Paul Kagame: A useful tool in hands of the west.
Next week, Commonwealth leaders will assemble in Kigali, Rwanda, for the organization’s heads of government conference.
Despite considerable worldwide condemnation of his treatment of opponents at home and abroad, the event provides a chance for the country’s president, Paul Kagame, to rehabilitate his image as a guy with whom the West can do business.
On Tuesday, an aircraft scheduled to transport persons seeking refuge in the UK to Kigali under an agreement worth £120 million to Rwanda was canceled owing to a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.
However, the British government remains committed to the plan, under which Rwanda has promised to process asylum claimants deported from the UK.
In April, Kagame defended the pact, saying, “It would be a mistake for people to just conclude: ‘You know Rwanda has money.'” We are not exchanging individuals… we are truly assisting.”
Rwanda’s president claims to have presided over an economic miracle, but others doubt his record on human rights.
Another illustration of Kagame’s willingness to be helpful to Western politicians occurred last year when he dispatched 1,000 soldiers into Mozambique after Islamist rebels attacked Total’s liquefied natural gas project there.
Emmanuel Macron, his French counterpart, praised him for the action. Since leading the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which put an end to the 1994 genocide, Kagame has remained in power in Rwanda, first as an exceptionally active vice president and then as president.
He has been praised for reviving the country’s economy while also building a sense of national identity from the ashes of one of the most heinous bloodbaths in human history, which killed over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
His government has claimed substantial economic development since taking office in 2000. The UK Home Office named Rwanda as one of the world’s “fastest-growing economies” when it announced its new migration strategy in April.
Some reject these assertions of an economic miracle, claiming that official data are distorted, but few can disagree that actual economic advances have occurred. Nonetheless, the Financial Times discovered in 2019 that official numbers authorized by the World Bank had been manipulated on at least one occasion.
The charges have been refuted by his administration. Kagame divides opinion like no other African leader in recent memory.
Many see him, a Tutsi who grew up in a Ugandan refugee camp, as the savior of a landlocked country and today’s towering African leader — a type of modern-day Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s independence hero and the founder of African nationalism.
Former US President Bill Clinton labeled Kagame “one of the finest leaders of our time,” while former British Prime Minister Tony Blair described him as a “visionary leader.”
However, human rights organizations and dissidents see Kagame as a strongman bent on crushing dissent. He was elected for a third time in 2017 with an astounding 99 percent of the vote.
Kinshasa accuses Kigali of helping rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Others believe that Kagame’s operatives assassinated exiled opponents, which Kagame denies.
In recent years, NSO Group’s Pegasus software has targeted Rwandans residing overseas. Kagame has denied deploying the program, but many targeted believe it is the work of Rwanda’s intelligence agencies.
The president has stated that he will not learn about democracy from those who failed to intervene in the Rwandan genocide.
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“He is so cunning that he has managed to persuade the world that he has turned Rwanda into the Singapore of Africa,” says David Himbara, a former economic adviser to Kagame who is now in exile because he fears for his life.
Himbara claims to have witnessed the president summoning two officials before yelling and beating them with sticks over where they had purchased his office curtains.
“I knew then that I had to flee,” he says. Yolande Makolo, the president’s spokeswoman, said, “I have no interest in 10-year-old charges of a discredited and dissatisfied former official – President Kagame and his government’s accomplishments speak for themselves.”
Some of those who fled died in strange circumstances. The National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa issued arrest warrants in September 2019 for two Rwandans suspected of killing Patrick Karegeya, the former intelligence head turned Kagame opponent who was discovered killed in a Johannesburg hotel room in January 2014.
Kagame, at 64, has started to consider who would follow him when he retires. “The issue we face isn’t even having someone to fill my job.
“The issue is also preventing someone from pulling down everything we have constructed,” he has said. Makolo once lambasted detractors who suggested Kagame should hand up power if he wants to take over for Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratic president and a pan-African icon who stood down after just one term.
“President Kagame is an African leader because of what he has done and continues to do for his people,” she remarked. “He’s never needed to be reminded to do this, and he definitely doesn’t need to put himself in anybody else’s shoes.” We don’t need adult approval to choose our own hero.”