Many Africans see Kagame’s Rwanda as a model. They are wrong.

Many Africans see Kagame’s Rwanda as a model. They are wrong.

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.

Yet there is another side to the Rwandan miracle that has so impressed the Davos crowd. Rwanda is a police state (see article). The media are stifled. Members of opposition parties are harassed and occasionally murdered. Senior defectors from the regime typically flee abroad, where they are still not safe. A former intelligence chief was strangled in a luxury hotel room in South Africa; a former interior minister was shot dead in Kenya. The parliament that boasts so many women is little more than a rubber-stamp.

On August 4th Rwandans will re-elect Mr Kagame. The outcome is not in doubt. He has always won more than 90% of the vote in the past. His opponents are largely prevented from campaigning. He was barred by the constitution from standing again this year, but a “spontaneous” petition to let him do so attracted only ten “no” votes in a country of 11m. The petition was followed by a referendum in which 98% of voters gave him the go-ahead. He could remain in charge until 2034. That is a terrible idea. Rulers seldom improve in their second decade in power, let alone their third or fourth.

The problem from hell

Any fair assessment of Mr Kagame’s record must start by noting that, 23 years ago, he took over a country that looked ungovernable. The population was 85% Hutu at the time of the genocide, and probably most Hutus either took part in or did nothing to prevent the killing of 500,000 mostly Tutsi victims. Mr Kagame, leading an army of Tutsi exiles, fought his way to power with one aim—to prevent a repeat of the genocide. He has pursued it with ruthless singlemindedness. When the genocidal Hutu militias fled into Congo, he hunted and slaughtered them. When the Congolese government abetted the génocidaires, he overthrew it. When the next Congolese government made the same mistake, he tried to overthrow it, too, sparking a many-sided war in Congo that killed millions.

Mr Kagame no longer meddles as much abroad, partly because donors leant on him but mostly because he has wiped out his greatest external threats. At home, however, he maintains a suffocating grip over his people, fretting that if he lets go, they will rise up and wipe out the ruling Tutsi elite. His party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has eyes in every village, and enforces obedience through fear. Peasants face ruinous fines for minor offences, such as looking scruffy or refusing to dig communal ditches. Any criticism of the RPF can be deemed “divisionism”, or incitement to genocide. Speech is less free in Rwanda than in any other African country, except Eritrea. “Everything is taboo,” says one opposition candidate who has been barred from running for president.

No man is indispensable

There is much that Mr Kagame gets right. If other poor countries wanted to learn from the way he has rolled out basic health insurance or held cabinet ministers accountable for measurable targets, that would be fine, and donors should support such things in Rwanda and elsewhere. But for many poor-country potentates, the appeal of the Rwandan model is precisely the unchecked power that it bestows on the president and his party. Some cite Rwanda, along with China and perhaps Ethiopia, as evidence that authoritarianism is more likely than democracy to bring stability and growth.

This is self-serving and dangerous. All Rwanda’s bursts of ethnic slaughter since its independence took place under authoritarian regimes, as did those in next-door Burundi, which has a similar ethnic make-up. Silencing alternative voices does not banish discontent; it bottles it up. Rwanda must allow more space for dissent or risk an explosion in the future.

The things Rwanda’s government does well, such as data-driven policymaking, are compatible with more pluralism. And a more open system would be more durable. The current set-up, which concentrates power in the hands of one man and one party, is brittle. Mr Kagame cannot live for ever, and the only robust, independent institution he has built is the RPF itself. He may have kept street-level corruption in check, but cronyism is rampant. The investment arm of the RPF, which has stakes in most of the biggest companies in Rwanda, dominates the economy. Having the ruling party, rather than the state, exert such control is trebly worrying. It is an invitation to rent-seeking. It is a deterrent to private investment at a time when growth is slowing and debts are rising. And it virtually guarantees that no other party can compete with the RPF.

In 1994 Mr Kagame was a necessary (if too brutal) solution to a problem from hell. Now he is the problem. He once said that if he was unable to groom a successor by 2017, “it means that I have not created capacity for a post-me Rwanda. I see this as a personal failure.” He was right. After the election, Rwanda’s hard man should retire gracefully.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline « Intimidation nation »

https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21725000-its-recovery-after-genocide-has-been-impressive-land-ruled-fear-can-never-be-happy

13 thoughts on “Many Africans see Kagame’s Rwanda as a model. They are wrong.

  1. Niyo Impamvu nyinemu Inzibacyuho 2017-2024, azaba Umwami Uganjei Nyanza ya Butare (Intaray’Amajyepfo), Umuhugu we w’Imfura akaba Igikomangoma cya Kigali (Intara y’Umujyi wa Kigali), Umukobwa we akaba Igikomangomakazi cy’Intara y’i Burasirazuba i Nyagatare, Musaza we umukurikira akaba Igikomangoma cy’Intara y’Amajyaruguru i Rurindo & Umuhererezi akaba Igikomangoma cy’Intara y’i Burasirazuba i Kibuye ahari?!?!

