Youth task Rwandans on forgiveness

18 Jul

Politicians in most of our countries swear by the might of the youth – at least in public. They say they are a very important section of society, that they are the future of the nation and that its very survival depends on them.

Of course, the youth are a very important, if vague, demographic, not just in numbers but in attitude and outlook to life.

With most young people what you see is what you get. They are full of energy born out of their very youthfulness, idealism and conviction that everything is possible. They are genuinely concerned about making a difference in the world. Most of them do not carry any ugly baggage from the past – no heavy guilt to weigh them down, not many scores to settle or favours to return, certainly no skeletons straining to burst cupboards.

Because of this, they have not yet developed a high degree of cunning, calculation, intrigue and hypocrisy that is usually associated with older people, particularly politicians. And politicians know this. That is why many political parties have youth wings/leagues or individual politicians use interns. They want to use the youthful energy and enthusiasm of young people to further their particular cause and in a sense to sanitise their not-so-pure positions.

But there is always the danger that idealism, once not realised, can quickly turn into disillusionment, enthusiasm into despair and energy get channelled into violence. Anyone watching the revolutions of the Arab streets and squares in North Africa and the Middle East must be aware of this.

Politicians also know the negative and dangerous potential of the youth and will therefore tend to keep them close so as to keep them in check. And so they become a sort of tool in the hands of older, more calculating and cynical politicians.

That is why politicians’ public pronouncements about the youth, or their response to demands by the youth to live up to their expectations, do not necessarily match what they think in private.

There is little sincerity in the many platitudes about the youth. Indeed, sometimes referring to them as the ‘future of the nation’, ‘leaders of tomorrow’ and many other things about a time that has not yet come is a cunning way of denying them responsibility for things happening now. It is a cynical way of using them to further certain ambitions while putting off potential competition. It is a way of saying, ‘yes, you are important, but your time has not yet come. You must wait’. By the time it does, they are no longer youthful and a lot of opportunity has been lost.

In Rwanda, however, the situation is different. The youth as the future of the nation is not an attractive but empty slogan; it is taken seriously in its literal sense. In fact, the role of the youth is taken so seriously that it does not have to wait for the future but is real here and now and an indispensable part of the present. And from their standpoint in the present, they want to leave the past behind and forge a new future where what counts is the contribution of everyone.

And they match words with action. They are entrepreneurs, leaders in government and non-governmental organisations and even politicians. They have taken the initiative on many issues without waiting for directions from government or other leaders. Often, they lead and government follows.

Rwandan youth have been so bold as to broach subjects their elders would consider taboo.  For instance, they have taken the lead in proposing that some Rwandans should seek forgiveness for their role in the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. Now, this is a matter about which some people get touchy, yet one that must be confronted.

It is well-known that many Rwandans were compli0cit in the genocide – either directly as planners and killers, or indirectly through inaction or the deliberate refusal to help those in distress. They share a sense of guilt and cannot run away from it.

Difficult as it may seem, many survivors of the genocide have unconditionally forgiven people who killed members of their families. Some killers, too, have asked for forgiveness and been pardoned.

Is it too much to ask those who killed or stood by as the killing was done, or turned away those looking for a place to hide from the murderers to seek forgiveness?

This is all the young people are asking. It does not merit the angry reaction from self-exiled Rwandans, some with good reason to ask for pardon.

More importantly, in doing this, Rwandan youth have shown that they have been liberated from the world still inhabited by their elders and are prepared to march on. As President Paul Kagame has observed, they are way ahead of the older Rwandans.

Significantly they have are not doing this from a political party position or on the instructions of anyone. They have taken a position based on the national interest and the direction they want Rwanda to take. It is in our interest to support them.

 

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Arab spring scorched in desert summer

18 Jul

 

A few days ago, Mohamed Morsi was deposed as president of Egypt by the military following many days of mass protests. Mr Morsi had won the popular vote but was accused of promoting an Islamist agenda and stifling secular voices. So the Egyptian experiment in democracy has lasted barely one year.

