David Himbara, the former advisor to Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame has castigated Kagame’s government for being dictatorial and unaccountable which is what has led to the latest diplomatic row between Uganda and Rwanda.
Himbara spent a total of six years working for President Paul Kagame from 2006 to 2010 as the head of strategy and policy in the Office of the President and from 2000 to 2002 as the principal private secretary to the President.
The Canadian based educator, political economist and author was Sunday speaking during the Fourth Estate talk show on NTV Uganda.
While commenting on the recent decision by Rwanda to close the main border with Uganda at Katuna, Himbara said this action is telling of the lack of independent institutions like Parliament that should be taking such decisions. The border closure goes to show how much Kagame runs the country unilaterally and is only accountable to self, Himbara said.
“Rwanda has no Parliament, because the members of Parliament are not elected by the constituencies. They are selected from the party. If there was a Parliament, a decision like closing an international border would not have been approved,” he said.
“If you ask me what the problem is, basically is – we have a government that is totally unaccountable”.
He said the reason he parted ways with Kagame was because “he would not take advice”. The trigger for his fleeing of Rwanda in 2010 was when “things got very violent, people disappearing, people ending up dead, some attempted assassinations outside Rwanda”.
He initially lived in South Africa until he felt it wasn’t safe there following the assassination of former Rwandan intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya in 2013.
He said it is unfortunate that people like Rwandan tycoon, Tribert Rujugiro are being witch-hunted even after they contributed significantly to the formation of Kagame’s government that was purposed to unify Rwanda and return exiles.
“People like Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, these are people who raised resources to support the struggle. And their main purpose was that they had been refugees for 30 years and where they were refugees, they were not given rights”.
When Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) came about, they thought this was an opportunity to end statelessness, he said.
“That’s how we went back to Rwanda after 1994 [genocide], hoping that now we have a government that is accountable to all. But the regime there is basically replaying the same or even worse than the one that was there before”.
Himbara says business people like Rujugiro who thrived during the regime of former Rwandan President, Juvénal Habyarimana cannot thrive today.
Part of what explains this, he said, is the fact that Crystal Ventures, a Rwandan business empire run by President Kagame and the RPF which according to Himbara, controls most aspects of the economy in Rwanda.
“It’s a country full of contradictions and total confusion,” he said of the state of affairs in Rwanda.
Regarding allegations by Kigali against Rujugiro claiming he bankrolls rebelious activities (by Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC) against Rwanda, Himbara says the allegations are false. He argues the witch-hunt against Rujugiro started in 2009 before the formation of RNC.
“In 2009, there was no RNC, it came much later. The fleeing of Tribert and others began earlier. That’s typical Kagame looking for a scapegoat,” Himbara said.
His statement is akin to President Kagame’s former Chief of Staff, Theogene Rudasingwa’s reading of the allegations by Kagame that Uganda is supporting RNC elements.
“General Kagame’s allegation that he is fighting General Nyamwasa’s Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and its so-called P5 supported by Uganda, and FDLR (both allegedly supported by Burundi) is an absurdity, like flogging dead horses,” Rudasingwa who lives in the U.S wrote recently.
“I co-created and led RNC from 2010, and later the P5, until I abandoned them in 2016 due to irreconcilable ideological differences. General Kagame knows that RNC, P5, and FDLR do not pose any serious threat to his rule…. Kagame needs FDLR, RNC, and P5 as scapegoats to justify his aggression as he continues to keep Rwandan citizens as hostages under fear,” he added.
In advising the Rwandan President, Himbara re-echoed an appeal made to Kagame by former Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, to stop fighting and hold talks with the Rwandan dissidents who are scattered across the world.
“Stop fighting, talk,” said Himbara.
He also bashed Kagame for his recent closure of the Katuna border, which resulted into a customs paralysis for over a week. Over 100 trucks loaded with cargo spent over a week parked at Katuna after they were denied entry into Rwanda, causing losses to traders.
“Do not ever dare close an international border. Mr Kagame, you just broke all the laws. The East African Treaty demands that you allow free movement of capital and people,” Himbara said.
He also asked President Museveni whom he says has been very patient with Kagame’s actions, to ignore dictations by Kigali to close down Rujugiro’s businesses or those of other Rwandan nationals.
“Uganda raised all of us and was with us refugees who were able to return. Without your support, this would not have happened. Enough is enough. Uganda is a sovereign state, it can not be dictated by anyone that ‘do this do that, close this business and close that business’,” Himbara said.
“We ask you [Museveni] to treat Tribert like any other business if he’s abiding by the laws of the country. Judge him according to that. Do not force him or anybody to close business because some regime in the neighborhood says so”.
He said by forcing Rujugiro, a self-made businessman who had created employment for many Rwandans, to flee, the Rwandan government shot itself in the foot.