    1. Ibintu ushobora gutekerezaho kugihugu cyawe Rwanda ukabona ishusho yacyo muminsi irimbere.

      1. Ishyirwaho rya General François Lecointre chef d’l’état-major wabaye muri opération Turquoise mu Rwanda, 1994 igihe cya génocide yakorewe Abatutsi.( mwibuke ko France irihafi gutangiza urubanza kwihanurwa ry’indege yabaye inkomoko ya genoside).
      2. Urugendo rwa perezida Nkurunziza rutunguranye muri Tanzania aho yakiriwe neza kandi impunzi za Abarundi nyinshi zigahita ziyandikisha gutaha kubwinshi. ( mwibuke ko munkambi ya Mahama iri Kirehe mu Rwanda Abarundi benshi bashaka gutaha ariko inzego ziperereza z’u Rwanda ntizibishaka kuburyo impunzi nyinshi zirimo gushimutwa zikorerwa iyicwa rubozo, izindi ziburirwa irengero, hano hashobora kuvumbukamo ikintu gikomeye)
      3. Iyirukanwa rya abasirikare 817 kumunsi umwe, barimo aba General Karenz Karakei na Jack Nziza bayoboye iperereza mu Rwanda.(mwibuke ko kwicaza aba basirikare mugihe hanze naho hari opposition nka RNC yakamejeje ninko gutwika inzu ugahisha umwotsi).
      4. Igihugu cy’Ubwongereza kirimo kunengwa nabaturage bacyo abadepite ndetse nitangazamakuru kubera inkunga ingana na miliyoni za mapawundi 64 zihabwa umunyagitugu n’umwicanyi Kagame nkuko bivugwa nibinyamakuru byaho kuburyo iyi misoro yabaturage ishobora gukoraho abayitanga ndetse igahagarikwa burundu niba Kagame atemeye gukorana nabatavuga rumwe nawe urugero Diane Shima Rwigara. ( mwibuke ko inkunga z’u Bwongereza nizo zarizisigaye nukuvuga nizihagarara bizaba ikibazo gikomeye kugihugu cyose cyacu, ingabo zajyaga gushaka agatubutse muri Sudan guhera mukwa cyenda 1/2 cyingabo zu Rwanda ntikizongera kujyayo kubera Trump yamaze gufunga inkunga za Sudan).
      5. U Rwanda rwibasiye ambasaderi wa Union européenne mu Rwanda kubera kwakira Diane Shima Rwigara hamwe Mwenedata Gilbert nabandi sibyo gusa aherutse gutangaza ko inzu yarimwo gusenywa yaguyemo umuntu kandi yangiza urukuta rwa ambassade ya EU aho ubuyobozi bw’u Rwanda bwa kamwegereye bwaramututse. ( mwakwibuka ko iyi ntumwa ya Europe mu Rwanda ifite ijambo mumyanzuro yubukungu bushobora gufatirwa igihugu cyacu ).
      Mutekereze kuribyo mugihe dutegereje ibindi.

      Itabaza Psm Belgium

  2. J.M.V Ndagijimana ati: »Kagame yatanze abatutsi ho ibitambo »!

    http://www.therwandan.com/ki/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/07/Igitabo-UKO-PAUL-KAGAME-YATANZEHO-ABATUTSI-IBITAMBO.pdf

    None na David Himbara asohoye «Kagame’s Killing Fields »!

    https://www.amazon.com/Kagames-Killing-Fields-David-Himbara/dp/1546607285

    N.B:Ikibazo nibaza:
    Ese abadashaka kumva ko « bahetse impyisi amaherezo nabo izabafata ku gakanu! » aka wa mugani:
    -ni ubucucu?
    -ni ubufana buvanze n’ubuhumyi (fanatisme aveugle)?
    -cyangwa ni ubwoba bwabokamye, bakiyibagiza ko butigeze bukiza nyirabwo urupfu?
    Ntimwirirwe munsubiza,ahubwo mwibaze icyo mwakora kugirango abuzukuru banyu batazamwazwa n’uko bakomoka ku BIGWARI,maze nimurangiza mwisubize!!!.

    A bon entendeur,salut!!

    Nkoronko.

