columnBy Gahiji Innocent
Amid a barrage of hostile international headlines and donor indication that funding is going to be tied to how events play out in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda is fighting back; and this time hard. This counter-onslaught is being led by President Paul Kagame who now insists Rwanda will not succumb to the "injustices" coming from the west, which he says is "dead wrong" with accusations of rebel support.
Over the past months, especially since June this year, Rwanda has found itself in the spotlight over alleged role in the current rebellion in eastern DRC. Two UN reports have been published, which Kigali has dismissed in their entirety. In media interviews and speeches, President Kagame and Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, have taken turns to lambast the UN reports, as well as similar accusations from groups like Human Rights Watch.
In the latest defense of Rwanda's position, President Kagame spent much of his address at the launch of the judicial year 2012-13 at Parliament on September 04, tackling the Congo conflict. Rwanda's donors and colonial master Belgium also got their fair-share of scrutiny.
"Law of the jungle"
Mr. Kagame said that there was no doubt Rwanda's judiciary has improved. Rwandans had trust in the reformed judiciary, he said.
"The problem that is here is not that we don't have the ability to handle some of the cases," said the President. "Whatever the case, no one can deny the fact that our history should not be neglected .... We have to build our own capacity and homemade solutions for our country".
President Kagame said when it comes to Rwanda; international justice is being mixed between politics or justice. The dividing line is very hard to find, Kagame told his audience, noting that international law was intended to control Africans.
Using the analogy "carrot and stick" to explain the manner in which the west deals with Africa, he said sometimes the carrot is put before the Africans and when they delay to eat it, they are beaten, and directed to do what the donor wants. Without specifically naming it, the President also criticized the manner in which the International Criminal Court (ICC) operates, describing it as the "law of the jungle".
"In places where there are crimes, this justice is not taken there. They take the so called international justice only to places where they have interests," said the President.
He added: "In English they say: You break [the law], you own it, but they turn it around and break it and want us to own it. We are not going to own it, we are not...even with these daily threats of aid, what threats, you are just dead wrong..."
DRC government: "ideologically bankrupt"
Turning to DRC, Mr. Kagame pointed out that the current uprising in the east had been caused by "people who are known to everyone and to themselves".
He said amid massive applause: "Long ago we used to be under the same territory of Rwanda-Urundi-Congo- Belge...do you remember? Some of these people think that this is how it still is. This is not how it is. Rwanda is no longer under the Rwanda-Burundi- Congo- Belge...Zero!"
"The people, who caused the problems in Congo, are there and they have been aware of this problem for decades. But at the end of the day they ask Rwanda to take responsibility for the presence of Rwandophones in Congo?!...Those that took these Rwandophones there should answer this question..."
"...we Rwandans are better off standing up to this bullish attitude. The attitude of the bullies must be challenged, that is what we live for, some of us. We are better off that way..."
In a mixture of English and Kinyarwanda, as western diplomats and senior government officials listened at the Parliament building where the function was held, President Kagame wondered why the government of DR Congo was not taking any blame for causing the current crisis.
Rwanda, he said, has become the target in the face of the blindness of the international community, which deliberately overlooks the responsibility of the Kinshasa government.
"Whether it's the M23, leaders in Congo or the international community, to me, they are all ideological bankrupt because they cannot define properly a simple problem," said the president.
"They keep running around...For over a decade you keep blaming Rwanda for the problems of Congo. Why don't they have enough courage to blame themselves and take part of the responsibility, before anyone else will takes their responsibility... What is this black mail all about - is it aid?"
Defending Rwanda's record
Mr. Kagame told his audience in the live-televised speech that the attacks on civilians were being carried out across DRC - even in Kinshasa "in broad daylight" but were not being condemned by that country's government or by the West. Alluding to the various international agreements that have been established aimed at preventing aid being attached with strings; President Kagame said western nations had undermined their own commitments.
"There is no country in this world that receives aid and accounts for it better than Rwanda. There is none..." said the President. "...am not sure that these people who give us aid want us to develop. No! They give you aid and expect you to remain beggars. They give you aid, so that forever you glorify them and depend on them...and they are using it as a tool for control and management."
"Our new Rwanda, must be different ...and I will not stop telling my fellow brothers and sisters, Africans, to just wake up and know that wherever it happens, some of them invite it and are not ready to stand up to the challenge. They better stand up and get ready to stand up this challenge."
The President added in reference to FDLR rebels who the international community seems to have ignored: "There is a bigger territory where worse things are happening ... So if you ask me to condemn people or to blame them for anything, I know where to start from."
"This persecution of people even at an international level is just unbecoming," Kagame said to applause. "Freeze aid to Rwanda, freeze, freeze ... This injustice does not make us compliant, this injustice makes us defiant."
No apology fighting for Rwanda's "agaciro"
The occasion also coincided with the swearing in of senior government and military officials. Among the officials sworn-in were Maj Gen Frank Kamanzi Mushyo who was appointed the Army Chief of Staff for land forces; and the Ombudsman, Aloysie Cyanzayire. The latter is the former chief justice.
As the President came to the close of his 58-minute hard-hitting speech, he turned to internal politics. He said some countries were not comfortable that Rwanda had made significant progress - as Rwandans struggled hard to have a descent life.
"We are doing our best, we are trying our best, to take this country forward, to unite our people, to give them a descent living like those people have - they think we don't deserve it," he said.
He advised Rwandans to stay "decent and disciplined", and reminded Africans that most of the insults and injustices are happening because of two reasons: that some Africans make big mistakes, and there were grave weakness in leadership.
The President said: "You should not accept to be victims. You must work to improve your life - no one else will do it for you. Let's continue to do our best and get the best out of the very little we have in our hands. Let's continue to be decent people. They think we don't deserve the same development...why should the Rwandans accept that. Why?"
Kagame called on Rwandans to exemplify him by standing up for their dignity (Agaciro), sovereignty and value for their country. He said Rwandans should get accustomed to the "power of refusing injustice."
"You will keep hearing from me on this," said the President amid more applause, adding: "That's why you hired me. And I would be happy that some of you, or all of you should be thinking about how to continue with this attitude of granting ourselves dignity."
He added: "I want to beg you so that even after me, you should have somebody who continues on the same path. In fact, this should be the qualification that the one who will step in, or stand, or seat in my position, should be [able] to fight for these Rwandans and beyond."
Gahiji Innocent is the chief political columnist for Newsofrwanda.He grew up in Kampala,Uganda before moving to Rwanda.His column is syndicated to newspapers around the country. He has written columns from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and South Africa. Gahiji , who has a B.A. degree in English from the University of Illinois, has been a Poynter Media Fellow at Yale University,