RIGHT OF REPLY
I HAVE read with keen interest CFR’s recent African in Transition blog post “The Paradox of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame” about Rwanda and the President of Rwanda. As a citizen of Rwanda, I feel compelled and find it of utmost necessity to reach out and point out the discrepancies in the article and hopefully have them corrected.
In the blog entry, Dr. John Campbell, a former US Ambassador to Nigeria, insinuates that our president is authoritarian. He also, perhaps for validation purposes, recommends – and provides a link to – another article by a Nigerian economist, Obadiah Mailafia, that he deems “well worth reading” and considers “balanced” in its treatment of President Kagame.
The article Dr. Campbell seemingly endorses, “Paul Kagame as a Lenin and a Tsar,” appeared in Vanguard Nigeria and contains many appalling inaccuracies, both in the portrayal of President Kagame and in the claims presented as facts. Though numerous, I will only address the four most crucial inaccuracies. And at the risk of sounding partial, I respectfully invite both men to fact-check the following points in my rebuttal with a reliable source, preferably in Rwanda.
- ”Before then, he (Paul Kagame) had undertaken a rather controversial re-engineering of the constitution that paved the way for him to stand for a third term.”
This is an untruth. In 2015, residents of different districts around the country took it upon themselves to write letters to their parliamentary representatives (lawmakers), petitioning them to amend the constitution. The result of this petition was a referendum that yielded a 98% vote in favor of the revision of the constitution, thus allowing President Kagame to run for a third term. At no point was President Kagame involved in this process. In fact, President Kagame became his party’s nominee with 1929 out of 1930 of votes. The single spoilt ballot was cast by President Kagame himself. His candidacy, and subsequent victory, is entirely our own doing.
- ”He and his rabble guerilla army seized power by force of arms in April 2000.”
Rwanda, thankfully, was liberated from the genocidal regime rather sooner, on July 4, 1994. By April 2000, many former refugees, my family included, had long returned to and been living in Rwanda, finally having a place to call home. Besides, in April 2000, H.E. Kagame was the Vice-President of Rwanda and Minister of Defense, and had been in both leadership positions for almost six years. How then could he have conceivably seized power, no less shockingly by force of arms, from himself?
It is also worth mentioning that the RPF/RPA was anything but rabble. It was a highly disciplined and highly organised military group, comprised of young refugees of Rwandan descent who had been living in exile in neighboring countries and had, for decades, longed to return home.
Discipline and high level of professionalism are still some of the core values of Rwanda’s army and police, and have earned Rwandans in peacekeeping missions across the globe accolades from various national and international institutions, the UN included.
- ”Rwanda, for most of the decades following independence from Belgium in 1962, had been torn apart by recurrent cycles of inter-ethnic violence, principally between the feudal ruling elite Tutsi minority and the plebeian Hutu majority”
Inter means between. And inter-ethnic violence implies that violence was reciprocal and hence, both parties, at fault. This is simply not factual. In the period following independence, minority Tutsis were the sole victims of ethnic injustice and barbarity, denied their basic rights to education and employment, treated with extreme brutality and harrowing oppression, and forced into exile. This relentless persecution, later, culminated into what is known today as the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.
- ”A high-ranking army general who had disagreed with the regime and fled into exile in South Africa… was assassinated.”
Suffice it to say, Mr. Kayumba, the army general, currently lives in South Africa.
Judging from the many inconsistencies and untruths in the article, Mr. Mailafia’s op-ed is certainly far from reliable and should not have been recommended as a trustworthy representation of Rwanda and its leadership. It is, at best, an offensive fabrication of truth to even the least informed of readers. There are many balanced and reliable publications about Rwanda that I’d be most happy to send to both authors if they so wish.
Finally, one question remains: On what credible basis does Mr. Obadiah Mailafia, who by his own admission has never been to Rwanda – but admittedly has heard from his friends who have, that Rwanda is a pleasant and orderly place – qualify to “provide an important African perspective on the leader of Rwanda?”
By A Concerned Citizen from Rwanda