The Rwandan political opposition in exile: a valid interlocutor vis-à-vis Kigali?
Institute of Development Policy and Management
Antwerp :University of Antwerp, Institute of Development Policy and Management, 2004
IDPM-UA discussion paper , 2004:1
Post-genocide Rwanda has been trapped in a situation of armed peace. Paul Kagame has used repressive state machinery to rule over the entire political space. The opposition has either been eliminated or forced into exile, leaving the regime politically and intellectually unchallenged in the interior. A wave of defections began in 1995. Hutu personalities outside Rwanda were making efforts to form an opposition. Among them were elements linked to the genocide. The government, therefore, branded the opposition genocidal, accused it of being ethnic-based and called it an invalid interlocutor. A second wave of defections that began in 2000 changed the face of the political opposition in exile. Tutsi personalities, among them genocide survivors, began to flee Rwanda. This opened the way for inter-ethnic cooperation, making it difficult for the government to continue to accuse the opposition of being genocidal or divisionist. The Rwandan problem could consequently be re-defined as political, rather than ethnic. The political diaspora has mainly taken the path of pressure politics through the international community, calling for an inclusive inter-Rwandese dialogue. The alternative path military intervention has so far been avoided. However, following his crushing victory in the Presidential elections of August 2003, Kagame was able to claim that there is no opposition to the Rwandan regime. Kigalis persistence to shut the opposition out of the Rwandan political scene has led to radicalisation. The presence of armed opposition groups in the Great Lakes region increases the possibility of a military confrontation. Certain movements among the opposition in exile are in a position to check the armed forces if Kigali appears ready to negotiate.