Monday, December 08, 2014

The MisLeaders of Africa

Until last year, Rwanda’s GDP averaged 8 per cent, and GDP per capita, when adjusted for purchasing power, grew from $575 in 1995 to $1,170 in 2012. The statistics have been so impressive that many in the West have called upon other African leaders to emulate President Paul Kagame’s and Rwanda’s approach. Kagame is loved and admired at home. His direct style of leadership has won him accolades, and he has got Rwanda out of the abyss.

But there is another side to this story. Under Kagame, Rwanda has become one of the most tightly controlled societies in Africa, where human rights and freedom of speech are severely curtailed. In 2010, when Kagame won 93 per cent of the vote, the main opposition parties were excluded from the ballot. Dissent from journalists, political opponents or even his own lieutenants has been fiercely dealt with. Former comrades who fell out with him have been assassinated, most recently Patrick Karegeya, a former intelligence chief, who was killed in January. Rwanda’s human rights record is so bad that it ranks alongside that of Syria and Eritrea. Yet this is a country that continues to be held up as a prime example of how donor support can work, and Kagame is hailed as a visionary.

President Kagame’s argument has always been that he saved Rwanda from oblivion when everyone else, including the international community, was hopelessly looking on. Granted, the genocide stopped after the RPF’s military victory, but the real question is whether putting an end to genocide was the RPF’s main objective. The memoirs of General Roméo Antonius Dallaire, the man in charge of the UN forces in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, for example, suggest that this was never the case. The Gersony Report detailed findings by experts contracted by the UN, who identified a pattern of massacres by the RPF during and after their military victory. The British and the Americans were instrumental in preventing the Gersony Report from being published, over fears its findings might rock the boat of a fragile new government.

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