To help Rwanda protect its postgenocide democracy from renewed ethnic divisions, Washington must be more alert to ideology at work there.
Arrogance, ignorance, and indifference to African victims of genocide have long been hallmarks of Western treatment of Rwanda. The US government should take care not to perpetuate this unfortunate tradition in the run-up to Rwanda’s presidential election in August and fan ethnic tensions in Rwanda.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton admonished the Rwandan government on June 14 for its legal prosecution of “opposition figures” and “lawyers,” which she called political actions that should be reversed. Whoever drafted and vetted the secretary’s comments did her, and Rwanda, a disservice.
The “opposition figure” in question is Victoire Ingabire, a Rwandan émigrée who returned to Rwanda from Europe in January to run for president. She had been living outside Rwanda since the 1994 genocide. Upon her return this year, she was soon charged with genocide denial, stirring up ethnic hatred, and collaborating with a rebel force based in eastern Congo – the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which is led by the remnants of the military officers and politicians who planned and perpetrated the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda.
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