That is a little longer than what the Palestinians experienced in 2006 when Hamas won in the legislative elections of the Palestinian Authority. United States President George W Bush refused to recognise Hamas’ victory. Hamas was accused of being a terrorist organisation.

But even that was a little better than the annulled victory of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS by its French acronym) in Algeria in December 1991. The FIS had won 188 seats out of 231. The army cancelled the elections in January 1992 and banned the FIS. Civil war ensued and lasted several years and killed thousands of ordinary Algerians. The FIS, although popular among ordinary Algerians, especially the poor, small traders and business people and rural communities, was outlawed allegedly because of pursuing an Islamist cause.

In Libya, the much anticipated democracy following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi is as distant as it has ever been. Libya remains a faction-ridden, militia ruled, largely lawless country.

Even Iraq where billions of US dollars have been poured and thousands of American troops died reportedly to remove a dictator and install a democratically elected government remains torn by sectarian violence. True, elections have been held, but along old factional lines. No real democracy exists there despite George Bush’s avowed aim of promoting democracy in the Middle East.

Many people are now asking questions. What is wrong with democracy in Arab countries? Is the much-touted Arab Spring being scorched in the Sahara and Arabian deserts in the summer?

The Western promoters of democracy face a huge dilemma (or do they?). Can they recognise and therefore endorse a democratic process in which the winners are their sworn enemies? Or are they prepared to reject a clear people’s mandate and call into question the very principle of free choice on which democracy is founded?

In the end, the dilemma is not that big, or at any rate Western democracies are not shy about preaching one thing and practicing another. They don’t mind about the contradictions.

In the ongoing Egyptian case, there is a great deal of ambivalence. No outright condemnation of the military has been heard, except from Senator John McCain. The US government has made vague noises. So has the European Union. Ironically the loudest voice has come from the African Union which has suspended Egypt from the organisation.

Instead there have been attempts to explain and rationalise the removal of Morsi from power. Tony Blair penned a piece in the London Observer titled “Democracy on its own doesn’t mean effective government” in which he tried to justify the course of events in Egypt and the West’s actions in the wider Arab world. It’s a brilliant piece. I only wish his analysis was universally applicable.

When Algerians were being killed in their thousands in the crackdown on the FIS, no western voice was raised in defence of the democratic choice of the people. None will ever be heard condemning the US government for refusing to recognise Hamas’ victory in Palestine.

All of which confirm western doublespeak where democracy is concerned. The people’s will doesn’t count when it does not serve their purpose.

Arab countries have not helped their cause either. Some of the political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and FIS and so on, have failed to make a distinction between religion and the state. There is an understandable difficulty. The western concept of religion does not quite fit Islam. For Muslims, Islam is not simply a set of religious beliefs and rituals for worship, but an entire social, political, economic and judicial system.

The trouble is, there is no agreement among Muslims about the extent to which Islam and the modern state should relate, and more particularly, the role of religious leaders in state organisation. Equally contentious is the place for people of secular or different religious beliefs in an Islamic country. Until all these issues are sorted out, there will always be problems of democracy in the Arab world.

Also, until democratic standards are applied universally and not selectively, the world will continue to experience fits and starts in establishing enduring democratic societies.

The democratic experiment in Egypt is not dead. It is going through a process of definition and refinement and hopefully will come out with a system that is able to accommodate divergent views and harness their power for effective government. That way Tony Blair will not have to labour to explain the difference between democracy and effective government.

Rwandans never succumb to threats or blackmail

25 Jun

 

Rwandans have a way of shrugging off unpleasant things that seek to distract them from getting on with whatever task is at hand. They always have an apt response that is often a resolute and defiant statement with the strength of a solemn vow. The most current one is to say: dukomeze imihigo. A very liberal translation of this is: let’s stay the course, keep our objectives in sight and attain our goals. It is a way of saying; we shall not be distracted or diverted.

This has proved an effective rallying point for the nation – whether in nation-building or countering adverse events.

