FDU-INKINGI International Relations Commissioner and Spokesperson
On October 6th, the European Parliament passed the resolution (2016/2910(RSP) on Rwanda, the case of Victoire Ingabire which “strongly condemns politically motivated trials, the prosecution of political opponents and the prejudging of the outcome of the trial; urges the Government of Rwanda to extend economic and social achievements to the field of human rights in order to fully move towards a modern and inclusive democracy; urges the Rwandan authorities to ensure that Victoire Ingabire’s appeal process is fair and meets the standards set under Rwandan and international law”.
We may also recall Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is considered by the EU parliament as a political prisoner and that she was a runner up of the Sakharov peace award which is given by the European government.
Highly paid lobbyists and pro Kagame group at the EU parliament led by Louis Michel failed to stop the tide of criticism of the repressive regime in Rwanda. The two Rwandan houses of Parliament passed a resolution calling on the EU parliament to withdraw the resolution. Nothing happened. The Rwandan government tried again to influence the 32nd Session of the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly (19-21/12/2016) in Nairobi -Kenya to condemn the EU decision and it failed again. This could not have happened without hard, done well and honestly, avoiding populism that Rwandans love.
A senior and well-seasoned diplomat in Brussels whom I have known for some time was amazed and asked me how FDU-Inking had managed to gain such an influence in the European Parliament. This reminded me of the conversation we had with the current President of Burkina Faso HE Marc Christian Kabore when we met at the Congress of the Socialist Party of France in May 2015 where the FDU-Inkingi had also been invited. He was then in the opposition in his country. He told FDU-Inkingi delegation about how he admired the courage of Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. While people who are familiar with EU decision making, mechanisms praise FDU-Inkingi for bringing the case of its President to the EU parliament especially in in the efface of a powerful pro President Kagame lobby, its detractors have accused its leadership of not being focussed and of having betrayed their leader, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. However, anyone who knows how all international institutions work would not fail to acknowledge the hard work needed to be able to provide watertight and strong evidence, alone or with the help of others, to back a claim. The accusations against FDU-inkingi of being unfocussed, levelled by its detractors betray either a serious ignorance of the basics of lobbying and advocacy or simply bad faith.
The Rwandan government tried unsuccessfully to stop the appeal case of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza at the African Court for Human and People’s Rights. It was heard in March 2017 despite the boycott by the Rwandan government. This was greatly due to the fantastic work done by the defence team of the President of FDU-Inkingi funded and coordinated by FDU-Inkingi Commission on legal and human rights affairs. Many of those who praise her courage have not given on penny to meet the costs of her defence.
In September 2016, FDU-Inkingi was invited to Geneva to make a presentation to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. This is a result of the relations that the Party has established with UN institutions.
In its report that came out in March 2017, the US State Department Report arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture; harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; and restrictions on civil liberties; restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties, hence denying citizens the ability to change their government through free and fair elections”. We have been regularly feeding the US Department cases of human rights abuses in Rwanda and therefore part of the groups that have been informing US policy on Rwanda.
The FDU-Inkingi party has won its credentials from its mature and balanced analysis of issues, its view of the national interest against parochial and partisan interest and for having a clear vision of the Rwanda of tomorrow. Many will indeed know that international recognition, like the one that FDU-Inkingi enjoys, is based on those qualities.
The party’s mature approach to issues was illustrated, for example, by how it reacted to the positon of two presidential hopefuls Ms Diane Rwigara and Thomas Nahimana. When a young lady by the name of Diane Rwigara came out to criticise the government for its bad policies and declared her intention to stand against President Kagame. FDU-Inkingi issued a press release praising her courage for daring to criticise the government in the face of so many risks to her life but also made the point that we do believe that elections had already been concluded when Kagame and his party forced a referendum that voted by more than 90% for him to stand 3rd term. The FDU-Inkingi had given the same message when another presidential hopeful Nahimana Thomas was presented from going back to Rwanda was refused entry to Rwanda. FDU-Inkingi condemned the refusal to let him enter his country but warned that elections would not be free and fair.
Unfortunately, FDU-Inkingi was accused by its detractors of contradicting itself and of double standards alleging that it praised and condemns at the same time and that its position on elections is different from its positon in 2010 when its President Victoire Ingabire went to Rwanda to stand against President Kagame.
The party is of the view that such a reasoning suggests lack of balanced approach to political issues. It is our very considered view that acknowledging the merits of a point in a statement and criticising another point in the same statement is not a contradiction but intellectual honesty. Furthermore, the Party is guided, in its decision-making process by “action, reflection and then action”. Changing position in the light of new knowledge, evidence and change of political and social environment is not a sign of lack of direction or inconsistency as FDU-Inkingi detractors claim by political realism. As Bernard Shaw put it “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. We have learnt from the experience of the elections of 2010 and have had to devise other tactics. Seven years in politics is long and we cannot use the same tactics. Sharing our experience and making our point is not fighting other organisations in any way or form. The FDU- Inkingi party is not static in thinking or action.
In terms of the national interest of Rwanda, we strongly believe that a country like Rwanda which has experienced the trauma of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes where in a way there is no family that has lost a loved one, we need to build a strong broad-based coalition to address the many problems that face the country. In this regard, the Party is founding member of a coalition of five political organisations Amahoro PC, FDU-Inkingi, PDP Imanzi and RNC. We believe that is order to make it function we must avoid being judgmental, be able to swallow individual pride and avoid seeing our strong feelings however justified override national interest which is to build a reconciled nation, democratic and acknowledging and respecting the sanctity of life.
It is quite sad that some of our detractors have accused the Party of being weak and keen on protecting criminals within the coalition. We reject this view, not only because short terms interests must not override long term national interest but also because we want to build a state where is rule of law where only independent courts are responsible to try and pass judgements.
It is quite sad that the detractors of FDU-Inkingi have deliberately led the public to lose sight of the fact that FDU- Inkingi has its headquarters in Rwanda even though it has a strong branch outside the country. It is fully functional and its officials receive foreign delegations, meet foreign missions in Kigali and are invited at reception. The President Mrs Ingabire even in prison is the President, the 1st President and 1st Secretary general and the Assistant treasurer are in Rwanda. Others posts in the party structure are shared equally between members inside and outside the country. Alleging that the President of the party Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza has been abandoned and does not follow or have access to decisions made by the party is simply a figment of the imagination of the detractors of the Party.
It is not rocket science to realise that the achievements of FDU-Inkingi as outlined briefly are only possible because the party is well organised, united, focussed with a professional and respectable team at the helm.