Rwanda’s strongman leader Paul Kagame secured a victory margin of almost 99% in the presidential election, extending his 17-year rule until at least 2024 after a campaign that seemed more like a coronation than a contest.
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame – visionary or tyrant? – BBC News – His comments are ironic, given that the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders identifies him as a “predator” who attacks press freedom, citing the fact that in the last two decades, eight journalists have been killed or have gone missing, 11 have been given long jail terms, and 33 forced to flee Rwanda.
“A lot of effort has been made to improve internet access, but the idea is still to control discourse on social media, including by trolling journalists,” Reporters Without Borders Africa head Clea Kahn told the BBC.
Mr Kagame, who received military training in Uganda, Tanzania and the US, is seen as a brilliant military tactician.
A refugee in neighbouring Uganda since childhood, he was a founding member of current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s rebel army in 1979.
He headed its intelligence wing, helping Mr Museveni take power in 1986.
Then he spearheaded the launch of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel movement. It took power in Kigali to end the 1994 genocide which killed some 800,000 Tutsis – the ethnic minority group to which Mr Kagame belongs – and moderate Hutus.
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame: visionary, despot, or both? – Paul Kagame is revered for stopping Rwanda’s genocide and engineering what admirers call an economic miracle, but his critics see a despot who crushes all opposition and rules through fear.
The 59-year-old former guerrilla fighter is seeking a third term in office in August 4 polls after voters massively approved a constitutional amendment allowing him to run again and potentially stay in office for another two decades.
Kagame frames his run as a duty to his country, however the move angered international allies whose patience has worn thin with a man once held up as a shining example of successful post-colonial leadership in Africa.
Yet the president of the tiny central African nation has become one of Africa’s most powerful and admired leaders. His counterparts, inspired by Rwanda’s turnaround, have tasked him with reforming the African Union.
The end of the west’s humiliating affair with Paul Kagame | World news | The Guardian – David Smith in Johannesburg
Wednesday 25 July 2012 09.00 EDT
First published on Wednesday 25 July 2012 09.00 EDT
A “visionary leader,” said Tony Blair; “one of the greatest leaders of our time,” echoed Bill Clinton. Such hero worship is usually reserved for South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. But Blair and Clinton were describing the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame.
The UK and US have staked their pride, reputations and ability to judge character, not to mention hundreds of millions of pounds in aid, on Kagame’s powers of post-genocide healing and reconciliation matching those of Mandela after apartheid.
That is why the US decision to cut aid, and now to warn Kagame that he could even face criminal prosecution over meddling in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, is a humiliating but long overdue reversal.
It piles the pressure on Britain to make a similar admission that its long-time darling, revered as a success story that underpins an entire ideology around donor development aid, could have feet of clay.
There are two main reasons why Kagame’s Rwanda has been bulletproof for so long. One is western guilt over doing nothing to stop the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 people perished. Clinton, whose most recent visit was last week, has described it as “my personal failure”.
Many Africans see Kagame’s Rwanda as a model. They are wrong – WHEN Paul Kagame was 28, he helped topple the government of Uganda. At 36 he overthrew the government of Rwanda. At 39 he ousted the government of Congo (which was then called Zaire). It is hard to think of another leader who has won so many wars, against such repulsive enemies, on such a tight budget. Mr Kagame is perhaps the most successful general alive, and this is only part of his claim to renown. The boy whose first memories included watching his village burn, and who went to school in a refugee camp, grew up to stop a genocide. As a rebel, he said he had no political ambitions. He has now ruled Rwanda for 23 years, during which the country has been transformed from a blood-spattered wreck to an orderly society with robust economic growth, falling poverty and declining inequality. Many African leaders see him as a model to emulate. He is not.
Granted, first impressions of President Kagame’s Rwanda are often excellent. The streets are clean and safe. The traffic cops are honest. Officials welcome foreign investors and innovators. There is much talk of respect for women’s rights. “If oppressed women should wage a war, I would readily smuggle ammunition to them, for it would be a justified war,” Mr Kagame once said. Donors swoon when they hear that 56% of Rwandan MPs are female—the highest share in the world.
Paul Kagame’s Rwanda: African success story or authoritarian state? | World news | The Guardian – David Smith in Kigali
Wednesday 10 October 2012 14.42 EDT
First published on Wednesday 10 October 2012 14.42 EDT
A hi-tech fingerprint scanner unlocks the entrance to Jean Gatabazi’s offices at the hospital in the Rwandan town of Nyamata. Gatabazi says the past five years have brought a tarmac road, street lighting and thriving businesses to the site of one of the worst massacres of the 1994 genocide. And he knows whom he credits for the transformation. “Paul Kagame is an excellent man,” he says proudly. “Hero is the right word.”
President Kagame has similarly mesmerised Tony Blair (who called him a “visionary leader”), Bill Clinton (“one of the greatest leaders of our time”), Clare Short (“such a sweetie”) and Howard Schultz, chief executive of Starbucks, who was persuaded to invest here. Such idolatry raises the question, what spell does this flinty statesman with bookish, even nerdy looks, with no obvious charisma, cast over western leaders – and why is it now wearing thin?
Everything in Rwanda must be seen through the prism of the genocide, a hundred apocalyptic days that wiped out 800,000 men, women, children and babies and left no family unscarred. As a guerrilla commander who marched from the bush to the capital, Kigali, it was Kagame who ended the nightmare and, his champions say, tilted the scales more towards reconciliation than revenge. “I’m not sure Rwanda would exist if not for him right now,” one expat businessman said.
Patrick Karegeya: Mysterious death of a Rwandan exile – BBC News – A murdered former Rwandan intelligence chief was advising South African and Tanzanian intelligence as they prepared to send troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo to battle the Rwandan-backed rebel group M23, BBC Newsnight has learned.
On New Year’s Eve, Rwanda’s former chief of external intelligence, Col Patrick Karegeya, went to his suite at the Michelangelo Towers – an expensive hotel in Johannesburg’s business district -to meet an old informant.
The friend, Apollo Kiririsi, appears to have been used as bait. The killers themselves are thought to have rented a suite across the corridor. It is not clear exactly who or how many they were, but Col Karegeya seems to have put up quite a fight.
David Batenga, Col Karegeya’s nephew, who discovered the body almost 24 hours later, says: “There had been a bit of scuffle, everything was just a nightmare. We found the towel, and the towel was full of blood, and the rope. They literally used a rope to hang him tight.”