8 January 2013

Rwanda: A Year of Mixed Fortunes

Every year presents its own unique challenges, tribulations and triumphs. For Rwanda, 2012 was a year when the country rode through challenges like aid cuts but it was also a year Rwanda rewrote history after securing a coveted seat on the UN Security Council. The Independent's OSTINE ARINAITWE in Kigali traces major events that shook and shaped Rwanda in 2012.

Mugesera finally faces Justice

After dodging justice for almost 20 years for allegedly giving an inflammatory speech in which he incited crimes against humanity and inciting violence, Léon Mugesera, a 59-year-old philosopher, linguist and former political activist was in January deported from Canada to Rwanda ending nearly two decades of battling extradition attempts.

In November 1992, Mugesera, then a vice president of the ruling party MRND in Gisenyi, western Rwanda, urged about 1,000 followers of the Hutu political party to rise up and resist the Tutsi whom he warned would harm Hutu. His speech was later followed by killings and it is believed to have incited Genocide.

Since his deportation, Mugesera has been making rounds at the Nyarugenge Intermediate Court in Kigali asking for more time to prepare for his trial. He is battling the charges of genocide planning, incitement and distribution of arms.

Genocide suspect Jean Bosco Uwinkindi transferred to Rwanda

Jean Bosco Uwinkindi became the first person to be transferred to Rwanda by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) under the UN tribunal's completion strategy to face charges of spearheading killings in Kanzenze area in the former Kigali-Rural prefecture during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Uwinkindi, a former clergyman in Bugesera District, was arrested in Uganda in 2010. He is accused of working with militias in 1994 to massacre members of his congregation. The former pastor is scheduled to defend himself against genocide charges this month in the Nyarugenge Intermmediate Court.

Rwanda accused of supporting DRC rebels

A UN report that leaked mid-2012 accused the government of Rwanda and some senior ranking military officials in the Rwandan army of giving support to DR Congo rebels known by their acronym M23. In April, M23 began a war against the Congolese government accusing it of negligence to implement resolutions of the peace agreement signed in March 2009. One of the pressing issues was to repatriate families of the Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese who fled to Rwanda during the civil wars in Eastern DRC in many years ago.

When the fighting broke out in April, the international community accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel group who went on to capture the strategic town of Goma in Eastern DRC although it has now been handed back to the Congolese government.

Although Rwanda gave a strong rebuttal, several countries suspended aid because of the UN report. These include Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, UK, and U.S. The European Union also announced earlier that it would suspend new aid to Rwanda. It is not yet clear when the aid will be unfrozen despite the government's frantic efforts to engage the DRC government in finding a solution to the problems in eastern DRC. The rebels and the DRC Government have initiated peace talks currently being hosted and facilitated by the Ugandan government.

RPF celebrates 25th anniversary

The ruling party, Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) celebrated its 25th anniversary on December 20 with pomp after a series of events that included a football tournament, fashion shows and entertainment shows. Political parties from Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and China attended the event that saw a record turn up at the Amahoro stadium. President Yoweri Museveni and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn were some of the dignitaries that were invited to the celebrations.

Inyumba passes away

This was one of 2012's saddest moments for Rwanda. A wave of shock swept across the country in October following the death of Aloisea Inyumba, the former Minister of Gender and Family Promotion in the Prime Minister's Office.

Inyumba, 48, succumbed to cancer at her home in Kagugu, a Kigali suburb on December 6. She was married to Dr. Richard Masozera, the Director General of the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority and had two children - a daughter aged 15, and a son, 10. Inyumba was among the senior members and cadres of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).

President Paul Kagame was among the people who reacted to Inyumba's death on social media.

He tweeted, "What a great loss in the passing away of Aloisea Inyumba for RPF, the nation and all of us at a personal level. She was among the best of RPF and national leaders." Inyumba was given a full state funeral where she was eulogized by several government officials.

Rwanda wins Security Council seat

The UN General Assembly in October 2012 elected Rwanda to one of the rotational seats on the UN Security Council (UNSC). Along with Argentina and Australia, Rwanda was elected on the first ballot. Rwanda was unopposed in her bid for the Africa seat, but needed to win a two-thirds majority of the 193-member General Assembly. Rwanda won 148 votes. The country will now represent the eastern and southern Africa region for a two-year term commencing on January 1, 2013.

Ingabire sentenced to eight years in prison

The country's most high profile and long running trial came to a dramatic end when the High Court ignored the state's pleas for a life sentence for opposition politician Victorie Ingabire and instead sentenced her to eight years.

The 'light' sentence seemed to shock even her lawyers and supporters though her English lawyer Ian Edwards immediately said they would appeal the sentence. The Prosecution has already lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court and another round between the protagonists is expected towards the end of this month.

National Dialogue Concludes

Rwanda again organised the national dialogue meeting in December bringing together at least 1000 participants who included senior government officials ranging from President Paul Kagame and the Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi as well as Rwandans in Diaspora. The 10th National Dialogue was held on the theme that sought to instill a culture of 'self-reliance' and "dignity" among Rwandans. During the meeting which is always chaired by President Kagame, over 20 resolutions were made and their implementation will be reviewed during the 11th national dialogue expected in December 2013.

Frank Habineza returns from exile

After fleeing the country when his party was denied registration, Democratic Green Party President Frank Habineza returned to Rwanda in October and immediately vowed to challenge the ruling RPF. Habineza is yet to register his party but has already set up offices in Kimironko, a Kigali suburb.

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