In Rwanda, a political icon leaves prison with her mouth closed

By Akayezu Muhumuza Valentin
Rwandan Human Rights Activist

On 14th September 2018, the Rwandan Ministers’ Cabinet approved President Kagame’s decision to grant a presidential pardon to the political prisoner Umuhoza Ingabire Victoire. In 2010, Ingabire was nominated by her political party FDU-INKINGi to run in the 2010 presidential elections. At this time, her arrival in Rwanda after several years in exile provoked strong reactions and controversies in the Rwandan political landscape. Her remark at the genocide memorial site in Gisozi turned into accusations of genocide denial. A few days later, the anti-Ingabire campaign began. First, it was the Rwandan Agency of Information that organized a radio debate, mainly focused on Ingabire’s speech at Gisozi memorial site. Many argued that her political aims were provocative and revisionist. Shortly after, all the chambers of parliament called an information hearing to describe the true image of Ingabire.  The conclusions of this session recommended an immediate judicial inquiry to be opened against her. In the same time, during an interview with a Ugandan journalist in Kampala, President Kagame denied the status of politician in Ingabire and qualified her as being the same as Alice Lakwena who founded Lord Resistance Army in northern Uganda. Early this year, asked by a journalist of TV5  why the Rwandan government known for its firm commitment to promote the female promotion threatens women who act in political opposition, the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs replied that not all Rwandan women are saints. She said there are also witches.

When the Ingabire’s episode of a judicial saga started, the High Court of Rwanda sentenced her to seven years of imprisonment. The sanction was increased by the Supreme Court of Rwanda to 15 years. Recently, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued a verdict confirming serious violations in the Ingabire trial and even recommended the government of Rwanda to compensate her. But it should be noted that the government decided to withdraw from the protocol that grants immediate access to Rwandan citizens to bring an action before this court without the government’s prior approval. The Rwandan Minister of Justice accused this court of being instrumentalized by the genociaries. At the beginning of Ingabire’s trial in the High Court, it was reported that she had addressed a letter asking President Kagame for forgiveness. However, she later denied it. Has she asked pardon again? At this time, nothing was said if she has asked for forgiveness once more!  In practice, among the charges brought against her, the crime of undermining national security excludes her from the persons who could be pardoned by the President of the Republic.

What does her release mean for the political context in Rwanda? Although the decision of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights recognised her profile as a political personality arrested on basis of  her ideas, the Rwandan government did not want to implement it. However, it is quite possible that pressures and other different dynamics pushed the government to find ways to get her out of prison not as a victim of a judicial travesty, but as a convicted person who will no longer be able act on the political scene. In this regard, the liberation of Ingabire shows no sign of democratic progress in Rwanda. The political space in the country remains closed.

GLR August Meet-Up Facing Burundi

On August 31,  Great Lakes Region Monthly Meeting theme is centered on : ‘Facing Burundi’

Topical discussion surrounding the situation of the Great Lakes region with emphasis on Burundi

This event will include:

–       A historical background of the political crisis of Burundi

–       The common misunderstanding of happenings within Burundi

–       Solidarity and mobilization among Burundians

–       How the diaspora and international community can contribute

–       An hour for question & answer session

 

 

June Recap:

African Diaspora: Education and Career Challenges in the Netherlands

The Great Lakes Working Group Meeting Summary: Education and Career Advancement – September 29th, 2017

The Great Lakes Diaspora Working Group is one group within The Hague Peace Projects. Recently, the group came together for its monthly meeting. This meeting’s aim was to hear about the experiences of young Dutch people with African migrant or refugee roots with education in the Netherlands.

Attendees were guided by two questions: How have you used education to achieve your goals? What are the challenges of finding your place in the Netherlands as an African migrant?

From there, participants were asked the following questions:

  1. Were you able to study in the Netherlands?
  2. Did you study what you wanted to study?
  3. Were your diplomas/ certificates acknowledged in the Netherlands?
  4. Do you have a job? Do you have the job you want?
  5. Are you working in the same field as you would have in your country of origin?
  6. Do you feel at home in the Netherlands?
  7. What is holding you back from reaching your life goals in the Netherlands?

Speakers: Julius and Deo

Next, two guests were invited to speak before the audience and share their stories. The first, Julius, an expert in law and criminality, is originally from Uganda and is now based in the Netherlands. He talked about how different the experiences of an immigrant from Africa to the Netherlands versus an immigrant from Europe to the Netherlands may be, though they are both new to Dutch culture. Julius went on to say that “whatever you see in this world is not an accident but a precedent. He believes that immigrants are getting an education to find a job rather than to grow as people. If you have a skill, you want to succeed, and you have an education, then you can find a job. Julius concluded by saying that education needs to be seen as a form of liberation for self-determination rather than merely job training.

The second speaker was Deo, who comes from Burundi. In Burundi, Deo worked as an air traffic controller before he was forced to flee to the Netherlands to find safety. Once in the Netherlands, Deo obtained an NT2 Diploma in the Dutch language. He then tried to find a job in the aviation industry with his international air traffic controller diploma, but was told that his Dutch language level was not good enough, so he went back to school to improve his Dutch. Eventually, Deo returned to the agency to try to prove his skills in Dutch but was turned away, so Deo went back to school, retrained in a logistics course, and got a job in the flower industry. Deo told the audience that as immigrants, many doors are closed to us, but remain positive, think smart, and find your way to success, however small.

Group Session: Challenges in Career, Education, and Beyond

After hearing Julius and Deo speak, the audience broke off into three groups to identify the primary challenges in work, education, and life overall as an African migrant in the Netherlands.

In the category of work, participants identified the lack of Dutch language knowledge as an oft-named reason for job rejection—even if they have earned language diplomas. Those who have found jobs often get short-term contracts, which only makes an unstable life as a refugee less secure. With these temporary contracts, career opportunities like promotions are limited at best. Networking is also difficult, since most immigrants have few connections in a new country. Cultural differences are hard to reconcile, as it is difficult to learn Dutch do’s and don’ts without being told or working in the Netherlands.

As for education, not knowing Dutch well enough can keep immigrants from taking the course of study that they would prefer. Foreign degrees, diplomas, and certificates are difficult to accredit. The Dutch system does not always support people in difficult situations, like a single mother trying to pay for her schooling and take care of her kids at the same time.

Beyond this, some found that being black and having a foreign name feels like a liability that separates them from their colleagues. Despite being integrated into Dutch culture and having attended school in the Netherlands, at work, people will still ask, “Where are you from?” Many attendees cited bureaucratic demands for paperwork and official documents as a legal oversight, since refugees must frequently flee their countries without the documents that they are later asked to supply.

Conclusion

Following this meeting, the group intends to compile a report to help inform and lobby the Dutch government on behalf of Dutch citizens and refugees with African roots. This open discussion night was helpful as many were able to share their stories and opinions. As one participant said, “it is difficult to do what you love as an immigrant. Instead of not doing what you love, be pragmatic, and do what you like.”

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10 & 11 November: Great Lakes Region Conference ‘Women and Men in Peacebuilding

On the 10th and 11th of November we will host for the third time the annual Great Lakes Region Conference. The first edition (the root causes of conflict) in 2015 and the second (the role of media in conflict and peacebuilding) in 2016 were very successful and therefore we would like to continue and invite you for the coming conference. This year we focus on the role of women in the peacebuilding process in the great lakes region. Unfortunately, it is women that are still the victims of conflict rather than the carriers of peace and change.

The Great Lakes Region in Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo) is one of the most vulnerable and unstable regions in the world. In the region armed conflicts have evolved for decades and human rights violations are commonplace.
Rape, torture and murders of women and girls of all ages have reached epidemic proportions since 1994. Violence against women has become a deliberate strategy of war. However, women are not just victims, they also play an important social role, they contribute to peace and stability. To create a future in a war torn society, women are an indispensable basis.

With this conference, we want to strengthen trust between men and women from this region and among women themselves so that they are able to work together for peace.

Full program:

Day 1| Friday, 10 Nov.: Women & Men in Peacebuilding: Why Gender?

13:00-18:00

13:00-13:30        Registration (tea and coffee available)

13:30-13:45         Welcome and Opening – Jakob De Jonge

13:45-14:15         Keynote 1: Peace & justice [in French] – Evelyne Ombeni

14:15-14:45         Discussion: Why Gender? Why Peace? Dr. Helen Hintjens 

14:45 – 15:15       Keynote 2: Le Mouvement des Femmes et des Filles pour la paix et La securite aux Burundi. Why is this important? [in French] – Anésie Nkanira

15:15: 15:45        Tea and coffee break

15:45 – 17:30       Women at the negotiation table. Should men be invited!? Deogratis IrambonaMarie Chakupewa – Hayinchte Muhorakeye – Antionette Mutesa –  Godefroid Nimbona – Marie Nagadya, Moderated by Sophie Kwizera

17:30 – 17:45       Round up and summary reporting of key insights of the day

17:45 – 19:00       Drinks & Networking Butterfly Bar, ISS,

 

Day 2| Saturday, November 11th: Women and Men in Peace Building – What Can Be Done Different?

09:30 – 10:00       Start (tea and coffee available)

10:00 – 10:15       Recap and Welcome – Jakob de Jonge

10:15 – 11:00       Peacebuilding from a gender and development perspective – Dr. Anthony Otieno Ong’ayo

11:00-11:30         Debate: Lobby platform: 1325 the UN Resolution on Women, Peace and Security

11:30-11:45         Coffee break

11.45-12:15         Women, development & stability in Rwanda – Gloria Uwishema

12:15 – 12:45       Gender and Reconstruction in post-conflict DRC – Marie Chakupewa

12:45 -13:45        Networking Lunch – Kenyan Delicacies

13:45-14:45         Art workshop-The influence of art in peacebuilding – (Creating Rights- Fiana. Gantheret, Justin Kabika)

14:45-15:45         Debate: Our seat at the Peace Table: women of the Great Lakes Region –  Christine Among(Uganda), Marie Balagiza (Congo), Anesie Nkanira (Burundi), Yvette Muhire (Rwanda)

15:45-16:45         Group discussions: Case studies: Moving towards an inclusive and peaceful Great Lakes Region? Future perspectives.
Rwanda: Chaired by:      Sophie Kwizera
Burundi: Chaired by:       Deogratis Irambona
Uganda: Chaired by:       Moses Atacon
Congo: Chaired by:         Bashi Cikuru

16:45-17:00         Closing remarks

17:00 -17:30 Dance performance by Jean Claude Mihigo (Ballet Ukwezi)

17 :30 -18:30 Networking Bites and Drinks –  Kenyan Delicacies

 

Where: Institute of Social Studies, Kortenaerkade 12, The Hague
When: 10 & 11 November
Free tickets, but registration required: Reserve here!

29-9 African Diaspora, Youth and Education in The Netherlands

This event is organised by the Great Lakes Region group of The Hague Peace Projects. Every month we organise an event with a topic related to peace and social change, here in the Netherlands as well as our countries of origin.

The topic of this meeting will be the youthful Dutch citizens of African migrant roots & refugees and their use of education to achieve life ambitions. What are challenges of finding your place in the Netherlands, as an African migrant?

Testimonies:
‘’I Came to the Netherlands as a small girl, was able to do study to the highest level but now I can’t find a job that matches my qualifications.’’
‘’ I was an educated and experienced middle aged man when I came to the Netherlands, but my qualification were not honored.’’
‘’By my request for education in my preferred field I was directed towards another profession.’’

Join us for an interactive discussion on this interesting topic!
When: 29 September 2017
Where: Paviljoensgracht 20 2512 BP Den Haag
Time: 7pm
The Hague Peace Projects

Blog: Great Lakes King of dictators

Wanna know more about dictatorships in the Great Lakes Region? Join us during the ‘Night of the Dictatorship‘. This article, written by Ugandan blogger and activist Moses, gives you some insight of the situation in the Great Lakes Region and life under dictatorship.

A dictator is a political leader who wields absolute power and equally a state ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship. The usage of the term “dictator” is generally used to describe a leader who holds and abuses an extraordinary amount of personal power, especially the power to make laws without effective checks by legislative assembly.

In contrast to the traditional dictator, the modern day dictator has definitely transformed and modernized from a rule by decree dictatorship to a constitution-manipulating dictator to conform to the demands of free space demanded by their strategic development partners or allies if you may want to say so.

They bare this sense of conviction in superiority to lead; they believe they are invincible, invulnerable, immune and divine. The narcissist dictator holds human edicts, rules and regulations in disdain and human penalties in disdain. He regards human needs and emotions as weaknesses to be exploited.

They cling to power through a tool of fear mongering, killings and brutal use of violence to instill fear on the population, to prevent any uprising or revolution against his rule. The fear-factor and scaremongering techniques are habitually applied to tame and silence anti-regime activists.

