent of the population live under the official UN world poverty line of $1 per
day. Although the official life expectancy figure is 49 years, 9 percent of
the population has AIDS. The CIA World Factbook states that, with higher
mortality due to AIDS taken into account, life expectancy is in fact
only 40 years. Rwanda, the most densely populated country in Africa, has a
large and poor population in the countryside85 percent of the population lives
off farming. As its agriculture switched to coffee and tea for export under
the recommendations of the IMF in the early 1990s, it faced a serious soil
erosion and depletion problem. Coffee and tea exports provide 80
percent of Rwandas export revenue. The population also suffers from the long-term
effects of the 1994 genocide, with hundreds of thousands of Rwandans
displaced within the country or as refugees in nearby countries.

Under these conditions, the countrys tenuous economic development is
largely dependent on outside influence. The Rwandan government obtains
substantial revenues by selling coltan and other precious minerals
pillaged from the neighboring Congo by militias trained by and associated to the
Rwandan army. It also depends on international financial institutions
temporary willingness to extend it credit. According to Rwandan
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Donald Kaberuka, Luckily our budget
deficit [of 9 percent of Rwandas GDP] is financed by the African Bank for
Development and the World Bank. Our creditors know this deficit is
healthy, since it finances social investments.... The long-term objective is to
arrive at a budget deficit of 6 percent of GDP.

These institutions forbearance, relative to their gutting of social
spending in other African countries, comes in part from the privileged
relations between the US and Kagames regime, which the US is using as
a client state, principally to undermine French and Belgian influence in
the region.

Kagame, a Tutsi exiled since childhood from Rwanda to Uganda, got his
start as a rebel fighter and military intelligence operative in Uganda and
came to political prominence as a member of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan
Patriotic Front (RPF) operating there. He obtained military and strategic
training in Fort Leavensworth, Kansas in the US in 1990. With training and active
logistical support from the US, Great Britain and US-backed Ugandan
forces, the RPF took control of Rwanda during and after the 1994 genocide,
launched by the French-backed Hutu Power Rwandan government, that targeted
Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Hundreds of thousands of Hutus fled the country; many were tracked down
and slaughtered by RPF forces. The extent of RPF massacres remains a hotly
contested topicestimates range between several thousand to 30,000 or
even 200,000 killedbut Kagame himself has acknowledged that RPF officials
committed violations of international humanitarian law.

After coming to power, the RPF benefited from counterinsurgency and
combat training from US Special Forces. Although Pentagon officials claimed
this training consisted of simple classroom exercises stressing respect
for human rights, documents leaked to Washington Post reporter Lynne Duke
indicated that the US training was extensive and included combat
training, according to Dukes August 16, 1997 article.

The 1996-1997 Rwandan-backed military campaign to overthrow neighboring
Zaires dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who had close links to France and
Belgium, started a few weeks after a visit by Kagame to Washington.
According to Duke, the campaign benefited from frequent liaison visits
from officials of the US embassy in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. US
officials also told Duke that the United States may have trained some of the
fighters who ousted Mobutu. At this time Rwandan forces also began extracting
mineral resources from eastern Zaire, now called the Democratic
Republic of Congo.

In February 2001, shortly after President Bush arrived at the White
House, Kagame visited Washington DC to request a continuation of the military
support obtained under the Clinton administration. Kagames regime has
continued to function as a US protectorate, lending diplomatic cover to
the Bush administration in its various criminal international adventures.

In a March 5 visit to Washington, during which he spoke to a gathering
of US investors and briefed President Bush and National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice on the political situation in Central Africa, Kagame
repaid the Bush administration with cover for its own criminal adventures
abroad. In a move that is all the more significant as details of US involvement
in Rwanda at the time of the genocide continue to come to light, Kagame
signed an accord with Bush exempting US and Rwandan nationals from lawsuits
from the other country at the International Criminal Court. Kagame also
voiced his support for the Bush administrations preparations for its invasion
of Iraq in mid-March 2003.

Kagame also depends on US backing at the UN to shield his government
from investigations of atrocities committed by the RPF. International war
crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte was recently removed from her post
as head prosecutor in Rwanda, amid complaints of pro-genocide bias by the
Rwandan government. Rwanda essentially halted her investigation of RPF
war crimes by denying her access to witnesses and documents. The US has up
to now blocked moves by the Security Council to force Kagames government
to comply with the tribunal.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/sep2003/rwan-s13.shtml