It would be impossible to talk about African Politics and the bigwigs without mentioning the name Paul Kagame, and there are lots of reasons for this. It is given that the achievements of Kagame can be seen even by the blind, and will continue to be talked about in decades to come.
It was Kagame who commanded the rebel forces that fought to end Rwanda’s genocide over two decades ago, making him a saviour and a demi-god to many.
Since Kagame became Rwanda’s President in 2000, Rwanda has steadily become a major success story in Africa; one that continues to be admired by other countries, and this is probably why Kagame feels like there is no need to even consider leaving the stool of power for someone else to sit.
It is only fair to admit that the relatively small nation of 13 million people has continually made progress since the end of the Rwandan genocide and has become an example to many countries. The nation has quickly become a blueprint for gender equality as Rwanda’s parliament has a female majority that’s yet to be seen even in the giants of development like the United States and the United Kingdom.
Beyond becoming a world leader in gender equality, the standard of education in Rwanda is quickly rising in the ranks while those of other African countries are on a steady decline. Even the agricultural sector seems greener and more productive than ever. Healthcare is more available and accessible, and the nation’s security situation can be commended.
Rwanda’s economy might be the most remarkable yet, because, while nearly every nation of the world continues to struggle to recover from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rwanda’s economy recovered fast and is on its way to achieving Middle Income Country status by 2035; a status that many older and more populated countries cannot dream of.
So, everything seems to be going well with Rwanda. Doesn’t that mean Kagame should be hailed from the highest buildings and have his name sung in loud hymnals of praise? No. It doesn’t. That is because, behind and beyond the good developments in Rwanda is a terrible blood-curling, shocking, and despicable crime that Kagame has, and continues to commit.
A quick trip back to Kagame’s entry into office will remind you how he tyrannically took over the seat of power with ruthless violence. It is with that ruthlessness that he continues to wield this power; quickly shutting down anybody who even toys with the idea of taking over power from him.
Perhaps, beyond the thirst for power, there is also a thirst for blood that Kagame tries to keep under wraps but shows itself often and again.
When Seth Sendashonga, a minister turned opponent of Kagame narrowly escaped assassination attempts in Nairobi in 1996, people should have seen the handwriting on the wall, or at least asked the right questions. On May 19, 1998, the unasked question was answered as Sendashonga and his driver were assassinated by men wielding machine guns. Several reports and sources hold that the Rwandan government is responsible for the assassination, no matter how much it protests.
Several other people have been harassed, locked up, and tortured, with their only crimes being to have expressed dissenting opinions to Kagame, or to have attempted to contest as an opposition to him.
When Kagame’s former chief aide, Theogene Rudasingwa, went on to form a political party with other people Kagame exiled, including his former army chief of staff, General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, they faced an assassination attempt where Nyamwasa got seriously wounded in South Africa.
Kagame even went as far as locking up his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, and hunting down his former allies from the RPF’s days who had to flee abroad. Many reports got unpublished and unspoken about, but many suffered at the hands of Kagame.
The story doesn’t end there. When a bold pastor criticised Rwanda’s nationwide housing project that wanted to eliminate thatched roofs saying it would chase thousands of people into the street homeless, the response he got from Kagame was an 18-month prison sentence in 2011.
Another tale was told in January 2014 when the dead body of Patrick Karegeya, Kagame’s former friend and collaborator was found in the Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg after he had fallen out with the tyrant Kagame and fled to South Africa for his life.
If speculations weren’t enough, British writer and journalist Michela Wrong states without a doubt in her book “Do not disturb” that Paul Kagame was responsible for the murder of Karegeya.
The calls for the sanction of Kagame and his government for war crimes and numerous crimes against humanity continue to fall on deaf ears, especially as it concerns the war crime allegations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A group of experts with the UN even went on to obtain evidence that Rwandan troops attacked soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rendered support to the rebel M23. Seeing how the age-long conflict between the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 rebels has caused hunger, poverty, and death, and displaced millions of people; it makes no sense that Kagame, who has been fingered as a sponsor of the rebel group, not only walks about freely but remains in the good books of the Western governments. It will never make sense.
Kagame’s crimes and offenses are not unknown, because several reports and investigations have exposed the tyrannical, heartless, and dangerous nature of the dictator.
Internationally-funded media, as well as human rights programs, have reported numerous offenses of Kagame, such as policy failures and repression. Some of such organisations include Lawyers without Borders, Transparency International, and the Rwandan League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights. But what became of them? Some were swiftly shut down, while others were seriously clamped down by the tyrant government.
A few months ago, in December 2022, Human Rights Watch published a report about how Kagame’s administration endlessly waged campaigns against all opponents of the government, cracked down ruthlessly on political opposition, and reduced the people’s right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly to dust.
There are so many crimes connected to the tyrant Paul Kagame, and the list will continue to go on without an end. But the warning is clear. Rwanda and the international community must not look away from Kagame’s authoritarianism because he seems to be steering the country in the right direction.
If Kagame continues his ruthless clampdown on criticism and dissenting voices, Rwanda might find itself walking the same path as Zimbabwe became drowned in socio-economic and political issues before they could comprehend what was going on, all because Mugabe choose to be a tyrant and run Zimbabwe like his home, using the nation and its resources to satisfy his whims and caprices.
Rwanda must wake up and enshrine respect for the constitution and human lives, strengthen checks and balances by allowing parliamentarians to make autonomous decisions, and empower the judiciary to be truly free, as the hope of the common man. The nation and all that’s in it cannot remain a tool in the hands of Kagame to do whatever he wants.
The exploits of Kagame, though admirable, are in no way enough to cover his sins and misdeeds, and the earlier Rwanda and the tyrant, and even the international community realise this, the better for the nation.