The latest such attempted distraction from our course has been the unsolicited advice from our good neighbour – President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania for Rwanda to hold talks with the FDLR terrorist group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We may not discount the good intention behind the advice. It was probably good neighbourly advice conveyed with neighbourly insensitivity. Or perhaps it was a message from elsewhere delivered with the bluntness of the impatient messenger. It could even have been a smokescreen for other motives. It does not really matter.

It does not matter whether the advice rose from a burning desire to join the ranks of that elite group of peacemakers and earn a Nobel Peace prize in the bargain. Sainthood, particularly on earth, is very tempting. You only have to desire it. Saintliness is, of course, less attractive. It requires a higher moral standard and degree of selflessness that most mortals lack. There have actually been publicly acclaimed peacemakers who have also stoked the fires of conflict.

Whatever the reason for the good neighbour’s advice, it certainly did not divert Rwandans from their course for long. It was meant with “dukomeze imihigo”.

And sure enough foreign experts and media were soon reporting imihigo that had been delivered. At the weekend, Foreign Policy Magazine’s Profitability Index ranked Rwanda the fifth best investment destination globally. The magazine projected that the country was now more likely to pull in more investors and that the resulting increased revenues would reduce the fiscal deficit and heavy dependency on aid.

Now, this was evidence of the benefits of staying the course and attaining goals. The news carried more benefits for Rwandans than debating whether it was or was not a good thing to sit, talk and even sup with the devil and at the end hug him and say all is well and he was no longer an outlaw.

Problem is the devil revels in being an outlaw. That is what gives him distinction and relevance. He is by nature destructive and asking him to build anything is demanding the impossible – to deny his very nature.

If President Kikwete’s advice was meant to distract, it has done the opposite. It has put people on their guard and made them more determined to not be derailed but to deliver more imihigo.

Before the most recent attempt to get Rwandans to take their eyes off the ball as it were, there were others with the same intention. These previous cases were also met with the resolute call for staying the course – dukomeze imihigo.

Only last year, an avowed FDLR apologist led a United Nations Group of Experts in fabricating a report that sought to make Rwanda responsible for the governance weaknesses in the DRC. The absence of the state in huge parts of the enormous country has spawned numerous rebel groups. The man, Steve Hege, and the people whose errand he was running spared no effort in trying to divert Rwandans from their path. They actually did manage to convince some countries to cut their support to Rwanda.

In the event, Rwanda kept sight of its goals, got elected to the United Nations Security Council and became a moderating voice on the council.

The economy did not crumble. Novel ways of raising capital were sought. The resilience of Rwandans was once again in evidence.

Interestingly, in other previous cases intended to divert Rwanda from its development course have been linked in some way with FDLR and the genocide against the Tutsi. Take the case of the French judge Louis Bruguiere or the so-called Mapping reports, for instance. Both were meant to exonerate perpetrators of the genocide by placing the blame on the victims.

They failed and Rwandans went on with their imihigo.

We have seen it all before – advice, threats, accusations of all sorts and blackmail. They have not distracted us from our course. Even today, the latest friendly advice will not divert Rwandans. Nor will it absolve those responsible for the genocide of their crime.

In the meantime, Rwandans will keep their eyes on their goals and move to attain them. Dukomeze imihigo.

Why Africa must get most from new media

25 Jun

 

Africa is the most sought after place in our universe. The next is perhaps outer space. But this is for a very small elite. On the other hand, Africa is being courted by everyone like she was the most and beautiful girl in this wide neighbourhood. Which, of course, she is.

China has come calling. It has actually been doing that for quite a while, quietly, sometimes unnoticed so that some people were caught off guard when they noticed its real intentions. But now it is so determined that it won’t take no for an answer.

India, too, is a very serious suitor. In the past India left its huge expatriate population resident in many African countries do its work. Lately, it has become clear that delegated courting is no longer enough. The stakes are high and the rivalry so intense that India has decided to be more direct about its intentions.

Japan does not want to be left behind by these up and coming Asian neighbours flaunting their new wealth and power. It has also joined the fray and last week hosted a conference in Yokohama on Africa’s development that was attended by many of the continent’s bigwigs. The Japanese have been doing this for the last twenty years (this year’s conference was the fifth).

