Oxford University distanced itself from Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s presence on campus. He was invited by Oxford Business Network for Africa to attend their conference at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School on May 18, 2013. Characterizing President Kagame as a “controversial figure”, the university said that “this invitation and President Kagame’s presence in the Saïd Business School does not imply any endorsement by the School or the University of his views or actions.” However, the Oxford added that his presence was an “opportunity for those present to challenge him as appropriate.” (Inyanyari News, May 13, 2013)
“Challenge him as appropriate”? Images from a protest staged by a group of Rwandans and Congolese confirms that this message does not match the resentment and anger they have against the Rwandan leader who they call a criminal.
Students and faculty sent a letter to Dr. Peter Tufano, Dean of the Saïd Business School in opposition to his invitation. Two petitions on Change.org, one for and the other against his visit show that Kagame is seriously disliked.
Telling the two sides of the story
Those in support argued that “President Kagame’s visionary leadership and his tireless work to transform Rwanda into a dignified nation is nothing short of inspirational for Rwandans and for Africans.” They collected 2000 signatures most of which were from Rwanda.
Those opposed made the case saying that “Bestowing any honor upon Mr. Kagame at a time when he and his government are becoming increasingly isolated in the face of mounting evidence of their gross human rights violations represents a serious error of judgment.” They collected 4000 signatures as of May 22, most of them from abroad.
The case against Kagame
The disregard of President Kagame’s violations of human rights and humanitarian laws, his heavy handed leadership, the amount of blood on his hands in Rwanda,in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond explains people’s outrage wherever he goes. In 2011, the Obama administration filed a “Suggestion of Immunity Submitted by the United States of America,” for President Paul Kagame in the civil lawsuit Habyarimana vs. Kagame which he was served the day he went for the commencement ceremony at Oklahoma Christian University. After delivering the commencement address, President Kagame left through the back door, making obvious that the hunter has become the hunted. Also, challenging him on the fact that Rwanda allows no opposition or dissent peaceful protest, protesters shouted “this is how democracy works!”
In the US outcry for justice and calls to further isolate President Kagame are common occurrence: Carnegie Mellon University in 2011, William Penn University in 2012, Sacramento State University in 2011 just to name a few. In Paris in France the crowed was even bigger when he visited there in 2011.
Obviously, President Kagame popularity as the man who stopped the 1994 genocide, brought development and peace in Rwanda is quickly disappearing. Rwandans of all ethnic groups want to hold him accountable for his crimes in Rwanda from 1990 to current, heavy handed leadership, imprisonment and targeted assassinations of opposition members in Rwanda and abroad.
For far too long the international community has looked on the other side until recently. The turning point was the release of the UN mapping report in 2010 which finally shone a little bit of light on President Kagame’s connections to the killing of millions in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from 1996 to 2003. The UN has yet to commission another comprehensive report from 2003 to date.
Last year’s UN group of experts’ report generated more international actions against the Rwandan regime. The US led the way by withholding 200.000 USD in military aid to Rwanda and other nations followed suit. But more needs to be done. The report, which the Rwanda government continues to reject, contains evidence that the Rwandan government is helping the strongest rebel group called M23 which controls a territory in eastern DRC larger than the Republic of Rwanda.
Kagame a defiant leader
Despite the international pressure, President Kagame remains defiant. For a month now, the North Kivu civil society, among other has been reporting increasing crossing of Rwandan soldiers into DRC to help M23 and has called on the international community to take appropriate measures. They have identified among many Colonel BINGIRA, a Rwanda military officer who is currently commanding Rwandan and M23 troops.
The same source reported that Rwanda has put back in the game Mr. Laurent Nkunda whose presence was reported at a high level meeting between M23 leadership and newly arrived Rwandan troops in Rumangabo military base on May 11, 2013. Laurent Nkunda is the former leader of this same rebel movement when it had the name National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). He currently lives with impunity across DRC’s boarder in Rwanda where he continues to play a key role in M23 rebellion. Advocacy groups have asked the Rwanda government to hand him over to DRC’s authorities or send him to exile far from the region. The current M23 leader, Bertand Bisimwa is Nkunda’s brother in-law.
In M23 controlled area, like many other militias, reigns terror; people are victims of kidnapping for ransom, rape, assassinations, looting, forced recruitment including children and weekly or monthly taxations, check points on major roads and market places to collect money.
After months of calm while the governments negotiated with M23 leadership, the rebels have resumed hostilities in an effort to take the city of Goma before the UN combat battalion stars its mission. Under UN Resolution 2098, this battalion is mandated to once and for all dismantle the multiple rebel groups in RDC. This battalion will be composed of soldiers, some of whom are already in DRC, from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania.