Monday, March 02, 2009

Dangerous comparisons...

Ever since that day of April 1994 when I left Rwanda under a cloud of flying bullets, in the first fiery and chaotic week of the Rwandan genocide, and throughout all the havoc that has been wrought in its aftermath in my country, the DRCongo, I have been dreading some of the "parallelism" in the article below, and its dangerous implications
Lessons from Rwanda, the 'Israel of Africa' | Op-Ed Contributors | Jerusalem Post: "In some ways, Rwanda is the 'Israel' of Africa. The conflagration there set the entire region on fire - witness the two Congo wars, which were largely the outcome of the events in Rwanda. The two peoples - Tutsis and Hutus - had been at each other's throats for decades, and foreign powers had not desisted from meddling in their conflict.

The president spelled out the lessons, as he saw them, in precise, cogent, terms: self-reliance, because you cannot rely on help from the world when you are in trouble; and reconciliation, the need to live in peace with the 'other.'

'If we could do it, after all that happened here, surely you can, too?' he said.

For me there was a third lesson - the need for an outstanding leader. If it had not been for President Kagame - who, in my opinion, is one of the most remarkable and preeminent leaders in Africa, and possibly in the world, today - Rwanda would not be the peaceful and stable country that it is. It would not be called 'the Singapore of Africa.'

Rwanda is lucky in having its own David Ben-Gurion at a critical time in its history. We were lucky in having the original, back then when our state was established. What we need now is to have our own Paul Kagame!"
First of all, I must say, quite honestly, that I hold President Paul Kagame, and his regional policies, personally responsible for much of the mess in the Great Lakes region, and for the proliferation of militias, warlords, and sexual terrorists. His tendency to use the guilt of the Western world for its inaction in 1994, to get away with expansionism, and facilitating the plunder of the Congo's resources, is exactly the fuel that allows for this conflict to fester. And that is why the parallelism with Israel is so dangerous.

See, Israel does its share of shaming the Western world, to get away with murder (no palestinian would disagree with me), and that is a bloody shame. Using the past, tragic suffering of your people, to get away with illegally and brutally usurping another people, is simply despicable (Bible notwithstanding). The relationship between Israelis, and their Palestinian distant cousins, could have been worked in much more constructive ways over the years. But despite that, the one thing Israel has, is democracy. A stratocratic democracy, yes, but a democracy nevertheless. Kagame's regime is far from a democracy, and the tensions that spurred the genocide are simply dormant because of the threat of military anihilation. My fear is that if we start allowing the Kagame-regime to cast Rwanda as Africa's Israel, the 5 million people that have already died in the past 12 years of Kagame and his multinational corporate allies' foray into Congo, will pale in comparison to what we will see then.

Kagame is not a model for Israel; if anything because, quite officially, Israelis do not want a truly multicultural country - it must be a Jewish state. Kagame, officially, wants a united Rwanda, with equal rights for all. Kagame needs to beware. If there is no true, heart-to-heart, open national dialogue in Rwanda on the real, deep-seded tensions between Rwanda's ethnic groups, the Great Lakes will be Tchernobyl II. Should this dialogue occur, and should Kagame realize the error of his ways in the Congo, then, and only then, would Kagame be a model-leader for Israel.

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