    1. Ibintu ushobora gutekerezaho kugihugu cyawe Rwanda ukabona ishusho yacyo muminsi irimbere.

      1. Ishyirwaho rya General François Lecointre chef d’l’état-major wabaye muri opération Turquoise mu Rwanda, 1994 igihe cya génocide yakorewe Abatutsi.( mwibuke ko France irihafi gutangiza urubanza kwihanurwa ry’indege yabaye inkomoko ya genoside).
      2. Urugendo rwa perezida Nkurunziza rutunguranye muri Tanzania aho yakiriwe neza kandi impunzi za Abarundi nyinshi zigahita ziyandikisha gutaha kubwinshi. ( mwibuke ko munkambi ya Mahama iri Kirehe mu Rwanda Abarundi benshi bashaka gutaha ariko inzego ziperereza z’u Rwanda ntizibishaka kuburyo impunzi nyinshi zirimo gushimutwa zikorerwa iyicwa rubozo, izindi ziburirwa irengero, hano hashobora kuvumbukamo ikintu gikomeye)
      3. Iyirukanwa rya abasirikare 817 kumunsi umwe, barimo aba General Karenz Karakei na Jack Nziza bayoboye iperereza mu Rwanda.(mwibuke ko kwicaza aba basirikare mugihe hanze naho hari opposition nka RNC yakamejeje ninko gutwika inzu ugahisha umwotsi).
      4. Igihugu cy’Ubwongereza kirimo kunengwa nabaturage bacyo abadepite ndetse nitangazamakuru kubera inkunga ingana na miliyoni za mapawundi 64 zihabwa umunyagitugu n’umwicanyi Kagame nkuko bivugwa nibinyamakuru byaho kuburyo iyi misoro yabaturage ishobora gukoraho abayitanga ndetse igahagarikwa burundu niba Kagame atemeye gukorana nabatavuga rumwe nawe urugero Diane Shima Rwigara. ( mwibuke ko inkunga z’u Bwongereza nizo zarizisigaye nukuvuga nizihagarara bizaba ikibazo gikomeye kugihugu cyose cyacu, ingabo zajyaga gushaka agatubutse muri Sudan guhera mukwa cyenda 1/2 cyingabo zu Rwanda ntikizongera kujyayo kubera Trump yamaze gufunga inkunga za Sudan).
      5. U Rwanda rwibasiye ambasaderi wa Union européenne mu Rwanda kubera kwakira Diane Shima Rwigara hamwe Mwenedata Gilbert nabandi sibyo gusa aherutse gutangaza ko inzu yarimwo gusenywa yaguyemo umuntu kandi yangiza urukuta rwa ambassade ya EU aho ubuyobozi bw’u Rwanda bwa kamwegereye bwaramututse. ( mwakwibuka ko iyi ntumwa ya Europe mu Rwanda ifite ijambo mumyanzuro yubukungu bushobora gufatirwa igihugu cyacu ).
      Mutekereze kuribyo mugihe dutegereje ibindi.

      Itabaza Psm Belgium

  3. KAYUMBA SINGUSHYIGIKIYE KUMATEKA YAWE YIBYASHIZE ARIKO AHA IGITEKEREZO CYAWE NDAGISHYIGIKIYE KANDI NDIBAZA KO ABANYARWANDA BOSE BAKUNDA AMAHORO BAZAKUJYA INYUMA

  4. Kagame n’intozo ze z’abarishabinyoma:ngizo za IBUKA,za SURVIE,ba Saint-Expéry,François Dupaquier,Gauthier n’inkotsa ye Daphrosa,…..bagomba kuba ubu barimo kwipfura imisatsi kubona umugaba mushya w’ingabo z’u Bufaransa ari umwe mu bari muri « Opération Turquoise » kandi muzi ko birirwa bavuza induru bakwiza ibinyoma ngo « bakoze jyenosayidi »!
    Ikibabaza ni uko nta mututsi n’umwe mu majana batumye imvunamuheto z’interahamwe zidahitana uratinyuka ngo yerure agira ati: »aba bafaransa murabahora iki ko aribo dukesha kuba tukiriho »!!!
    N.B:Rubyiruko ntimukamiragure ibinyoma bya Mukotanyi.Muzi ubwenge bihagije.Nimujye mwisomera,ndetse munabaze inararibonye zitagira aho zibogamiye,zikavuga amateka zitayagoretse cyangwa ngo ziyasisibiranye nk’uko Mukotanyi abikora,kandi ziriho ari nyinshi,haba mu Rwanda cyangwa se hanze yarwo.
    Nimugire u Rwanda ruzira inzika na « Nihôrere » bitembesha imivu y’amaraso y’abana barwo.
    Niba wumva urufaransa,soma hasi aha:

    http://www.veritasinfo.fr/2017/07/france-le-general-francois-lecointre-un-heros-reconnu-comme-tel-dans-l-armee.html

    Nkoronko.

  5. Ishyaka CNDD -FDD riravugako ababiligi aribo bateza ibibazo mu Burundi.

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