Sunday, August 31, 2008


A World Politics Review article, gives some interesting and very balanced perspectives on the huge support for Kagame and the Rwandan government. It starts:

The West and its development industry have serially backed a series of African leaders as exemplars for the continent, only to see them come to resemble the autocrats they previously opposed. Yet neither the diplomats nor the donors can refrain from anointing new visionaries.

Indeed there has never been a shortage of stupid white people to meddle in the politics of other countries.

The current favorite is Rwandan President Paul Kagame, admired for his prudent political and economic management after the 1994 genocide. ... Without security, Kagame says, there can be no development. Kinzer believes Rwandans deeply appreciate this emphasis on societal rights such as raising the standard of living and guaranteed personal safety. Out of fear of another genocide, their preference must not be dismissed.

This is a view I can only confirm from conversations with Rwandans here. Of course, it doesn't apply to everyone. There are unfortunately still many Rwandans that would like to see the collapse of the present system.

However, the problem is that Kagame has blurred the line between legitimate social control and repression.


[New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer says,] "[Rwandans] have little interest in politics or ideology," Kinzer writes. "They are happy that President Kagame has centralized so much power in his own hands and are not fearful that he is becoming a dictator."

True. But the conclusion of the article is poignant both for the attitude of Rwandans and the West:

Such enthusiasm for a leader with a mixed record is misguided. Experience, based upon the previous rises and staggering falls of Western-anointed visionaries, dictates that Kagame should be viewed with skepticism. Praise, however, will be merited if his development plan is actually realized.

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