Interview With Former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 16, 2003. Posted to the web May 16, 2003.
Faustin Twagiramungu was prime minister of Rwanda from 1994 to 1995,
taking up the post after the 1994 genocide when the transitional
government was formed. Now living in exile in Belgium, he talked to
IRIN on Wednesday about his candidacy in Rwanda's presidential
elections scheduled for later this year, when he hopes to challenge
President Paul Kagame.
Can you confirm your announcement of 10 December 2002 that you will
be a candidate in the presidential election later this year?
A: I have announced my candidacy but officially I am not yet a
candidate because the electoral law has not yet been made official.
The National Transitional Assembly, certainly, has recommended the
banning of my party, the Mouvement democratique republicain (MDR),
but the government has not yet made its decision. If the party is
banned I will present myself as an independent. As for President
Kagame's virulent words against the opposition, they don't impress
me. The international community should not accept one man making
himself the master of everything and use all means to assure his
election. It remains to be seen when I will be able to return to
Exactly how do you run as a candidate when you are in exile?
A: I am not expecting to run a campaign and get myself elected from
my small apartment in Brussels. I am not a refugee in Belgium. I
still have my Rwandan passport and nothing prevents me from going to
Rwanda to officially submit my candidacy. But first the referendum
must take place before I can exercise my rights. Then the problems of
security for the opposition have to be settled, but for that I have
to be on the spot. Finally, international observers, and not only
Africans, have to be able to move about freely so that these
elections are free and transparent.
Do you imagine campaigning in Rwanda while former president Bizimungu
is still in prison?
A: Bizimungu was put in prison principally for political reasons
because he wanted to set up a party. I would appreciate him being
freed before the elections. My party already exists, it's even been
part of the government of national unity since 19 July 1994. Also I
should be able to move about freely to express myself. If the current
regime finds that a democracy can function without an opposition
party it must say so loudly. But I say to the international community
that it shouldn't fund these elections or it may as well let Kagame
carry on with the transition. The genocide suffered by Rwanda cannot
be a reason for returning to a one party system that we fought during
the time of President Habyarimana.
What are the main points of your programme?
A: We will concentrate above all on poverty, and economic problems.
Secondly, the socio-political situation: the trauma suffered by
Rwanda means that we must consider the framework for reconciliation
best suited to giving solutions for everyone in Rwanda. Thirdly, the
inter-regional context: there must be peace in Rwanda and above all
in the region. Rwandans, Burundians and Congolese want to put an end
to their conflicts and live together. In any case, I will present
myself as a Rwandan and not as a Hutu; we have suffered enough
because of these distinctions.
Q: What is your relationship with the Concertation permanente de
l'opposition democratique rwandaise (CPODR), which principally groups
exiled Tutsis and Hutus, monarchists, as well as the Forces
democratiques de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR)?
A: I don't believe in their programme of an inter-Rwandan dialogue
and I don't think it will ever happen. We already had the opportunity
for this dialogue during the Arusha negotiations in 1993. The
conditions which have led to an inclusive inter-Congolese dialogue in
the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] in order to end the
conflict there do not exist in Rwanda. With us, the problems can be
solved by putting pressure on President Kagame to accept the process
of democratisation. The opposition figures should be able to come
with me to Rwanda. As for the FDLR, they have been in the DRC for
nine years, they have tried everything, they have never succeeded. I
am astonished nowadays to see unarmed political opposition figures
teaming up with these armed combatants. These are not necessarily
Interahamwe but it's not for me to prove that. If among them there
are people soaked in the genocide then everything must be done to
arrest them and bring them before the courts. As for the others,
pressure must be brought both on [DRC President Joseph] Kabila and
Kagame to get these fighters repatriated in return for guarantees.
The solution is political, not military. The FDLR and Kagame are
wasting their time fighting each other with weapons.
What do you think of the draft constitution which will be put to a
referendum on 26 May?
A: It contains positive elements and negative elements. For example,
I am totally against exorbitant power being given to the executive
which will have de facto control over all other parties and which on
certain points will be able to control both the judiciary and the
legislative. It is not democratic and if I am elected I will get down
to modifying these points of the constitution.
What is your assessment of the transition period?
A: I participated in it for thirteen months, from July 1994 to the
end of August 1995. I don't assess these nine years entirely
negatively. Security is not 100 percent, but at least in Rwanda
people are not fighting each other any more. Secondly, efforts have
been made over the programme of reconciliation even if this remains
problematic. Thirdly, economic progress has been made, but poverty in
Rwanda is the worst I have known since my childhood. The failures:
freedom of expression, political freedom and freedom of association.
Newspapers are being closed, journalists are put in jail, people are
forced to adopt the words of the president. It is intolerable. Today
people are tired of Kagame not only in Rwanda but throughout the
region. But he has to give us the means to challenge him and the
Rwandan people the right to choose.