Archive for May, 2009

The Slow death of the Rwandan Peasant.

May 14, 2009

Here is a so-so- translation of an article I read on Musabyimana’s website. The original text was in french. 

New measures taken by the RPF regime to further impoverish Rwandan peasants.

demande de feu pour allumer sa pipe. ©Gaspard Musabyimana


Immediately after seizing power in july 1994, the RPF spared no effort to reduce in number the peasant masses who hadn’t fled the country. It hunted down those who had escaped into refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and reduced their numbers by hundreds of thousands by blindly bombing the refugee camps. Reports talk of 500.000 dead. To this day, nobody has been punished for those crimes, which in itself is a first in human history.

Emboldened by this impunity, the RPF regime went on to craft more sophisticated methods of mass murder, among which, starving the population to death.

Under the pretense of pursuing infiltrated rebels, the RPF ordered, as of 1998, that all banana plantations be cut down, mostly in the northern and central regions of Rwanda. A disasrous measure for rwandan peasants, who use the banana plant in multiple ways. They eat its fruit, which is also used to produce juice or wine. Banana leaves are used to cover rooftops as well as to feed cattle. Banana trees can reproduce at any time of the year and are resistant to sudden climate changes. In Rwanda, the banana tree has historically been a life-saving crop during famines.

RPF ideologists keep coming up with new ways to further advance this criminal policy. From 1997 to the year 2000, they introduced a policy of relocating the population into villages. With help of the “Local Defense Militia”, the regime forced peasants to destroy their own homes, often brick houses with corrugated iron or tile rooftops, before sending them to go sleep outside in unhealthy, until then not inhabitated places. It took a firm intervention from donor countries to make Rwanda put an end to that policy.

Then in 2004, the Land Reform Decree was issued. That law wreaked havoc. It allowed haphazard land distribution, made it illegal to live near a lake or a big river, made it possible for the state to expropriate people with no compensation-or such a small one that the relocated people would not be able to pay for new lodgings. In the Eastern Province, peasants were simply chased away or killed and big dignitaries of the regime took over their land. Over twenty senior members of the RPF party, military brass, businessmen and such, owned an average of over 600 ha each, while the average Rwandan peasant owns 0,6 ha of land. Again it took a foreign donors’ outcry to make President Kagame go in the countryside in july 2007 to redistribute land.

Taking advantage of the interest the world shows today for environmental issues, the RPF made it illegal in Rwanda to fell a tree on one’s property, to bake bricks or tiles on one’s own farm,…as a consequence of this, peasants are left with the option of spending the little money they have on firewood and moving into straw huts.

The Health Ministery has imposed, since 2006, mandatory footwear for all Rwandans for hygienic reasons. In Kigali the capital of Rwanda, anyone who doesn’t own shoes is made to leave town while in the countryside, peasants are not allowed to enter public buildings barefoot. They can’t enter the commune local administration office to get papers or even the hospital to get treatment. Incidentally, RPF businessmen invested in plastic shoes importation and they are now making a fortune out of it.

In a country where peasants struggle to feed their families, it has become mandatory in some regions of Rwanda, to stop growing your own food in order to grow flowers for exportation. In those regions, the problem of malnutrition has worsened and famines are now endemic.

The latest innovation of the RPF regime would be to forbid banana wine making by farmers and to reserve that right to industrial production only. If that information is accurate, then this is just another way of reducing rwandan farmer’s buying power to naught. Selling banana wine is indeed a serious source of revenue for rural Rwandans. We received testimony that people have now to hide to make banana wine.

Is it normal that Rwandan farmers have to live this way in their own country?

Original text by

Gaspard Musabyimana
Le 13/05/2009