October 31, 2020

Rwanda Senate President Complains of “Colonial Disrespect” from Speaker of Belgian Parliament

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Rwanda’s Senate President Dr Augustin Iyamuremye (L) and President of Belgian Parliament Éliane Tillieux

The President of Rwanda’s Senate Dr Augustin Iyamuremye said Saturday that manner in which the Belgian counterpart replied to his letter demonstrated the “colonial” mindset still prevailing.

Iyamuremye’s comments were in reference to a highly controversial commission set up by Belgium’s Parliament in July to review the country’s colonial past. The government of Rwanda, at different levels, has reacted with dismay at the appointment of a Rwandan lawyer Laure Uwase as one of its experts.

The problem with her, according to government, is that Uwase works for a powerful lobby negating and denying the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

In 1994, Uwase was two years old. Together with her mother, Agnès Mukarugomwa, they managed to get asylum in Belgium years later. Today, the mother has a hugely popular YouTube channel called IKONDERA where Rwandan exiles have cast doubt on the official narrative of the genocide.

Laure Uwase herself is a founder member of Jambo ASBL, a platform founded with other young Rwandan exiles. Government in Rwanda, through a viscous media campaign, has accused Uwase and group of advancing a genocidal ideology. They have denied the accusations, instead claiming they are targeted for their activities aimed at ousting government of President Paul Kagame.

Back to the Senate President Dr Iyamuremye, he said today at the annual Unity Club forum that he wrote official letter to Belgian counterpart Éliane Tillieux to protest appointment of Uwase on the colonial affairs commission.

The Belgian Parliament’s President, according to Iyamuremye, replied with a brief response that the letter had been forwarded to the said commission. Actually, added Iyamuremye, the commission itself didn’t even bother notifying us they had received the letter

It seems, from Iyamuremye’s comments, that the Rwandan side expected more.

Laure Uwase

Uwase remains on the Belgian commission, indication perhaps the Belgians opted to ignore the highly charged protests from Rwanda.

“It is the usual colonial disrespect we are dealing with here,” said Dr Iyamuremye in the event held at the Parliamentary Building. “The genocide ideology found [outside Rwanda] facilitated by powerful forces is one of those major challenges we find ourselves battling.”

Iyamuremye also disputed social media posts in which many expressed concern, including inside Rwanda, over why Uwase was being targeted, yet her success should be celebrated.

The Senate President said the letter sent to Belgium would be published to dispel the accusations that its content targeted Uwase because of her parents’ past or present actions.

Iyamuremye said: “Our letter did not in any way include [Uwase’s] family. It was informing [the Belgian Parliament] that she didn’t have the required expertise to benefit the Commission. The other element we raised was that [Uwase] didn’t have the intellectual independence, and impartiality, due to her membership of associations that deny the genocide.”

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