AfroAmerica Network has been talking to sources inside Rwanda and especially in the Northwestern region, where Rwandan rebels have recently been clashing with Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF). From the sources, despite the brave face put on by Rwandan military and political leaders, the situation is worse than depicted: thousands of civilians have fled their homes and refused to go back, the Rwandan currency (Rwandan Franc or RWF) is collapsing, the Rwandan government, the private sector and NGOs have discretely started massive layoffs, and businesses, faced with mounting inflation and reduced consumption, are closing doors or have put expansion and investment plans on hold. Rwanda is heading towards collapse, unless Rwandans leaders change the course.
General Paul Kagame’s Law of the Jungle.
The Rwandan President General Paul Kagame likes to cite the following law of the jungle: “If you break it, you own it.” Then he goes on to add the following, when it comes to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): “The West broke it in the DRC, and they want us to own it. We refuse to own it.” His statement highlights one of the rare cases on which we agree with him: “If you break it, have the courage to own it.” Unfortunately for President Kagame, he has broken it this time by supporting M23 Congolese rebels. If he is true to himself, he has to own the consequences by focusing his efforts to solving the roots of the problems and facing the ensuing challenges.
The consequences of breaking the law may be dire to him, to the Rwandan leadership apparatus and elite, and to the common Rwandans. The far reaching diverse effects may be economical, political, diplomatic and humanitarian.
It is all linked.
What is happening in Rwanda right now? On the humanitarian side, civilians from the Mutura and Rubavu areas fled their homes on November 27, 2012 following the attacks on the Rwandan government forces by Rwandan rebels. Concentrations of internally displaced people are in Kora, Mudende, Busasamana, Tamira, Gahenerezo, Kabuhanga. There, they found thousands of Congolese refugees who had been fleeing the advance of M23 rebels. According to sources within the refugees and the displaced people, Rwandan rebels killed tens of RDF troops. Fearing that what happened in 1996-1998, when RDF troops went on rampage and mass murdered civilians anytime rebels launched attacks, can happen again, these internally displaced people have refused to go back to their villages despite reassuring words from Rwandan military and political leaders. The situation is the same in Kinigi and Nkumba regions bordering the volcanos. Rwandan rebels launched attacks in Kinigi and Nkumba on December 2, 2012 also killing a number of RDF troops and seizing weapons and sophisticated military equipment.
It is the economy, stupid!
Rwanda is a very poor country. Most of its budget is funded through international aid. Western aid amounts to 40-50% of the Rwandan government budget and covers most of the healthcare costs. The aid to private and some parastatal institutions is funneled through international Non Government Organizations (NGOs). These sources bring in the much needed foreign currency reserves and in turn make the Rwandan currency stable. Without that aid, the Rwandan government has no other choice than massive layoffs of civil servants; the military and security forces and teachers may not be paid for long, and the Rwandan currency will most likely collapse in the near future, creating a spiral of inflation. From sources in Rwanda, one US dollar is now worth 630 RWF in the banks and close to 750 RWF on the black market. This is around a 25% devaluation of RWF from a few months ago, when 1 US$ was worth around 600 RWF on the black market. The ripple effects from inflation and the lack of foreign currency will create a vicious circle of collapses across the entire sectors of the Rwandan economy: imported goods, including raw materials, construction and transportation equipment, gas, etc. will be so expensive that trading businesses and manufacturing will cease to function and transportation will be paralyzed.
With this nightmarish scenario, security would deteriorate, military and security forces would engage in organized crime, and the state institutions would weaken or slide into tyranny and chaos. People would become so poor that they may rebel against the government or join existing armed rebellions. With wars and rebellions, the humanitarian situation may become catastrophic.
It Happened to Rwanda Before
This may be viewed as a too pessimistic scenario, but it happened once in Rwanda. What was the result: the 1994 human tragedy.
All began when the international community, the IMF and the World Bank squeezed late President Habyarimana’s regime around 1984-1987 and imposed strict measures as a condition to receive financial aid. Then Western governments cut aid arguing that the regime was not democratic. When the economical situation became dire, with rampant inflation, public discontent, and divisions within the armed forces, the Rwandan Patriotic Front attacked. The Rwandan population and the armed forces initially rallied around President Habyarimana and his elite, but with the international aid drying out and faced with economical and arms embargo, President Habyarimana was unable to maintain the moral of his troops and his entourage, while the impoverished masses joined the opposition and the RPF rebels.
Chaos ensued, RPF was energized, President Habyarimana was assassinated, RPF conquered power, and the masses fled to the DRC, then Zaire.
Kagame broke it; he must own it
If there is something we learned from history, is that dictators never learn from history. After the attacks by Rwandan rebels in Mutura, Rwerere, and Kinigi, Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and a few military leaders went on the record labeling the rebels terrorists, bandits, genocidaires, and hoodlums. Does it ring the bell?
Muammar Gaddafi called his opponents rats and terrorists, Rwandan Patriotic Army rebels were once called terrorist hoodlums, Syrian opposition forces are called terrorists. It is a deja vu.
Not happy with demonizing the opposition, Rwandan leaders question why Western donors are conditioning aid to the good behavior by Rwanda leaders. If one may wonder whether it would be wise to give money to a beggar to buy a weapon so that he or she may easily commit an armed robbery, why Rwandan leaders think that Western aid cannot come with strings attached? Wasn’t General Paul Kagame a student of Dr. Dambisa Moyo, author of “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa”? In fact, it appears that, like Dr. Moyo, General Kagame believes that “foreign aid has harmed Africa and that it should be phased out”. He even forced the Rwandan elite to buy Dr Dambisa’s book. Why is he then complaining that the West is cutting aid to Rwanda?
AfroAmerica Network has said it and repeats it here: “President Kagame has broken it; he must own it.” How? By reassuring the Rwandan people, his RPF supporters, his opposition and the International Community that he is not another African tyrant and despot, who lives and wants his subjects to live by his whims, tantrums, and idiosyncrasies. This is what he may need to do:
- First, recognize that there is something wrong with Rwandan Patriotic Front regime, his policies, and the undemocratic and repressive institutions he has put in place.
- Second, take bold steps to engage his opposition before it is too late.
- Third, strive to become a good neighbor in the Great Lakes Region of Africa
President Kagame told the international community that he should not be blamed for the problems in the DRC. By cutting aid and sending him a clear message, the World is telling him that he should not blame others, especially the United Nations and the UN Experts on DRC for his own shortcomings.
President Kagame broke it; he must own it: that is the law of the jungle he has chosen to abide by.
©2012 AfroAmerica Network. All Rights Reserved.