For Rwanda’s Kagame, critics including foreign nationals have to worry

2014-04-01 09:06

On 31 December 2013, mysteriously assassinated in his hotel chamber. Must it be the finger of Rwanda's strong man--Paul Kagame? Hard to tell.

South Africa (SA) timidly but painfully launched an investigation whose result never came out.The truth, it seems, was simply buried—deep under the moving sand of realpolitik. No one will ever know why.

No place on earth for regime critics

Soon afterwards however, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who had earlier denied any role in the assassination of the former spy chief, came out from his reserve and warns in no uncertain terms that those who betray him today will perish tomorrow. He then adds he wished he killed the man himself.

For Kagame, there will be no place on earth for those who criticize his regime. His statement raises eyebrows but little diplomatic outcry.

Emboldened by his first successful move, Kagame, like an anaconda, later coils, springs and hits back again. This time, we are still in South Africa, a country that has hosted a Rwandan dissident and asylum seeker Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a man whom Kigali considers a terrorist.

Kagame knew for sure that the ANC-led government would not react and this for good reasons. South Africa has strategic interests in countries that are within his reach.

For the SA government, it was way too much. There should be consequences for these unfriendly actions. With investigations linking several people from the Rwandan Embassy in SA to this new murder attempt, the government decides to harbor no more criminals disguised in diplomats.

There should be consequences

The expulsion of the suspected diplomats follows.Kigali immediately responds unapologetically—SA harbors terrorists. Additionally, Kigali reciprocates by expulsing SA diplomats.

What Kagame did in SA is not an isolated case. Rather, it fits within a pattern of crackdown on opponents including foreign nationals living beyond the country’s border. For instance, a recent report released by Reporters without Borders details several acts of intimidation, harassment and assassination linked to Kagame’s regime.

Some of the individuals who were harassed include Steve Terrill, a US freelance journalist, Sonia Rolley, a journalist for Radio France Internationale, Ivan Okuda, a journalist for The Daily Monitor, Andrew Muhanguzi, a brother of an exiled Rwandan journalist.

That those political persecutions are even happening on Twitter and against foreign nationals on foreign soils as reported by The Washington Post, is a matter of concern. In the light of these new revelations, it is now clear that Kagame’s tentacles run deep, deeper than we know. Understanding his actions in SA thus requires that we connect them to these and other daring acts carried out elsewhere in Africa and beyond.

Whether Kagame will stop these human rights abuses at home and on foreign soils depends on how nations are able to respond to his provocations with calculated, measured and swift counter-actions.

SA might have done just that – investigating, documenting evidences of, and then taking action against, individuals hired for harassing and murdering critics on its soil. Perhaps other countries should follow and do more—developing a solid and efficient counter-inter-intelligence to track down suspected assassins for hire and, if diplomats, ship them home.

One day sometimes, Kagame will have to learn that in politics and international relations, cooperation, not adversarialism, wins the day.

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