All these countries courting Africa claim that they want to be part of the continent’s growth. And they go about it the same way – organise huge conferences to which they invite African leaders to come and show off their countries’ attractions. The Japanese call theirs the Tokyo International Conference for Africa’s Development (TICAD) that is held every five years. For the Chinese it is the Forum on China Africa Cooperation and it takes place every two years, which perhaps shows their urgency.

The increasing attention Africa is attracting has the west burning with jealousy. The west thought they had Africa in their tight embrace and all to themselves, well, until the new kids arrived. As so often happens where there are no rivals, the west had neglected and even mistreated her.

Now the appearance of serious rivals has rattled them out of their complacency and the fear of losing what they had always taken for granted has become real. And like someone who has been used to having things his way, the west initially responded predictably, with arrogance, abuse, threats, warnings – never an attempt to win her back. That is changing as they realise the competition is for real. That is one reason United States President Barrack Obama is going to Tanzania soon after China’s President Xi Jinping was there earlier this year.

This is not the first time that there has been such a rush for Africa’s fortunes. Nor are the reasons very different. The methods may have changed, but even then only slightly. The first time resulted in carving up the continent between various greedy and impatient suitors in order to avoid deadly blows over Africa’s bounteous beauty.

Today the story is very similar. The talk about being interested in Africa’s growth and wanting to be part of it is typical suitors’ talk – sweet, persuasive and sometimes even irresistible, but concealing the real desire of total conquest. In any case, no one will say their real intentions are to grab and own completely. The interest is Africa’s beauty, its resources, which are so dazzlingly inviting, they get those who eye them drooling.

Africa is getting wealthier, too, and that is another attraction. Who wants a poor person for a partner? The Indians know that very well. The poor bride, unable to stand the taunts of her in-laws, often douses and burns herself. Self-immolation is an Indian invention we certainly don’t want here.

In between, Africa was scarred by ideological fights by two distant rival bullies.

In all this rivalry, Africa has always come off worst. She has obviously failed to use her many charms to extract the best deal from rival suitors. Is it going to be any different this time?

One hopes that the presidents and their delegations (some of them incredibly and inexplicably large) use the opportunity at the meetings to learn about how the hosts got to where they are and come home and adapt the lessons to their countries.

Today’s African leaders, especially those sitting on newly found wealth, must surely have learnt from the folly of their ancestors who gave away Africa’s wealth in exchange for bottles of schnapps, cheap trinkets and other kids’ stuff. Many of them ceded entire countries to European adventurers and imperial agents by appending their signature – really an X mark – on agreements they could not read or understand. Sometimes this was done at the point of a gun, the promise of protection or after they were thoroughly inebriated.

Today, there are many agreements floating around seeking signatures for similar concessions. The guns have been replaced by the cheque books, but the schnapps, toys and other objects of vanity remain.

Still, Africa can play hard to get and extract the best deal from all these suitors. After all she holds what everyone wants. At this year’s TICAD Japanese Prime Minister pledged $32 billion, a fifth of which is to go to infrastructure development. In the last ten years, the Chinese have committed $75 billion, the United States $90 billion. What the Indians and Europeans are willing to offer can only match this.

This gives you an indication of Africa’s worth and why there is a veritable rush and competition to lay hands on her. This time, Africans must know the value of wealth of their continent and not give it away again for next to nothing.

 

Reports, indices as sorcery – the hidden truth

25 Jun

 

In 1972 Stanislav Andreski, a sociology professor at the University of Reading, published a delightfully provocative book about the scientific pretensions of social science investigation at the time. His broad conclusion on the matter was that most of the methodology was pseudo-scientific, or in his words, “most of what passes as scientific study of human behaviour boils down to an equivalent of sorcery”.

He was dismissive of their claims to truth. He noted that many social scientists make the claims they do, not because they have corroborated, diverse evidence supporting them as descriptors of reality, but rather because they desire their opinions to become reality.

Andreski was writing about social science practitioners, especially psychologists, conferences and publications that were mushrooming everywhere, all claiming to understand, explain and provide answers to the individual and societal condition. They all craved recognition as scholarly, scientific and relevant and worth serious attention.

