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Let us not become complicit in the continued political rape of the Rwandan PeopleJennifer Fierberg, MSW
John V Karuranga, President of the Rwanda People’s Party's letter to President Jared L. Cohon, of Carnegie Melon University, who allowed disputed President Paul Kagame to speak from a palladium stage.
(LONDON) - The following is an open letter...
President Jared L. Cohon
I write to you on behalf my party, the Rwanda People’s Party that has been fighting for a peaceful, democratic and non-violent change in Rwanda since May 2010. The RPP is the voice of the most disadvantaged Rwandans whose voices cannot be heard because they can’t speak for themselves. These are the innocent, the defenseless and the downtrodden Rwandan. Mr. President, in our on-going tireless in search of a peaceful solution to end the Rwandan political turmoil and uncertainty, our party sent a proposal for Peace Talks to President Kagame in May 2011; we are yet to hear from him.
Mr. President, on 16/09/2011 Mr. Paul Kagame, was given a palladium stage at the CMU and it is at this point when the government of Rwanda and the Carnegie Mellon University disclosed their agreement to establish working partnership at which CMU is to build a university in Rwanda aimed at empowering the Rwandan future generations with knowledge that will allow them to maximize their human potential. Mr. President, we view President Kagame’s visit as very disturbing and controversial at the helm of CMU, yet at the same time, as a party, we do recognize and foresee the importance of the CMU-Rwanda partnership and its benefits to the people of Rwanda in long-term perspectives.
Mr. President, on behalf of the Rwanda People’s Party, I applaud the CMU-Rwanda partnership. This initiative and bridge to empower Rwandan future generations to build a civilized nation, a nation with a collective responsibility and sustainable promising future for all Rwandan, goes to the core values of my party’s program. The policy to provide education to the Rwandan people, therefore, can never be seconded. To this extent, therefore, Mr. President, we believe that the CMU – Rwanda partnership will forge a bridge to improve better living conditions of the most disadvantaged Rwandan especially women. This falls within the CMU pledges to; “ serve create and disseminate knowledge and art through research, and creative enquiry, teaching, learning, and transfer the CMU’s intellectual and artistic products to enhance society in meaning and sustainable ways.”
We have seen publications expressing indignation about the CMU-Rwanda partnership to educate Rwandan vulnerable people. On behalf of my party, I would like to take this opportunity to comment on these opinion’s and as to why they think it is too dangerous and risky for the CMU to take on a lead of Capacity Building in Rwanda because of President Kagame’s past records. We really, value and respect their opinions. We are pleased to inform you that I have gone through these expressions of concern point-by-point and page-by-page but have failed to see where local Rwandans may have had exercised their influence over President Kagame or if they may have benefited from his actions. Let the people of Rwanda be judged on their merits but not on that of their president. Rwanda is bigger than President Kagame and therefore, people of Rwanda should be given greater consideration first. We could be sending dangerous signals to Rwandan and international community, if we start looking at President Kagame in a bigger picture than that of Rwanda instead of vice versa. Rwanda as a state and a people will still be there when Kagame is gone.
We think that those who stand against the CMU-Rwanda partnership should position themselves first into the shoes of the innocent, the defenseless, and the downtrodden ones whose children have overwhelming expectations to benefit from this partnership. We invite those against the CMU-Rwanda project to re-evaluate their criteria used in reaching such dramatic decisions. We urge them to quantify the opportunity cost for and against the partnership to provide education that will help to improve political, social and economic wellbeing of more than 11 million Rwandan, currently struggling to meet their daily needs a country that is still stricken by grappling poverty and deprivation.
Mr. President, the genocide in Rwanda was incited by the educated elite; however, the majority of them never participated directly in the mass killings because they knew the consequences of their actions. Instead, they encouraged and supervised the uneducated Rwandan to kill their neighbors. These senseless killings were mostly executed by people who didn’t have knowledge and awareness of the gravity and consequences of mass killings, crimes against humanity and genocide. Mr. President, it is easier for some people to make decisions and critical statements about their likes and dislikes, but it can also be hard for some of them to be able to assess and quantify the long-term impact of their decision making, can have on others who were not a party to it. Though, we are opposed to the RPF regime, but as a party, we also believe that it is absolutely and fundamentally unfairly to ignore the plights of 11 million disadvantaged Rwandan who are expected to benefit from this partnership, just because of, one man, “President Kagame” We believe that the adoption of empowerment, access and awareness should be the fundamental principles of the education. As a party, we welcome CMU and other global universities to come to Rwanda to empower the future generation to make their informed choices so that the history of violence and fear in Rwanda will never be repeated.
