Yesterday, instead of sending us a Valentine’s Day card, extolling our mutual friendship, I learnt that the Swedish government sent us Evode Mudaheranwa, First Consular in Rwanda’s embassy in Stockholm. While we love having our citizens back, plus I’m sure he missed Kigali’s sunny weather, I must say I was disappointed in the Swedish government when I heard the reason why. According to a Washington Post story, Mr. Mudaheranwa, was expelled from the icy Nordic nation because he was engaged in “refugee espionage” (this according to an unnamed source in the Swedish foreign ministry who talked to their correspondent).
The Washington Post story stated that officials from the Swedish foreign ministry declined to comment on the expulsion, but then continued to say that Sweden is home to a small community of Rwandans, “some of whom run blogs and online newspapers that are critical of Rwandan President Paul Kagame”. Well, I know something about this ‘small’ community because a lot of them are members of the journalistic fraternity. People like McDowell Kalisa, Nelson Gatsimbazi and Jean Bosco Gasasira are people I either know personally, or through my work. I will not enter the debate on whether they deserved ‘asylum’ or whether their publications or statements really matter to the average ‘muturage’, but I must wonder why Rwanda would need to spy on them. It simply doesn’t make sense to waste resources on them.
Maybe people more knowledgeable than I in international diplomatic practices can correct me, but I don’t think that meeting your nationals can be termed ‘espionage’. While it might seem strange for non- Rwandans for diplomats to regularly meet and socialize with their national, anyone who knows Rwandan diplomatic practice realizes this is how they conduct their work. This isnt something that should be treated with suspicion, it should rather be emulated instead by everyone else.
Throw in the fact that these fellows aren’t exactly nuclear scientists’ gone rogue, and I come to the conclusion that this incident is akin to the Jonathan Musonera/ Rene Mugenzi- Met Police incident in London last year.
Back then, a totally unknown fellow (who I learnt through the ensuring media furor was a member of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), headed by Gahima, Karegeya, Rudasingwa and Nyamwasa) was warned by the London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) that it had information that his life was in danger because of Rwandan ‘assassin teams’. Never mind that no one was arrested or the fact that this ‘politician’ was someone very few people had heard of. I found it interesting just how quickly the story was killed in the British political arena and although it was pushed quite hard by some sections of the British press, it died a natural death there as well. At the end, Scotland Yard ended up with an egg on its face, in my humble opinion, and the RNC got a bit of airtime. Oh, and Mr. Musonera and Mr. Mugenzi got their Andy Warhol ‘fifteen minutes of fame’.
I’ve always believed that the whole ‘London incident’ was a Machiavellian ploy by the RNC fellows to put the Government of Rwanda on the defensive. But what they failed to understand was that Rwanda-UK ties wouldn’t be severed through lies and intrigue. They were stronger and deeper than that. I feel the same way about the Swedish tiff.
At the end of the day, very few people really care about what our nationals are doing in Sweden. Whether they oppose or support the Government, life continues here in Rwanda. Every day, people are climbing out of poverty and illiteracy; that is what we really care about. How we shall raise per capita income from an average of $500 to $1,000 as quickly as possible. This is NOT a case of espionage my dear Swedish friends; it’s a storm in a teacup, brewed in the kitchens of disgruntled politicians. Just you wait and see.