He might very well have been writing about today and the proliferation of various reports, indices of every sort and such like from think tanks, foundations and similar bodies that sprout all too frequently. The indices of today, like the social scientists Andreski criticised, purport to measure anything – from the highly subjective subjects such as the state of a society’s well-being or perception of itself to the easier to measure economic development.

Today, anyone with the money or financial backing, or a cause to push can set up a foundation and commission a study into any imaginable thing. It is not far-fetched to imagine a Global Sex Orientation and Development Index with the finding that Africa remains underdeveloped because of its refusal to recognise GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans-sexual) rights.

All the reports, including the above hypothetical one, employ various scientific investigative methodologies, including a liberal splash of statistics, to convince us of their validity. In reality, however, most of the methodology is either faulty or self-serving, designed to reach a pre-determined conclusion.

The latest such Index to fit this description is the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index Report for 2013 that claims to measure the level of peace in 162 countries. The findings are startling. Countries, whose defence budgets are a mindboggling multi trillions of dollars, where arsenals of conventional weapons and those with a mass destruction capability (real WMD not the made up stories of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal) can obliterate the earth at the touch of a button, are listed among the most peaceful. Countries where gunmen walk into a school and shoot to death school children and their teachers, where organised crime and drug dealers rule the streets and eavesdropping on citizens’ private conversations is the norm are presented as the very model of peace.

On the other hand, where crime of any sort is so low as to be almost negligible (statistically), where citizens can freely talk in their sleep without the fear of someone listening in on their dreams, are surprisingly listed as among the least peaceful.

Rwanda was ranked 135 out of 162 countries surveyed. Rwandans and those who visit Rwanda regularly find this ranking difficult to understand. Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo was prompted to respond: “Anybody who thinks Rwanda is not peaceful certainly doesn’t have information or measures backwards”.

Professor Anastase Shyaka, CEO of Rwanda Governance Board, faulted the report’s methodology, pointing out that in the 22 qualitative and quantitative indicators used to measure peace, there was systematic mismatch between scores attributed to Rwanda and the reality on the ground.

The Global Peace Index Report follows other reports that have misrepresented the real situation in Rwanda. We have seen the Mo Ibrahim Report on governance and the various media and human rights groups’ reports. They all have one thing in common. Their objectivity is questionable because they tend to push a propaganda line. Their methods cannot be trusted because they measure difficult to quantify indicators and are selected to fit the chosen line.

Like the scientific pretensions of the social scientist Andreski criticised four decades ago, today’s various reports can be dismissed as sorcery or propaganda.

Reports such as the Global Peace Index confirm Andreski’s observation that they tend to express their authors’ desire to have their opinions or wishes become reality and that sophisticated statistical language lends scientific air to their pet hypotheses.

To be fair, the reports sometimes carry some truth. There are cases where no amount of statistical manipulation will alter facts.

But there are other cases where such reports conceal other insidious motives.

They are means with which to flog those countries that will not easily fall into line. The method is simple. Show the irreverent lot who want to go their independent ways that they are nothing after all, that they are no better than the rest, that what they say are achievements are simply hollow claims.

More dangerously, it has the effect of sowing doubts and undermining confidence among ordinary citizens and foreigners alike (friends, partners and visitors) that what you see is not what actually is. That is the intended impact of sorcery – to cause uncertainty, disbelief and confusion in one’s own ability on the one hand and create dependence on the sorcerer to unravel complicated things for you on the other.

Were Stanislav Andreski alive today, he would certainly warn us against the sorcery of today’s reports and indices. He would be right.

Congolese protesters without cause

20 May

Last week some Kenyans demonstrated against demands by their Members of Parliament for a pay rise even before they settle into their new job. They even enlisted the support of animals to make their case. And boy, did they make their point most pointedly – snout, ears, grunts and all!

The humans made a lot of noise, denouncing their representatives for showing such unbridled greed.  They even had time for a scuffle with other, uniformed, armed, silent but more menacing humans.