Mr. President, personally, I have been refugee since 1960. My sister and I were separated by the tragic events that began in 1959. We both grew up in different countries without contact while our lives are toned a part by the making of these episodes. As a refugee, I didn’t have the opportunity to go beyond my secondary education because my parents were, very, very poor and they couldn’t afford to educate me. But not until 28 Dec 1986, when the Uganda government served me with a notice of persona non grata for political reasons, and they put me on a flight to Geneva-Switzerland, and then to Sweden after 8 months of incarceration at Luzira Maximum Prison in Uganda. I repeated my secondary education in Sweden before I went to the UK to pursue my university studies. Yet, my sister who remained in captivity in Rwanda cannot read or write. If I write letter to her, she has to look for someone else to read it for her and vice versa. She is among millions of Rwandans who are denied an education and kept blindfolded in darkness for the past 53 years. Mr. President, the future of Rwanda lay in the hands of new generation that are in need of a solid and good education foundation. This is where the CMU-Rwanda project needs to step-in so as to prevent Rwandan future generation to grow-up blindfolded like my sister.
Mr. President, Rwanda and in Africa as a whole, is enduring the most gross human rights abuses and lack of democracy because the people are not empowered to defend their rights. You may have heard or read that women and young girls are being raped daily and the culprits are still at large and unpunished as it was in the case of Rwanda during the time of genocide and as well as today in the DRC. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes go on unreported, not because it is taboo to report the victimizers, but because women in Rwanda and other developing countries lack education and women empowerment to make informed choices. They also lack awareness and support to defend their rights and dignity. This is in contrast with their fellow women in America and Europe who are well empowered through education and awareness.
The lack of understanding of barriers faced by these undereducated women in the third world have also created xenophobia and wrong tendencies from both victims and victimizers to believe that a woman was created to be raped, violated and physically abused by a man. Mr. President, we believe that the establishment of the CMU-Rwanda partnership will empower Rwandan people, mainly women to dismantle the wall of fear and barriers of poverty, injustice and social exclusion for over the past 53 years. Mr. President, we believe this is relevant to the CMU faculty pledge of; “to serve our students by teaching them the problem solving leadership skills and teamwork skills, and the value of a commitment to quality, ethical behaviors, and respect for others.”
Mr. President, today, I am able to communicate to the audiences of global political leaders, law makers, and scholars like yourself, business executives and NGOs about the wider need of the 11 million destitute Rwandans who are desperate for real change but not a change of guard. Mr. President, by doing so, doesn’t mean that I am very neither different nor unique from fellow Rwandan especially the 11 million Rwandan whose basic rights and dignities were confiscated by all Rwanda’s dictatorial regimes that have come and gone since independence. I believe people at home have the potential to offer to their country like anyone else if they are given the opportunity to try their level best, they are some people out there who might be more clever than me, and others who could be good partners for peace and advocates to free themselves from President Kagame’s dictatorial regime, while others could be Rwanda’s future leaders of tomorrow.
My party is deeply concerned about enormous suffering of our fellow Rwandans for the past 53 years. These are the less advantaged Rwandan people who are struggling to make it day-to-day living there, those who have no rights to education, health care, housing, and whose children die of hunger and starvation while the lucky one to access school their children also go to school with empty stomachs. We are also concerned about the plights of 1.7 million forgotten Rwandan street children with no bright future, hopes, dreams and aspirations. Furthermore, we are also concerned about the Rwanda of tomorrow, about building the new Rwanda that we all want, a tolerant Rwanda that can embrace its diversity and guarantee equal opportunity and protection for all. A new Rwanda that is governed by the consciousness of unified Rwanda's nationalism, love and passion for their country, but not the one governed on the cracks and pavements of ethnicity, divisionism, hateful, fears, killings and genocide ideology. This is why as party; we are fully committed to work around the clock together with other Rwandans, devising all suitable options that could be available to respond to Rwandan tears. But of all Mr. President, I am able to communicate the need of 11 million desperate Rwandan, because I am among the few Rwandan who was privileged to access education. We believe that lack of education and awareness are the main barriers that restrict and enslave our people at home. Mr. President, please allow me to reflect on the tragedy of April - July 1994 in which over 1 million Rwandans were killed in less than 100 days. The Habyarimana plane was shot down by his own soldiers in order to justify the mass killings of innocent and law abiding citizens of Rwandan. During the genocide I lost 162 members of my family including my mother who returned to Rwanda after I was deported from Uganda. My sister survived it, but her only one child was among members of my family whose lives were cowardly taken away in cold blood. Mr. President, during the genocide, my children went to school as usual; they attended sports clubs, played football and visited McDonalds for burgers. For them the life was as usual, this was however, in contrast with their fellow children in Rwanda, who at times; were bleeding blood, slaughtered like pigs, begging to spare their lives but in vain, some were left orphans, and with permanent impairments. There are some whose lives will never be the same and or recover from the grim realities of being gang- raped. Others came to this beautiful world of ours as a result of rape, while others were born with sexually transmitted infections as their mothers were brutally attacked and then raped. Mr. President I don’t need to inform you that, my family and I today, would have been a part of this tragic statistic like other Rwandans if we were not in Europe by then. However, just because my family and I are exiled in Europe that cannot prompt us therefore; to close blind eyes on these oppressed Rwandans, just for political reasons.
