STRATEGY #3: THE IMPERATIVE FOR NATIONAL DIALOGUE
Rwanda remains a fractured nation that is yet to come to terms with its own history, both the good and the bad. The 1994 war and genocide were brought to an end by the outright military victory of the RPF. As a result of its military victory, the RPF has had unfettered discretion in all decisions relating to the reconstruction of post-genocide Rwanda. The RPF has not afforded other political parties or civil society meaningful opportunities for input or participation on major issues relating to planning for the collective future of our country.
Indeed, the default and common practice has been for the RPF to make decisions on issues affecting the future of the country and to, afterwards, inform the compliant political parties that remain part of the government. When the RPF has taken the trouble to consult other political parties, it has not seriously taken their views into account. Not only has the RPF failed to organize an honest debate about the country‟s past and future, it actively suppresses independent debate about major and fundamental issues that still divide Rwandan society. Instead, the RPF has sought to unilaterally impose its own understanding of the country‟s history and its vision of Rwanda‟s future upon the rest of Rwandan society.
The over-riding consideration behind all the decisions that the RPF has made during the time that it has been in control of government has been to protect and entrench its monopoly of political power. As a result, post-genocide Rwanda has not had the benefit of an open, inclusive national debate on the root causes of the political problems that the country has experienced, or on strategies for ensuring a peaceful and stable future for the nation. As a result of the RPF‟s unilateralist approach to the reconstruction of Rwanda in the aftermath of war and genocide – and its refusal to sanction or organize, an open, transparent and inclusive debate on the country‟s future – the government‟s initiatives to promote peace, national reconciliation and peace have largely failed. Rwanda remains deeply divided. The majority of the population feel excluded and 10 marginalized. As a result, armed rebellion still poses threats to the security of the country.
Feelings of mutual mistrust and fear continue to fester in Rwandan society. The middleclass that played a vital role in the country prior to the genocide largely remains in exile. While the majority of the Tutsi community is disenchanted and does not feel any sense of liberation and emancipation, the majority Hutu feel politically marginalized and excluded. For many Rwandans, the path of violent conflict appears to be the only option of making right the injustice, discrimination and abuse to which they feel subjected. Groups committed to the overthrow of the government remain active in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Internally, Rwanda is becoming increasingly unstable, particularly as a result of the evident break-down of cohesion within the RDF, which is evidenced by the defections of both former Ex-FAR and RDF officers, and imprisonment and purges of many senior military officers who remain in Rwanda. The nature of defections and purges that have affected the RDF provide an indication that the problems it faces cut across the board and do not exclusively affect the Hutu or Tutsi in the military.
In order to defuse the crisis that Rwanda is now facing, it remains necessary for Rwandan society to engage in honest dialogue about the causes of the problems that the country faces and the solutions to those problems. Rwanda cannot move beyond the current quagmire without an honest, inclusive and comprehensive debate on the many issues that drive conflict in the country.
Some of the critical issues that such a dialogue could address (issues on which the RPF does not see eye-to-eye with its opponents and critics) include:
- Rwanda‟s history and the root causes of conflict in our society
- The issue of ethnicity
- The nature and causes of the conflicts that Rwandan society has experienced
- The state of political governance in Rwanda today
- Democratisation and apportionment of power and control of state institutions, especially the military and security services, in a newlydemocratic Rwanda
- Strategies for promoting reconciliation and peace-building
- Protection of the minority from marginalization
- Mechanisms needed to prevent “tyranny of majorities”
- Exclusion in any post-transition political system
- Rwanda‟s relations with its neighbours
The RPF has, to date, resisted all calls for national dialogue on the problems that confront Rwandan society. It opposes such dialogue out of fear that the dialogue could lead to calls for it to open up space for political participation and to share or compete for political power more fairly with other political groups. Nevertheless, this kind of 11 dialogue remains indispensable as the only way of avoiding violent conflict that appears inevitable if the Kagame government cannot find a solution to the problems relating to governance that the country faces. National reconciliation and durable stability will remain elusive until Rwandan society can address these issues through a national dialogue and reach a consensus about how to deal with them
Hence, there is a compelling need for the organization of a national dialogue about these and other issues. The dialogue must be transparent, inclusive and comprehensive. The outcome of such a proposed dialogue would be a grand compact or unifying agreement that would set the basis for continued collaboration in building a free, democratic and peaceful Rwanda.