Monday, September 30, 2013

Rwanda: Rwanda Day falls flat

 Stephanie MacLellan at the Toronto Star reports

Rwanda Day draws celebrations and protests against President Paul Kagame


Rwandan-Canadians gathered in Toronto to connect with their community and learn about investment opportunities in their home country, as protesters loudly objected to the presence of President Paul Kagame.


Rwanda's President Paul Kagame addressed Rwandan-Canadians and their supporters at Saturday's Rwanda Day event at Downsview Park.

Hundreds of Rwandan-Canadians gathered in Toronto on Saturday to connect with their community and learn about investment opportunities in their home country.
That must be a bit of a disappointment for the organisers. They were expecting thousands.
Thousands of Rwandans and friends of Rwanda are today expected to descend on Toronto to attend Rwanda Day. According to the head of Rwandan community in Canada, Dr Egide Karuranga, hundreds are expected to cross over from US.  
But there was a small but noisy presence from a couple dozen protesters at the Rwanda Day event at Downsview Park, objecting to the presence of Rwanda’s controversial President Paul Kagame.
It was more than a couple of dozen going by the a video I saw. The success of the protests is contingent on the publicity it generates and I am guessing that this protest generated quite a bit.  
                                                                                    Protesters in Toronto
This was the first Rwanda Day held in Canada after previous versions in the U.S., London and Paris. Organizers said about 3,000 people attended, amid tight security and a large contingent of Toronto police.
“The main objective is to reconnect members of the community living abroad with their mother country,” said Shakilla Umutoni, Rwandan chargée d’affaires. That included updating them on developments in Rwanda and informing them of investment opportunities back home.
The objective of Rwanda day is nothing of the sort. It is an attempt by Kagame to build legitimacy in the international community and amongst the Rwandan diaspora. 
About 15 Rwandan businesses and a few Canadian ones set up information booths at the event, she said, before the event turned into a party featuring a performance from Canadian rapper Shad, who was born in Kenya to Rwandan parents.
15 booths and a few hundred people is hardly a resounding success particularly given the effectiveness of the protest. If Rwanda Day was not about perpetuating the Kagame regime and genuinely about economic opportunities I think it would be far more effective.
For Elvira Rwasamanzi, a 21-year-old biotech student from Ottawa, the focus on investing in Rwanda was one of the main draws of the day.
“It was really motivating,” said Rwasamanzi, who came to Canada from Rwanda as a young child. “It makes you want to give back because you’re proud.”
Kagame used part of his speech to encourage Rwandan-Canadians to invest in Rwanda, Umutoni said.
“He said if you travelled all the way from your country and got to Canada, take advantage of that . . . and do your best, not just for yourself but for your country.”
But it was the very presence of Kagame that brought protesters to the event, saying that Canada shouldn’t have let him enter given his record on human rights.
Canada will probably follow the lead of the Commonwealth on this issue, as it stands the Commonwealth equivalent Francophonie seem to want nothing to do with Rwanda. The key will be to change the attitudes at Marlborough House .
Rwandan opposition figures have been jailed and several countries suspended their aid to Rwanda last year citing its military support for M23, a rebel group responsible for serious abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations and human rights groups. Kagame has denied involvement.
Protesters also cited a 2010 UN report implicating the Rwandan government in killing tens of thousands of Hutus in the eastern part of what is now Congo, following the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which Hutus targeted Tutsis and up to a million people were killed. (Kagame and many of today’s government leaders are Tutsis.) Rwanda denounced the report.

"....the eastern part of what is now Congo,...? WTF. So before it was the Congo it was what ? The Congo of course, I am not sure what the inference is here. Have the Kagame acolytes managed to push some false info ?
“Paul Kagame is a criminal financing a military movement in eastern Congo,” said Aime Kabuya of the Congolese Citizen Movement. “He shouldn’t have the freedom to travel that he does now. Why did Canada give him a visa?”
Perpétue Muramutse of the International Women’s Network for Democracy and Peace also raised concerns about Kagame’s pro-development message.
“The Rwandese are very poor,” she said. “They say there’s development in Rwanda but it’s development for just a small part of the people. When you go to the countryside, you see people with nothing to eat.”
Umutoni said she respected the right of protesters to express their views, but questioned why they were raising those concerns at Rwanda Day.
“This is purely a Rwandan event.”
Umutoni is obviously not a genius. The stupidity of the last quote staggers the imagination. I can hardly  imagine the expat Rwandan community staging a protest on July 1.  

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