There is nothing like a pantomime performance by a disgruntled former hotshot to get my creative juices flowing once again. Throw in an American official who thinks he knows what’s best for Rwanda and you have a medley that banishes any writer’s block I might have been suffering from.
I find nothing quite as sad and utterly depressing as watching a once reasonable and respected man descend into a public joke. But that, in my opinion, is what David Himbara has become; a public joke.
The former head of the Strategy and Policy Unit now seems to spend all his time writing nonsensical posts on Facebook (and replying to each and every comment his ‘fans’ post as well), running to the Canadian police and regaling them with tales of bogeymen living under his bed and organizing press conferences with clueless Toronto Star journalists.
Instead of using his intellect to take a breath and reconsider the path he’s marching down, he’s instead doubling down. And whereas before I could simply treat him like an old man ranting and raving but harmless at the end of the day (a bit like the village drunkard), certain events over the past few days have made me change my mind and realise just how far down the rabbit-hole he’s gone.
On the 20th of last month, the US Congress Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organisations sat down to hear about ‘Developments in Rwanda’.
The farcical two-hour long hearing was an archetypical ‘blind men leading blind men’.
On one hand you had Subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith, a New Jersey native, and Congresswoman Karen Bass, of California (both who I’d wager had never actually stepped sub-Saharan Africa, never mind Rwanda) and on the other you had Robert P. Jackson (Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of African Affairs at the US State Department), Steven Feldstein (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the US State Department), David Himbara and Robert Higiro (both representing the hilariously named ‘Democracy in Rwanda Now’), Sarah Margon (Washington Director, Human Rights Watch) and, to give a semblance of partiality, Willis Shalita (a Rwandan-American blogger).
As one would expect, the hearing was full of rumors, unsubstantiated allegations and straight buffoonery. I would go into details but I don’t want to insult your intelligence and waste your time.
Despite the hilarity, one thing stood out for me; Shalita’s allegation that Himbara, who ‘works’ as a human rights advocate and good governance consultant, “personally hired a top-tier DC lobbying firm in August 2014. He paid them $70,000 in the first quarter of this year, and a total of $190,000 since the contract started”.
Himbara doesn’t deny this. When someone asked him to confirm the allegation, he wrote, and I quote, “in the United States, lobbying is a way of life. Yes indeed, we raised resources to get technical help to learn how the complex United States government works, and how to get our message across”.
That’s right; a man who lives a middle-class existence in Canada is able to afford a US lobbying firm. This then leads to the question, ‘from where is he getting the money’?
When he writes, “we raised resources” who exactly is that mysterious ‘WE’ he talks about? Is it money sourced from FDLR-owned mines in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo? Is it sourced from Genocide financier and fugitive of justice Félicien Kabuga? Is it from alleged Rwanda National Congress moneyman Tilbert Rugiro? Is it from chronic meddler businessman George Soros?
The one source of the funds that I must immediately rule out is rank and file members of the Rwandan opposition in the diaspora. Why do I discount them? Due to the fact that the vast majority of them are barely able afford a night out on the town, never mind a donation to a barely there pressure group.
What we are seeing is not an organic manifestation of opposition disagreement, but rather a mysteriously well-funded smear campaign waged against the Government of Rwanda.
Unfortunately for whoever is funding Himbara nefarious moves, the evidence on the ground here in Rwanda will always reign supreme. As President Kagame famously declared, “Les faits sont têtus”. There is no getting away from the facts.
The government that we, Rwandans, elected to has brought real change to our lives. A government that distributes livestock to the very poorest among us; one that embraces the rights of women; one that put in place a free 9-year basic education policy; one that fought and defeated a genocidal regime. It is one that has made ‘small’ Rwanda a major international player.
To Himbara and his funders I say, keep throwing good money after bad. You need more than a Washington DC lobbying firm to effect change. You need to convince us that you are credible. Sadly, you are the furthest thing from credible.