The pigs (who said they are stupid?) seemed unperturbed by the unfamiliar surroundings and whole human fracas around them. They rather seemed to enjoy the bloody meal liberally splashed on the tarmac. They went about their grunting licking of the stuff on the road unaware of the bloody letters on their backs, or if they did, they did not show any concern. The writing could have been beauty marks for all they cared.

However, the humans, as is their wont, saw in the whole drama evidence of their wanton spirit and condemned the hastily (and forced) arranged solidarity between pig and man against greed as cruelty to one of the parties and insult to the other.

The religious, especially among politicians (difficult to see how the twain happily lie together) could not stand being likened to haram. Question: Is clamouring for a pay hike before you do any work any less haram?

The self-righteous politicians saw in the symbolism an insult to their dignity. I don’t know how they reconcile such noble concern with an instinct for the self-awarding of pay and other perks. But of course politicians have this singular ability of seeing vice as virtue and vice versa when it suits them. No qualms about the flip flop or contradiction.

By far the loudest condemnation of the unsolicited support of the pigs in the protest came from animal rights groups. They saw in the protesters’ action cruelty and a blatant violation of the animals’ rights. Pigs rarely receive attention, let alone backing, except when is served. But this time people were prepared to die defending their animal dignity. They were lucky. They had someone to stand up for them.

Not so some humans in Oxford a few days later. Last Saturday, a bunch of Congolese were bussed to Oxford to protest President Paul Kagame’s visit to the ancient and famous university. They stood there, hungry, waiting to do their masters’ bidding.

Unlike the Nairobi pigs, however, no one protested that it was immoral to use hungry people this way. No one raised a voice that they had been cruelly uprooted from their land by the sponsors of the plunder of their country. None condemned the abuse of their rights – to food, employment, enjoyment of the bounty of their land and the right tom protest in their own homeland. Not a soul said a thing about their right to prevent their country from sliding into total ruin. Above all no one had told them anything about human dignity.

The sad irony of the sorry sight of the Congolese in Oxford was that their protest was misplaced. They aimed their anger at the wrong person while they actually acted for the continued plunder of their homeland. Without knowing it, they were aiding and abetting the confirmation of their country into failed statehood.

Again, unlike the pigs in Nairobi which had a sumptuous meal to make participation in the protest worth their while, the Oxford bunch had nothing except perhaps misplaced hatred and a free bus ride to the spot.

This is part of Africa’s tragedy. When pigs elicit more sympathy and when their rights seem to be more important than those of human beings, something is sadly wrong.

It is unfortunate that Africans have to leave their home, live in abject conditions in Europe or America only to be herded into demonstrations about things they know little about.

It is a tragedy when they live off crumbs when their country, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, is reportedly awash with all the world’s most precious stones that you can mine by only scratching the surface of the earth. Would it not be more worthwhile for the protesting lot to go back home and pick diamonds and gold by merely straying into the bush than be herded into buses in much the same way other Africans were led to ships off Africa’s west coast to go and enrich other lands, yet remain forbidden from enjoying the fruits of their labour?

Is it not a shame that the DRC, the wealthiest country in Africa in natural resources has the largest number of Africans living in the slums of Europe? The country’s minerals continue to be shipped out by the same people that are all too eager to get the poor Congolese out on the streets to protest against the wrong person.

No one – not even the most vocal of human rights groups – has raised any concern about their rights or plunder of their nation by the sponsors of protests.

In Nairobi, pigs will be protected against abuse. In other places human beings do not matter. That’s sad and shocking, and shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

Rwandans are not ungrateful

14 May

It is dishonest to selectively use history to launder the tainted record of an individual and by the same effort tarnish the image of a whole people by imputing base motives on them. Equally, it is utterly deceitful to attempt to absolve criminals from culpability by reassigning responsibility for their actions. It is also blatantly insincere to try to delegitimize a genuine national liberation struggle by questioning its justification.

There is a name for this sort of thing: revisionism and it is not a respectable undertaking. Yet this is what Mr Harold Acemah, described as a political scientist, consultant and retired diplomat, does in a number of articles in the Monitor newspaper.

