It is in my capacity as a Rwandan citizen, former prime minister after the genocide and president of the Coalition of Parties for Change in Rwanda that I feel compelled to write this letter to you. With all due respect, I’d like to express my anger and profound sadness at your decision to invite General Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president, to the White House this week. You and I both know the enormity of crimes for which Mr Kagame is responsible.
Half a century after a wave of independence movements swept through Africa, hopes for peace, freedom and prosperity for our children have given way to despair and disillusion. Millions of Africans suffer every day in immeasurable ways. Many live like slaves in electoral dictatorships that cynically pass themselves off as legitimate. Some of these dictatorships — such as Rwanda — are openly tolerated and protected by the West, in particular the United States, in a bid to pursue economic and strategic interests that are dangerously misguided.
As you know, Mr Kagame has no respect for the law and sanctity of life; he has refused to cede any political space in his country. He also kills or threatens anyone at home or abroad who challenges him. To deflect from his own record, Mr Kagame regularly accuses his critics of committing crimes or conspiring against him. If Rwandans are guilty of anything today, it is of opposing a daily stream of human rights violations meted out under the guise of pursuing ‘good governance and political stability.’ Rwanda’s violent past – its history of genocide and wars of reprisal – are well known.
Well known too are the hegemonic wars waged for nearly two decades in mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo, where millions of innocent people have died and a host of multinational companies — chiefly from the United States and Canada — have profited. There is no doubt Mr President that these conflicts and ensuing tragedies are known to you, to your Amassador to the United Nations Mrs Samantha Power and to your National Security Advisor Mrs. Susan Rice.
Both women have been longstanding admirers of Mr Kagame. Despite accolades that exaggerate Mr Kagame’s governance and only serve to provide cover for his impunity, I must tell you that the vast majority of Rwandans know better. Before having invited a criminal into the White House, the US government should have carefully considered his record, the scale and gravity of which are as follows:
1. The massacre of tens of thousands of unarmed Rwandan peasants by Mr Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front in the regions of Ruhengeri and Byumba since October 1990.
2. The assassination of scores of political figures, including Emmanuel Gapyisi in 1993, Felicien Gatabazi in 1994 and Seth Sendashonga in 1998, to name merely a few.
3. The assassination on April 6, 1994 of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi respectively, Juvénal Habyarimana et Cyprien Ntaryamira (documented in numerous testimonies from Mr Kagame’s former friends and colleagues, including former chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegeya his former chief of intelligence, assassinated in South Africa on December 31, 2013.)
4. The asssasination during the genocide of senior Catholic clergy, including Archbishop of Kigali Vincent Nsengiyumva, Bishops Thaddée Nsengiyumva of Kabgayi and Augustin Ruzindana of Byumba, along with Monseigneur Gasabwoya and nearly a dozen priests. These clergy members were murdrered on the direct orders of Mr Kagame, who is today your guest in Washington.
5. The murder of Patrick Karegeya, whose body was found strangled in a hotel room in Johannesburg on New Year’s Day. In 2006, Karegeya accompanied Mr Kagame to the White House to meet with then president George Bush, who hailed his Rwandan counterpart as a ‘man of action’.
6. The plotting of other murders, including attempts on the life of his former chief of staff General Nyamwasa, and of myself, the author of this letter. It is clear that there are no world events escaping your attention, in particular the strife gripping the Middle East and war in the DRC. But it must be pointed out that Mr Kagame invaded Congo in 1996, unleashing a war and stoking conflict by supporting militias there ever since.
His troops are responsible for the killing of an estimated 300,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees, including women and children chased and murdered like wild animals in the Congolese forests between 1996 and 1997. A UN investigation known as the MAPPING EXERCISE REPORT released in 2010 concluded that these killings could constitute genocide if prosecuted in a court of law. These crimes – systematic and monstrous in nature — were carried out on the orders of Mr Kagame, a man lauded by your colleagues and now in the prestigious confines of the White House.
Mr Kagame is also responsible for the massacre of an estimated 8,000 displaced Rwandans – men, women, children and babies — from a UN monitored camp in Kibeho, in southwestern Rwanda in April 1995. The international community remained silent in the face of that gruesome slaughter, exempting Mr Kagame of responsibility, presumably because of the 1994 genocide. Yet when more than 6,000 mostly Muslim civilians were massacred in July 1995 in Srebenica, the UN recognized this crime as genocide. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic paid the price, facing justice in the Hague.
But what about Mr. Kagame? Should crimes in Africa be judged differently than those committed in Europe? Finally, more than five million Congolese have died from violence or illnesses related to a war in the DRC that Mr Kagame unleashed, fed and profited from since 1996, under the false pretext of ensuring the security of Tutsis in Rwanda and the DRC. Mr President, I am personally disappointed that a leader accused of crimes of such magnitude is invited to speak at the White House, as though his actions could ever be whitewashed.
Although I appreciate your efforts at the US-Africa summit to tackle tough issues and promote dialogue, your decision to provide a legitimate platform for Mr Kagame is discouraging for Rwandans everywhere, especially our youth who pinned their hopes on you to change US policy in the Great Lakes and on the continent as a whole. We have not forgotten your words : Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.
With my highest regard,
Former Prime Minister of Rwanda
President of the Coalition of Parties for Change in Rwanda (CPC