New parliament inaugurated in Rwanda

Issue 

Rwanda inaugurated its new parliament during the last week of November. The parliament is a broad-based legislature similar to that outlined in the Arusha Peace Accord of 1993. The government is led by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) but includes ministers from eight other political parties including the Democratic Socialist Party (PSD), Rwandan Liberal Party (PM) the Christian Party (PDC) and the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR). It excludes any political grouping that participated in the massacre. Green Left Weekly's ZANNY BEGG spoke to VINCENT GATWABUYEGE, the Rwandan charge d'affairs in Johannesburg and a representative of the MDR, about the process of reconstruction in Rwanda.

Getting hold of the Rwandan government is not easy. My first attempts to get through to Kigali ended in frustration. There must be very few lines operating into Kigali, as call after call dropped into oblivion. The operator finally put me through to Paris for a connecting call. The Paris switch coolly announced that it was illegal to connect calls between Paris and Rwanda. It seems that phone lines had been cut along with diplomatic relations. In the end it was in Johannesburg that I found someone able to speak for the government.

Gatwabuyege said that "reconstruction in Rwanda is taking place very slowly because the government is unfinancial". He explained that the old regime emptied the government's coffers before fleeing to Zaire, leaving the new government with very little money. The Zairean government has so far refused to confiscate and return money and equipment to Rwanda.

Despite worldwide sympathy with the plight of the Rwandans and generalised horror at the actions of the old regime, international assistance has only trickled into the democratic forces in Rwanda. The European Union promised US$487 million in assistance but "all initiatives on this front have been blocked by the French", Gatwabuyege explained. The World Bank has promised US$250 million but has refused to pay until the Rwandan government pays US$10 million it owes in arrears.

Some UN Security Council member nations, including France, and large foreign donors have been trying to pressure the Rwandan government to share power with representatives of the old regime as a condition for financial assistance. Despite its need for foreign cash, the RPF has made it quite clear that it will not share power with the perpetrators of genocide.

Compounding the financial difficulties of the Rwandan government is the ongoing question of the refugees. "The old regime is not politically strong or popular in the camps", Gatwabuyege explained, "but wins control through intimidation". Several hundred thousand refugees are still being held in camps outside Rwanda.

In a show of exasperation, over the November 26-27 weekend the Zairean government forced 37 refugees over the border into Rwanda after Rwandan refugees killed a Zairean soldier. But the bulk of the refugees remain in Zaire, with no attempt being made by the international community to allow them to go home.

The new Rwandan government has pledged to establish "real democracy in Rwanda based on national unity and reconciliation". Despite allegations that the new parliament is Tutsi-dominated, Gatwabuyege asserted that the "aim of the Rwandan government is to build a non-ethnic society which involves every citizen". He sees the key tasks of the government as the "struggle against poverty, against unemployment and against human rights violations".

The leadership of the RPF in the peace process is clear. The RPF has 11 seats in the 70-member parliament and holds the presidency, the vice presidency and control of the army. The army, which was central to the defeat of the old regime in April, holds five seats. The RPF sees this as a means of bringing the army into the reconstruction process.

The prime minister, Faustin Twuagiramungu, comes from the MDR. Gatwabuyege explained that the MDR controls the majority of seats in the new parliament and has been "appointed to lead the transition government". The MDR has been operating as a legal opposition party since 1991.

The transition government aims to rule Rwanda until democratic elections can be held in five years' time.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.