As a result of the limitations that the RPF imposes on the right of other political forces to organize and advocate their policies freely, Rwanda’s government lacks popular legitimacy. The government’s failure to be embraced and supported by its citizens has implications for peace and stability, particularly since the current government is not only repressive, but it is also perceived as a minority regime led by Tutsis at the expense of Hutus, who represent the majority ethnic group in our nation. In reality, the state is controlled by a small group of military officers and a few civilians who do not represent or enjoy the support of the Tutsi community.Furthermore, citizens lack security – a monumental failure on the part of the current government, inasmuch as security must be an over-riding responsibility for any government. Instead, the Rwandan state continues to be prone to violence. Government institutions, especially the Presidency and the security services, inspire fear rather than confidence in the population. Impunity for human rights abuses by agents of the government is rampant and is the norm in present-day Rwanda – all in contravention of internationally recognized human rights afforded to its citizens.
Citizens, especially the rural poor, continue to suffer from endemic poverty.
Communities in rural areas have benefited little from the Kigali-based economic recovery that Rwanda has experienced since the end of the war and genocide in 1994. The government’s policy of settling citizens in-group villages (imidugudu) has evaporated people’s capital, as well as their investment in their farms and homes. The land reform process and consolidating of land holdings that the government has undertaken deprives the poorer citizens of Rwanda of access to land for farming, which is their only livelihood.
Domestic enterprise and entrepreneurship have also been stifled due to the government’s failed policies. Indeed, the private sector has been captured and overtaken by the RPF ruling party, which has become the country’s dominant business conglomerate. The RPF and its foreign partners and allies monopolize Rwanda’s economy. The RPF’s monopoly of access to capital and business opportunities stifles the growth of private enterprise and entrepreneurship, augments social, economic and political inequity, and foments resentment that will only lead to new conflict. Repressive government policies and endemic conflict have further reduced social capital. Reservoirs of mutual trust and confidence, solidarity and empathy are unacceptably and dangerously low in present-day Rwanda.
In spite of the traumatic experiences that the people of Rwanda have experienced, they still share common aspirations to live in peace, free from fear of becoming victims of power struggles among contending elites. Rwandans are eager to work for their sustenance and to meet their own needs, including the proper education of their children. They long to live in a country whose growth is focused on ensuring that every individual, family and community has equal opportunity to access healthcare, work, or land for farming. Our people yearn to live in freedom, in a state that honors their inherent right to human dignity, protects their fundamental rights (especially to property), and allows them to attain self-fulfillment.
Rwanda’s recovery from the ravages of war and genocide has been remarkable
However, the progress that Rwanda has made in reconstruction and development after 1994 are not sustainable. Lack of freedom is the most critical obstacle to the achievement of our people’s dreams and aspirations. Freedom is the ultimate expression of human dignity and equality. Freedom is essential for human happiness and well being. Freedom is a pre-requisite for peace and sustainable development, manifested by freedom of expression, association and choice.
In present-day Rwanda, the following intolerable situation exists:
- The monopoly of political power by a group with a narrow politicalbase
- The denial of space for political participation to individuals and political groups who are not members of the RPF
- The marginalization of the majority of the population from genuine power-sharing
- The use of violence and other forms of persecution and fear to suppress attempts to exercise or claim fundamental and universal rights
- Deep and widening polarization of society
- Widespread and worsening poverty, especially among the rural population
- Increasing disparities between the rich and poor
- An endemic problem of refugees
- Armed insurgency by groups based in the Democratic Republic of Congo
These all portend violent conflict in years to come. As such, Rwanda needs profound and systemic political reform immediately in order to avert the risk
of violent conflict – conflict that, we fear, will be of catastrophic proportions.