By Ozodinukwe Okenwa
In sub-Saharan Africa there are two Pauls in power, one in Yaounde and the other in Kigali, both brutal dictators ruling their respective countries, Cameroun and Rwanda, with iron fist. The Cameroonian Paul Piya and Rwandese Paul Kagame have nothing but brutal dictatorship in common. Following the resignation of the late President Ahmadou Ahidjo for health reasons Paul Biya took control of the bi-lingual country as President. And he has spent forty uninterrupted years in power craftily using rigged elections, intimidation and state terrorism to remain perpetually in power.
President Biya could spend months abroad catering for his health or holidaying without releasing any official information! He could become invisible for months remaining officially incommunicado! His power influence is total and dreadful!
And in Rwanda, following the Rwandese genocide of 1994 (a tragic barbaric incident that took hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus six feet below) Paul Kagame, a former rebel leader, rode to power. He emerged President in a nation disfigured by ethnic hatred and bestiality of man. Since then he has been in power tolerating little or no dissent and eliminating rivals and potential successors, sometimes outside the country.
Now the name ‘Paul’ has something to do with biblical Damascus miraculous transformation. The original Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a persecutor of Christians. Thousands of years ago, according to the credible accounts in the Scriptures, Saul was a tormentor of those professing Christ. He was terrorizing Christians across the borders. But one faithful day on his way to a destination somewhere in Damascus, Syria, the Higher Master, Jehovah Himself, intervened mightily stunning him with blindness!
He demonstrated His omnipotence by asking the blinded Saul: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Why are you kicking against the prick?” Saul, humbled and reduced to a mere mortal he was, had answered back with astonishment surrendering to the powerful whims and caprices of his Maker! That singular supernatural encounter between God and Saul led to Saul becoming Paul after his divine healing and forced conversion to christianity.
There is a whole lot of generational difference between the ancient Paul and the modern Pauls. Paul the Apostle wrote many insightful epistles in the Bible. He was not a politician. The presidential Pauls in Africa are content with using state power and resources to subjugate their peoples persecuting and terrorizing them just like Saul did before he met his waterloo in Damascus.
Now, Paul is a popular name borne by many folks around the world including Africans and Nigerians. Presidents Kagame and Biya are among the many Pauls in the poor continent of Africa. But Kagame and Biya never gave the name Paul to themselves at birth; their respective parents did.
President Kagame has effortfully transformed himself into the Putin of Africa. The Rwandese genocide served to be a sort of justification for his brutal tyranny. Drawing certain sympathy and international solidarity from the plight of his Tutsi people massacred, he rides on genocidal sentiments to whip the opposition into line.
Presidents Biya and Kagame are strong leaders in their respective rights. But their presidential dominion could be linked to the weak institutions. Strong men succeed when strong institutions that should ordinarily check their power excesses and abuses are non-existent. They consequently manipulate the other constitutional tiers of government like the legislature and judiciary to foster their political longevity in power. Corruption and impunity thrive unhindered and unchecked under such circumstances.
But more than Biya, Paul Kagame bears certain characteristics with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. They are fearless and power-hungry; both are hell-bent on remaining in power by hook or by crook! In Moscow it is Putin forever and in Kigali Kagame forever! Only the ultimate leveller, death, could put a stop to their power quest!
Putin’s territorial expansion schemes are known in global politics. Some years ago he had ordered troops into Georgia and late February this year he had ordered the invasion of the neighbouring Ukraine. Kagame is surreptitiously using the notorious M23 rebellion to invade the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The DRC has suffered historical injustice caused by colonialism and local political predators. The abundant natural resources Providence blessed the vast country with has not materialized into prosperity for her poor people. The late charismatic PM, Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated for his intrepid nationalistic rhetorics. The late Mobutu Sese-Seko came in and redefined kleptocracy making it look like madness.
Today, a man who never won a presidential poll sits on the ‘throne’ as President! The next presidential election in the country, much like Nigeria’s, would mark a radical departure from electoral manipulation and hanky-panky games. Nigeria and DR Congo share similar national developmental tragedies! Both are destined to be rich and great but a combination of factors have made it impossible for them to reach the pinnacle of greatness.
The presidency of Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, three years down the line, still suffers from a credibility and legitimacy crisis. Three years ago he had ‘won’ a fixed presidential poll! The real winner, Martin Fayulu, still maintains that he won the election. As a prominent fire-spitting opposition leader he is poised to do battle with other potential candidates (including Moise Katumbi) in the next presidential election cycle.
The former corrupt President, Joseph Kabila, had wangled Tshisekedi into power as he faced a hard choice. The man he fielded to succeed him in the election, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, failed woefully to deliver the votes. And the plan b was executed to wit: the imposition of Tshisekedi on the Congolese! Today, the ‘pact’ Kabila signed with Tshisekedi had since unravelled with each party going their separate ways.
Now, there is this resurgent rebel group, M23, waging a war of attrition against the country from the eastern flank. It has been a deadly demonstration of military brutality. Daily, news of territorial conquest and mass displacement kept coming in. The Congolese Army appears overwhelmed and overpowered by the superior firepower of the rebels.
Rwanda stands accused of militarily aiding and abetting the M23 rebellion. President Paul Kagame had denied any involvement but the Congolese authorities, armed with abundant evidence, have never ceased accusing Rwanda of being behind the rebellion ravaging the DRC. Recently, the Congolese government, frustrated, had expelled the Rwandan Ambassador based in Kinshasa.
Peace mediations and efforts had taken place between Tshisekedi and Kagame, mostly in third neutral countries yet no solution has been found to the recurring massacres. The regional organisation had tried to impose peace and disarmament of the rebels but the war is still going on!
The unanswered questions are legion in this conflict. What do the M23 rebels want in the DRC? Do they want a change of government or division or partitioning of the country? And flowing from these posers what does Rwanda gain by sponsoring or supporting the rebellion? Is there a conceited scheme to steal the natural resources of the Congo? What game is Kagame playing in the bloody conflict?
Rwanda is the indirect aggressor here! The international community must intervene forcefully by not only condemning Rwanda for exporting war to a sovereign country and for installing instability in the region. It is not enough for dictator Kagame to claim innocence. The DRC government must sever diplomatic ties with Rwanda! And Kagame ‘Putin’ must accept responsibility for the chaos and anarchy in the eastern Congo.