One of the features inseparable from a dictator from within the context of the great lakes region in Africa, is most certainly that they have a military background therefore assuming power through undemocratic means and while in office, they will employ the similar principle of command and control used in the military to consolidate power.

One such dictator is President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda; he came to power in 1986 following a destructive war in which many lives were lost. His history of war goes back to the early 70’s when he led an ill prepared ill-fated expedition against another infamous dictator general Idi Amin that was to result in the loss of many young lives.

Since then, he has ruled with iron fist for 32 years, in which he continued to order more young men who had to pay with their lives in wars in Rwanda, Congo, Sudan, Central Africa Republic and Somalia as well as within their own country. The police and troops, some led by his son, have put down protests with maximum prejudice.

After leading a rebel insurgency that took over Uganda in 1986, Museveni declared: “No African head of state should be in power for more than 10 years.” However, 32 years later, he is still here, winning one after another in a spree of “coconut election” in which other political parties are technically legal for the purposes of escorting him to the state house and the main challenger who won him pants down is detained for 68 days in his own residence to deny him legal redress.

He uses the state to monopolize violence and cruelty. During war in the north parts of Uganda the people of the region were inhumanely herded into camps of displaced people. The camps were some sort of concentration camps at the height of the forced confinement in the most horrible conditions. More than 1000 people were dying every week. Watch this and/or this video to get an idea of the situations in the camp.

The system he leads thrives and survives on corruption and nepotism and all manner of bad governance, at the apex of it sits a new leadership style model around the military the structure, which is constructed along the lines that every order comes from above to the bottom, hence the saying in Uganda “order from above”. The dictator is mostly ruthless to his former comrades because they detest betrayal from within its ranks. He uses the tool of depriving to impoverish the citizenry into poverty and disempower them economically, socially and politically so that they do not have the means to oppose him. Meanwhile he lavishly spend money like there is no tomorrow. In Uganda the dictator spends $ 300.000 dollars for his daily errands, he moves with a fleet of 40 armored powerful vehicles when he travels in land.

He periodically holds some cosmetic elections to legitimize his rule, these elections are often been nakedly a fraudulent processes marred with illegalities and incapable of being free or fair.

The elections are “already rigged” because of the fraudulent processes denying many Ugandans citizens without any reason, through unacceptable practices of bribing some sections of the electorate, and the wanton misuse and abuse of state resources and institutions to ensure a Museveni victory, not to mention the absolute determination the police and the security services employ to escort him and his ruling party to statehouse.

Museveni is not alone in coveting life presidency in the Great Lakes region. Inspired by him, Nkurunziza of Burundi recently pushed his country to the brink of war in order to get himself a third term after serving the constitutionally mandated two terms. In Rwanda, Paul Kagame who did a “Medvedev” in reverse having been the man behind the throne before he became president is well on his way to doing away with the two term limit in the Rwandese constitution in order to perpetuate his own rule! President Joseph Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo has been grappling with amending the constitution to allow him contest for the record 3rd time.

A liberator who saved the Tutsis from complete extermination in 1994, Kagame now practices the same ethnic apartheid he sought to end. His Rwandan Patriotic Front dominates all levels of power: the security forces, the civil service, the judiciary, banks, universities, and state-owned corporations. Those who challenge the president are accused of being a ‘hatemonger’ or ‘divisionist’ and eventually arrested. Recently, to embarrass him, the opposition in Rwanda decided to endorse him as their candidate and the drama did not stop there. His intelligence services had the nude photos of a female challenger leaked to the press; He is cruising to 18 years power.

All the Great Lakes dictators think similarly in one dimension egotistical believe that a country could not do without  them. In the Great lakes region Museveni leads the pack with 32 years in power, Kagame second with 24 years, Kabila third with 17 years and still counting. The level they personalize the state and all of its institutions and resources to keep themselves perpetually in power, even if it threatens the economy or to risk bringing his country to the brink of war even if it go down the drain in the process just so that he can rule for the rest of his natural life. Unfortunately, these are the undemocratic caliber of the leaders we have in the Great Lakes Region and the world powers seem to be equally stuck with them.

When a Dictatorship makes a decision; be it efficient, effective, straightforward, or divine revelation, it has no mechanism to balance the consequences of the result. What happen is, even if the dictator makes one or two sound decisions, it will leave the possibilities for all the false decisions to come to have no room for accountability.