My party is opposed to the RPF policy of repression and nepotism against the people of Rwanda, but it is also unequivocally, supportive of projects that could make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged Rwandans at home. Therefore, as a party, we are totally against any sort of economic embargoes, by courting, derailing and delaying projects that are directed to improve the living conditions of the Rwandan people. Any such move is reckless and counterproductive, and it will only deepen and prolong the suffering of the disadvantaged Rwandans who live in extreme poverty, deprivation and fears.
We invite those with conflicts of interest in the CMU-Rwanda partnership affairs not to politicalize the issue but instead direct their focus on the wider benefits the partnership could bring to this country. I believe the debate shouldn’t have be whether the CMU is to build the university in Rwanda, instead it should be a discussion as to its effectiveness to meet the wider expectations of the Rwandan people that are yawning for the bright future, the level of tuitions fees affordable to local people, and what would be the CMU’s advocacy role in publicizing, marketing and sales strategies of the plights and need of 1.7 million of Rwanda forgotten children to the international community, beyond the current Rwanda’s limited capacity so as to turn around their grim future.
The time has come to be aware that it is only education that can free Rwanda’s future generation to free themselves from the claws and blindfolded of darkness of the past and move-on, towards a sustainable and promising future for the benefit of all. The Rwandan youth are the platform of the present endeavors and drivers for the future of tomorrow. In a sense, that Rwanda like any other country, has to rely on its future generation to build on a new Rwandan on a foundation of belief, motivated and energized by the desire for progress and the pursuit of happiness and self-fulfillment, but not one that is paralyzed and characterized by the gloom, poverty, disappointments, stagnations, ethnicities, xenophobia, prejudices, wars, genocides, diversionist, wretchedness, fears and failures of yesterday, as the main parameters governing national politics, economic opportunities and social interaction.
With the right values and approach, let us end this fraudulent shame, and support these desperate Rwandans to fulfill their dreams of a new Rwanda that lives in peace within itself, with its neighbors and with the rest of humanity. Under these conditions we would have a strong Rwanda, united by the voluntary free will of its people, and achieved through the exercise of the right to self-determination and empowerment. This is the picture of a modern Rwanda that we all want, to live in without fear and threat to our children.
We wish to use this opportunity, Mr. President, on behalf of the most oppressed Rwandan; the poor, the widows, the orphans and street children as well as the most vulnerable Rwandan whose voice cannot be heard because they can’t speak for themselves. Therefore, we call upon you, and CMU, to honor the CMU-Rwanda partnership accord. It is good for Rwanda as a nation and good for the Rwandans as a people. We believe that the presence of the CMU-Rwanda project at the heart of most deprived Rwanda will help to empower and motivate the future generations to enjoy and achieve, and empower these orphans and other vulnerable children to become members of the Rwanda productive society.
Let us come together responsibly in giving the voice to the voiceless.
Let us not become complicit to the continued rape of political, economic, social exclusions of the Rwandan people, in a country that is still stricken by grappling poverty and deprivation.
Submitted by: Jennifer Fierberg, MSW; a correspondent, Assistant Editor, and Volunteer Coordinator for NGO News Africa through the volunteer project of the UN. Jennifer is also the media co-coordinator and senior funding executive for The Africa Global Village (www.africaglobalvillage.com)
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