Photos/Text by Debra Black
Rwanda is once more in the news as its citizens prepare for a presidential election on August 9, 2010. And as with all things Rwandan, nothing is what it seems.
The far from democratic state is still recovering from the 1994 genocide, where as many as one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered. Much has been written about the genocide. It still looms large in the soul of the country and its toll can be seen in the faces of Rwandans.
Economic recovery is bringing vibrancy back to this small central African nation, but the political scene remains fractured. And there is little stock put in press freedom or human rights.
There is blind admiration and reverence by many for the current President Paul Kagame because of his role in ending the genocide and bringing peace back to their homeland. But Kagame’s peace has a high price. And many critics have suggested that his autocratic iron will and his refusal to allow criticism of any kind have crippled any burgeoning democracy that might have arisen there.
Cloaking everything behind fears of a repeat of the genocide, Kagame and his government keep a tight lid on the country, including opinion, the media and power itself.
In recent weeks, there have been a number of grenade attacks in Kigali, including one at the bus depot and one near the genocide memorial in the capital city, Kigali. Opposition leaders fear for their safety, prompting many to suggest that August’s election will be far from democratic. Some are calling for the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to intervene.
Debra Black is a reporter with Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper. She was in Rwanda in the summer of 2007.