I caught an Associated Press article in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. Lawyer Peter Erlinder, infamous for taking on unpopular sides of the law, was in Rwanda helping Victoire Ingabire's legal team. If you recall, President Paul Kagame declared his opposition running man (Ingabire) an agitator and a promoter of genocidal ideology during his campaign against Kagame in the Presidential elections last year. Simply by association, Erlinder was jailed last Friday for "conspiring" with Ingabire. Erlinder is a professor of law and stands that the genocide of 1994 was instigated by both sides.
President Kagame has now sat as Rwanda's President since 2ooo when President Pasteur Bizimungu was deposed. Re-elected in 2003, his seven year term was coming to a close at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, Ingabire's campaign was crushed and Kagame continues as President. That is the short story.
The longer version stems from Kagame's humble beginnings as a guerilla who studied Che Guevara and fought in public and private wars in Congo, Uganda and the former Zaire. It was also claimed by several of his former intelligence officers that it was Kagame who ordered the plane to be shot down in 1994 (the spark that lit the genocide).
Rwanda is full of life today: economic, social, technological, touristic and agricultural. Kagame sits behind a large steering wheel; one with lots of power, but hard to turn off its path. The racial issues of the past (Belgian made, of course) still loom, but it should not prevent such an ally to turn its head on democracy and justice. The American Bar Association has directly spoken out to Kagame demanding that lawyers not be condemned for their clients actions (or lack thereof, in this case).
Erlinder tried to take his own life a couple of days ago by swallowing and overdosed amount of pills in his Rwandan cell. Is this really worth it? I understand genocide is unacceptable, but allowing this lack of freedom to continue is the Western world sympathizing with a "poor, uneducated, simple African country". Hey Rwanda! Is that what you are? Join the free world and set an example. Free Erlinder, and call for a new election!!!