In a story titled, “Some voices and lessons from down the memory lane” (Sunday Monitor, 12th May) he narrates former Ugandan President Apolo Milton Obote’s supposed defence of Rwandan refugees and the latter’s apparent betrayal of him. The gist of the story is that in 1960 Obote, then a member of the colonial legislative council, was a strong advocate of Rwandan refugees to be allowed asylum in Uganda against the wishes of the colonial government. But that the refugees subsequently showed extreme ingratitude when they participated in the liberation struggle that eventually removed Obote from power.

Acemah’s story thus tries to do two things; canonise Obote while demonise Rwandans. Judging from his other writings on Rwanda, the second aim seems to be his major preoccupation.

And in a hurry to do this, he picks two events, one at the beginning and the other at the end of Obote’s political career and then uses them to make a general assessment of Obote’s supposed good intentions and Rwandans’ alleged deplorable character.  What happened in the intervening twenty years that he has conveniently left out during which Obote was at the height of his power?

The facts are different from this simplistic selection of historical detail.

It is true that Milton Obote  showed pan-Africanist tendencies – at least in rhetoric – at some stage in his political career and may indeed have supported the right of Rwandans to seek refuge in Uganda. He may have done it out of conviction or perhaps from a desire to annoy the British colonial authorities and score political points or to raise his profile in pan-African circles. All this is possible.

But along the way, raw power and narrow political interests eroded his pan-African idealism and he allowed narrow nationalism to dictate his conduct. For instance in 1969 he famously threatened to expel all foreigners from Uganda, including his Luo cousins from Kenya who had given him refuge and from whom he acquired political skills (talk of ingratitude). Rwandans – both immigrants and refugees – were not to be spared either.

In 1982 Obote actually carried out the threat and expelled thousands of Rwandan refugees and Kinyarwanda –speaking Ugandans to Rwanda. He did not hesitate to burn and kill in order to force people out of the country. He knew the cruel fate that awaited  them in Rwanda, but that did not stop him. As expected the Habyarimana regime in Rwanda refused to accept them and as a result thousands perished in the no man’s land between the two countries. Even when the government of Rwanda relented under pressure and accepted some of its citizens as refugees, they were settled in uninhabitable areas where many more died.

Was this the action of a man who had reportedly argued that Ugandans and Rwandans were kin and none should suffer injustice when the other was there to help?

This insensitivity, brutality and injustice, more than anything else, drove many people to join the National Resistance Army. It was a matter of survival, not a question of ingratitude or betrayal.

It is a historical fact that the 1980 general election in Uganda was stolen by the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and Obote assumed power illegally. What followed was a genuine liberation struggle. Obote’s response was to unleash more brutality and violence on Ugandans. He showed a great deal of intolerance and incompetence that were slowly leading the country to a failed state status. Was this the action of a saint that Acemah would like to add to the list of holy people? And conversely, was resistance and struggle for survival actions of the devil?

In an earlier story, “Some reflections on the Rwandan genocide” (Sunday Monitor, 14th April 2013) Mr Acemah had sought to put the cause of the genocide to the downing of President Habyarimana’s plane. He then went on to say that he did not “believe that Hutu extremists shot down the plane”. Without presenting any evidence, he wants the world to believe that others, most likely the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), did it.

Again Acemah wants to achieve two things here. First, he is at pains to absolve Hutu extremists from all blame. Second, he is only too eager to transfer responsibility to others.

He should save himself the trouble because various investigations have concluded that the plane was shot down by extremists with the support of their foreign backers.

In any case there are serious flaws in Acemah’s plane crash argument as the origin of the genocide, There was a plan that was well-known and was immediately executed. There had been periodic pogroms before that point to a history of genocide.

Finally, Acemah mixes religion with revisionism perhaps to lend it credibility. He is quick to judge and condemn Rwandan refugees as ungrateful people who will answer to the Lord (presumably Jesus Christ). But I remember the same Jesus Christ cautioning against quick judgement of others because that is his prerogative.

It appears Mr Acemah has appropriated that divine right and the right to revise history. He is wrong \on both counts.