Rwanda

FAST Update Rwanda No. 2: Trends in conflict and cooperation Mar - Apr 2007

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SOCIAL & ECONOMIC

Rwanda commemorated the thirteenth anniversary of the 1994 genocide from 7-13 April. Many of the ceremonies were centered around the burial of the remains of hundreds of victims whose detection is likely to be linked with the testimonies before gacaca of some of the 9,242 prisoners, released on 19 February. The national mourning week foresaw the participation of all Rwandans. On 27 March a group of parliamentarians had asked the Rwandan Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture to try to mobilize the masses to ensure large participation. Still there is widespread reluctance among the population to do so - not least because of the event's emphasis on collective Hutu guilt - thus often leaving the mourning to genocide survivors. The speech of President Kagame at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali is said to have faced a cold reception by those attending. Meanwhile students and staff of the National University of Rwanda in the Southern Province town of Butare reportedly have boycotted commemoration activities. This was seen as an expression of "genocide ideology," which allegedly predominates in southern and western parts of the country. The latter issue, linked also to the latest increase in violence against those involved in gacaca, echoed in many of the speeches that were held by officials at the memorial sites all across the country. It was announced that this kind of mentality would no longer be tolerated and warned that offenders would face the consequences of their wrongdoings. In light of existing repressive policies, which more or less equate genocide ideology to opinion that appears to dissent from the government line, it remains to be seen how this will translate into practice. Again, on 26 April a senatorial committee launched a report called "Rwanda: Genocide Ideology and Strategies for its Eradication." The committee confirmed the problem and recommended the creation of a national commission on genocide revisionism. Kagame lauded the report for its credibility, which he attributed to the exclusive involvement of Rwandans who "understand" the problem and want to resolve it.

On the same occasion the international community was repeatedly made responsible for both the genocide and its origins, which is supposed to be a proven strategy to raise funds as well as to silent critical voices. Accordingly Odette Nyiramirimo, chairperson of the above mentioned senatorial committee, pointed to the roots of genocide ideology in the colonial era. She further argued that its current proponents do also involve foreigners, notably representatives of international NGOs. Whether the latest grants and announcements of financial support by bi- and multi-lateral donors such as Sweden, the EU or the UK (see graph) are the result of these and similar appeals to their bad conscience is at anybodies guess. Rwanda's sponsors often refer to the country's efforts in restoring peace and stability in the region (including Sudan) or to its progress in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. According to André Guichaoua, the main, if not only, beneficiaries of national investment and foreign contributions are the Kigali basedRPF elites. Rwanda's attainment of the lead among East African states in Information and Communication Technologies, as reported by the New Times on 25 April, coincides with a state of generalized poverty in the countryside. Guichaoua also believes that the current situation reflects a rupture with the past since the elite for the first time in the country's history consider themselves capable of becoming independent of the peasantry. This also involves constant attempts to attract foreign investment and tourists - for example, by creating local genocide museums, including the house of former President Habyarimana. The investments in ICT technology obviously connect the elite of Rwanda - a country that is a stepping stone to the mineral rich east of DRC - more with potential investors and international trade than with its own people. The enhanced connections with China should be analyzed within this context and could indicate a trend to mitigate the dependence on the USA. The ever growing gap between the urban and rural society cannot be ignored, irrespective of existing local attempts to improve the living conditions of some of the most marginalized.

A more promising move on the regional level was the reactivation on of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries on 17April in Bujumbura, which brings together Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC. This institution will allow for the free movement of people and goods and at the same time is considered to be a key step in restoring peace and stability in the region. EU Commissioner Louis Michel enthusiastically welcomed the decision and announced a 50 million Euro grant to support its implementation.