Rwandan General Paul Kagame Dismisses Appeal from a Tutsi Woman For Not Having Fled Rwanda Long Before 1994

Musabyimana Mariya appealing to Rwandan General Paul Kagame during a town hall in Nyagatare on Feb 13, 2017

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Her name is Musabyimana Mariya (see picture). She is from the Rwanda Tutsi ethnic group. According to the  statement she made while appealing to Rwandan dictator General Paul Kagame, she fled Rwanda to Uganda in 1994 during the Rwandan interethnic massacres.  

She lived in Uganda until 2009. When she  returned from exile to her village,  after 15 years, she found that her farm was occupied by powerful individuals. When she tried to reclaim her farmland, she was dismissed  by officials, telling her that she "belonged to the government". 

Musabyimana Mariya was appealing to Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, during a question-and-answer session of a town hall in the Rwandan Northeastern town of Nyagatare.   She had not finished her statement when, upon mentioning that she had fled in 1994, General Paul Kagame interrupted saying that he had allowed her to speak thinking that she had fled Rwanda long before 1994.

When Musabyimana Mariya repeated that she in deed fled the civil war and interethnic massacres in 1994, General Paul Kagame started  belittling her, questioning what  "belonged to the government" meant, even after repeatedly clarifying that  she was citing government officials to who she had addressed her claim to the farm. She continued to ask for her farmland back, or at least, a small portion of it, for her survival. 

In the end, General Paul Kagame dismissed Musabyimana Mariya and said that  she needed to find out who "the government" is, to have her complaint addressed.

During the same town hall, several people people tried to ask questions, but were dismissed by General Kagame, who told them on several occasions that he did not care about their pain, that all the people there had pain and that those trying to ask questions had to shut up.  Several people, including men and women voiced their frustrations and loudly told the Rwandan dictator that he has never done anything good  for the people to be thankful.  He answered that he did not care to be thanked and that they had simply to shut up. Chaos erupted and was quelled when the Rwandan dictator abruptly left the town hall.

General Paul Kagame's reference to the timing of Musabyimana Mariya's exile highlights the ethnic divide within the Rwandan society. The Rwandan society is currently divided along ethnic groups, with the Tutsi minority ethnic group dominating all the government, military, and economic institutions  and sectors, and the Hutu majority at the bottom. 

The Tutsi ethnic group  itself is  further divided into three categories.  The first category, at the top of the hierarchy is composed of  General Paul Kagame and the Tutsi elite who returned from Uganda and who or whose parents fled to Uganda in 1959 and early 1960s during the Hutu revolution against the Tutsi monarchy. The second category is composed of the Tutsis who returned from exile to other countries, but who or whose parents fled in 1973  or before.  The third category, at the bottom of the hierarchy comprises the Tutsis who remained in Rwanda until 1994.

That third category, to which Musabyimana  Mariya belongs, is viewed as inferior and slightly above if not at the rank of the Hutus. That may explain the disdain of General Paul Kagame towards Musabyimana Mariya and the scorn and the dismissal  of her appeal to get her farm back.

 The exchange between Musabyiamana Mariya and General Paul Kagame, in the Rwandan language  may be watched here on youtube and  the chaos during the town hall here