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C’Wealth plans monitor team for Rwanda’s presidential election

25 January 2010 25 January 2010 Tags: , No Comment Print This Post Print This Post

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rick Warren and Paul Kagame appearing on a banner by Free Uganda Critical Media, a media outpost based in the Virunga, Great Lakes area.

The Commonwealth has announced a plan to send a monitoring team to Rwanda’s August presidential election in which incumbent Paul Kagame is likely to seek a second seven-year term. On his first visit to Kigali since Rwanda joined the 54-member organisation last year, Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said the Commonwealth would assist in strengthening the central African country’s electoral commission.

Mainly composed of former British colonies, the group will also help improve Rwanda’s judiciary and provide training to the central African country’s journalists. “I have offered, that in the presidential election now coming up in August, we would be very happy to send a team,” Sharma told journalists. Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo accepted his offer. The Commonwealth previously monitored 2008 legislative elections when Rwanda became the first country in the world to register a female majority in parliament.

New York-based watchdog, Human Rights Watch, described it as peaceful but marred by “serious irregularities.” “We are thrilled to welcome a Commonwealth election monitoring group,” Reuters quoted Mushikiwabo as saying, adding: “It is a way for us to interact even more in a specific area of interest both to the Commonwealth and us.”

Rwanda is formally a multiparty democracy, but in practice, analysts said the real power lies in the hands of Kagame, the head of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party.

Meanwhile, the latest feature film on the 1994 Rwanda genocide, which premiered here at the weekend, has shown in excruciating detail what day-to-day life must have been like for those who survived beyond the first days of the killing.

Belgian director, Philippe Van Leeuw, shot “Le jour ou Dieu est parti en voyage” (The Day God Stayed Away) over two months – June to August 2008 – partly in Kigali and the southwestern province of Cyangugu.

The title comes from the saying in Kinyarwanda that God may spend the daylight hours somewhere else, but always comes home to spend the night in Rwanda. The inference being that the genocide – in which some 800,000 people, essentially minority Tutsis, were killed – happened the time he failed to return home to sleep.

Jacqueline, played by Ruth Nirere, a hitherto unknown Rwandan actress who won several awards for the role, finds her two children slaughtered on the living room floor in the first days of the genocide. As she attempts to wash the bodies she is chased out by neighbours who want to lynch her. She watches from a distance as an old woman, intent on occupying the house, drags the children’s bodies out onto the street and then sweeps the ground matter-of-factly.

Then begins a life of hiding in the forest, living like an animal, along with another survivor whose wounds she treats, and whose name we never learn. Periodically Hutu militia hear them in the undergrowth and give chase, boasting of those they have already raped and killed.

Jacqueline, already mad with grief from the loss of her children, is pushed over the brink by the sound of the machete her new companion uses to chop bamboo and attempts to use the machete to kill him. The film ends with her running back to her village towards the end of the genocide and collapsing in the street, surrounded by her former neighbours who debate whether they should help her recover, kill her or “just let her die.”

The film, Van Leeuw’s first, has minimal dialogue, partly in Kinyarwanda and partly in French, much of it composed as the actors went along.

“This film shows more or less all the events of the genocide: betrayal by the neighbour, manhunts, the anxiety in the hiding places … and then there is also this will to survive,” Theodore Simburudali, who heads the genocide survivors’ association Ibuka, told Agence France Presse (AFP) after watching the film.

Outside of Rwanda, the film is unlikely to make it onto mainstream screens. Many spectators at Thursday’s avant-premiere for officials and diplomats could be seen averting their eyes from the screen during the most harrowing scenes.

At the premiere on Friday, two women walked out, unable to stand the scene where Jacqueline finds her children dead. “It reminds me of what happened. It does bring back emotions, yes, but we survivours lived through worse things than that,” a subsistence farmer who identified herself only as Mrs. Uwamahoro said.

She spent the three months of the genocide hiding in the mud in the swamps of Bugesera, eating only papyrus leaves.

Jeanne Dusabe, a Hutu friend accompanying her to the screening, said she thought the film was “very good” and possibly powerful enough to “convince some negationists that the genocide did indeed take place.”

Over the past eight years, several feature films have been made about the Rwandan genocide, among them the controversial “Hotel Rwanda” by Irish director, Terry George, “Shooting Dogs” (released in the U.S. as “Beyond the Gates”) by Michael Caton-Jones, “Sometimes in April” by Haitian director, Raoul Peck, and “100 Days”, a low-budget feature directed by Nick Hughes.

Source: The Guardian (Nigeria)

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