Thinking back to some two years ago when the Rwigara saga began to unfold, we could not help seeing parallels with the Kardashians in America. A rich glamorous family that fell on hard times after the death of the father, beautiful glamorous and amorous daughters, a mother behind the scenes pulling all the strings, and an endless thirst for publicity – just too many similarities. Diane had never expressed much in the way of political ambition before that, but the way the authorities seemed to overreact made her into an instant celebrity. The Western media was quick to crown her the head of Rwanda’s opposition, as she ticked the boxes, young, articulate, bright, and modern. The fear was that she could be a protest candidate, a ridiculous notion in itself, but enough to scare some people. She went after the egos of those in power, really said the things you can’t say in Rwanda. From the outside it seemed utterly ridiculous, what followed was even more so. Kim Kardashian was accused of trying to overthrow the government, accused of working with Al-Qaeda to spread terrorism, detained in a maximum security prison, top of the priority list for FBI, NSA, CIA, DEA, and SEALS. Wouldn’t you watch such a show? Rwandans just got out their popcorn and laughed their way through this saga. This saga was number 1 in ratings but it was harming the legitimacy of our nation. We really have to make a decision in this country, are we going to keep making the same mistakes over and over? We go into panic mode and freak out only to regret it later.
A Cluster bomb
A clusterbomb is one of the worst weapons ever made, it is a bomb that explodes to release other smaller bombs, these bombs are bright and shiny to look like toys so children pick them up and die. Clusterbombs can kill people long after a particular conflict is over. The Rwigara saga is a lesson to Rwanda in what happens when you are stuck in a vortex of three competing interest groups within government wanting the same outcome but different processes. Rwigara was causing discomfort in the media through her comments and should have been ignored, security services wanted her arrested and did so hastily, the prosecution didn’t have time to make a proper case as it was also being tried in the media. As it was being tried in the media, evidence was being leaked to sway public opinion, the bar set for evidence in the court of law and the court of public opinion are very different. This jeopardized the case, the evidence held less weight in court, screen-grabs work well in swaying public opinion but not judges. The verdict was a scathing rebuke of the prosecution, the burden was on them to prove, not for the accused to disprove, this is a major step forward in Rwanda. The burden of evidence is shifted to the State, the accused has the right not to incriminate themselves, to remain silent. I have witnesses many arrests in Rwanda but never see an officer read out your rights before arresting someone, it just grab and cuff, sling them in the back of a truck. Incitement is not as simple to prove as prosecutors thought, private messages without any action is not enough, so keep whatsapping freely to let off steam
Internal reformers society
As champagne was being popped in the halls of HRW, the Washington Post and Congress, with outsiders taking all the credit, there was a HUGE sigh of relief in Rwanda as well. Reform in Rwanda is always seen as the work of the West “pressuring” Rwanda, this is as if to say that no one within RPF wants reform. RPF has a huge wing of the party dedicated to reform, just that they don’t march in the streets, they are bound by strict loyalty but committed to changing from within. Hardliners make the most noise, but when the dust settles the reformers often win. RPF People were advocating for the release of the Rwigaras, even Ingabire, not because they love them but they were not a threat and they were too much trouble for nothing. The Rwigaras wanted this, they got it, they took over the narrative and the headlines. Whenever we wanted to talk about the 10% growth, or good Business climate, or anything positive it always led back to the Rwigaras. This was their Reality TV show, we were willing participants in their game, they played us well. We made them into national security threats when they were nothings. We made them the equals to our government, when you meet people who live off publicity then you suffocate their press coverage by ignoring them.
A dance with the Devil
When the devil asks to dance, you better say never, coz a dance with the devil might last forever
This was just 2 weeks of bad coverage, that turned into 2 years of bad coverage, death by 1,000 cuts of little bad stories. It costs us investment, tourists, our good name, by the time you try to explain this story it is too late. We have to stop this “Chicken Little” mentality, that the sky is going to fall down because of one story. This government is one of the strongest in Africa, but to gain sympathy it must appear weak, it must appear fragile, as it only one story can bring this whole country down. So we arrest journalists to prevent bad stories leaking, then the arrest of the journalist becomes a worse story. We are repeating the same folly with a Rwanda BBC Journalist, making them into terrorists with weak evidence, prosecution planting co-accused you don’t who confess to it all, the same mistakes which the judge lambasted them for. We should do a reassessment of how we operate, to avoid hysteria and bright shiny things. I’m tired of hearing “Rwanda is making great strides forward but….” I want to get rid of that BUT. Rwanda is making great strides, end of sentence. We can’t blame the human rights people alone, we must clean our house. We can’t accept that we must commit a few crimes to enforce the law, then there is not law. We also need to stop this “Let me cut you down to show you” attitude that created this messy mud fight.