Wanna know more about dictatorships in the Great Lakes Region? Join us during the ‘Night of the Dictatorship‘.

Article was written by, Moses Atocon.

A Ugandan Digital Political Media Activist and a Blogger, using internet technologies to organize campaigns.

Film screening ‘Virunga’ – Environmental Sustainability and Peace in DRC

During this meeting we’re gonna watch the awards winning documentary “Virunga”, named after a National Partk in eastern Congo. The movie focuses on the conservation work of park rangers during the rise of the violent M23 Rebellion in 2012 and investigates the activity of the British oil company Soco International within the UNESCO World Heritage site.

A review in the New York Times stated about the film that “Showcasing the best and the worst in human nature, von Einsiedel’s “Virunga” wrenches a startlingly lucid narrative from a sickening web of bribery, corruption and violence.”
After the sceening we’ll have a discussion to put it in context and understand more of the situation of the conflicts in the Great Lakes Region. We also would like to explore the link between environmental sustainability and peace in the region, and what we as a diaspora can do to foster both of them.

Entrance is free, donation is appreciated (cash only)

When: Friday 14 July
Time: 6:30pm
Venue: Paviljoensgracht 20, 2512 BP The Hague

Unmask the dictators from the Great Lakes Region

Tijdens de Nacht van de Dictatuur, presenteren wij het programma: Unmask the dictators from the Great Lakes Region

De Great Lakes Region is een zoetwatergebied in het oostelijk deel van Afrika waar de landen Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Sudan en Kenia deel van uit maken. Het is een regio met veel (postkoloniale) problemen en autoritaire regimes. Tijdens Unmask the Dictator zullen enkele sprekers uit een aantal van deze landen vertellen over hun persoonlijke ervaringen met het leven onder een dictatuur. Lukt het jou om aan de hand van hun verhalen te ontdekken over welke dictators het gaat? Test je kennis en maak kennis met mensen die aan een dictatuur zijn ontkomen.

Unmask the Dictator is een samenwerking van ProDemos en the Hague Peace Projects.

© Foto: Anneke Verbraeken

Waar: Prodemos, Hofweg 1-H, Den Haag
Wanneer: 8 september
Tijd: 21:30

Koop hier je kaartje!

Great Lakes Region: This is what we do

The Great Lakes Region Working Group is a group of Diaspora citizens from the conflict countries on the region i.e. Uganda, Congo, Burundi & Rwanda. All these countries have common historical experiences of war and violence. As a group, we meet to learn a lot from each other about our turbulent past and how we can use that to bring sustainable peace in the region.

Because of the geo-political problems caused by the regional despots, the conflicts tend to spread tension in all the region inform of refugee influx, cross border violence and wide spread insecurity. Whenever someone from Uganda or Burundi mentioned challenges, someone from Rwanda or Congo could share a similar experience.

Therefore as a measure to create a voice for the diaspora citizens from the GRL, The Hague Peace Projects established this group in 2015. Up to date the group has conducted two annual conferences and other smaller activities to raise awareness, inform and provide host nation, government departments, media, school institutions and the civil society with information about the region.

We strive to strengthen the commitment among the Great Lakes diaspora communities to organize for peace in the region, be involved in lobbying for human rights and take part in networking through meetings. We lobby through our programs to enable the diaspora to contribute to good governance, peacebuilding and accountability in the region.

We advocate for the inclusion of the diaspora in conflict resolution and peacebuilding in the region. Currently the news that comes from the region is dominated by conflict rather than peace. We want the world to know – despite the prevailing conflicts in the region – some peace efforts have been made although the real impact of the efforts are not yet felt by the people.

We are more and more recognized as serious partners, consulted by policy makers. We aim that in Europe, NGO’s, governments seeking to promote rule of law in the Great Lakes region, or the IND seeking expertise in the region, the voice of the diaspora should be heard.

To achieve our objectives we organize different forms of events in the Netherlands ranging from workshops, conferences, social cultural activities and forums to inform, educate and generate solutions.

Presently we have monthly thematic evenings, normally the 2nd Friday of the month, where we invite different expert speakers to help us understand the different dynamics around peace building. Our subjects are peace, elections, gender, minorities, responsible information sharing, human rights issues, civic space and democratic governance. These meetings are open to public and you are warmly welcome to attend the next event, we normally publicize the events beforehand.