The One (of Rwanda)

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. The current favorite is Rwandan President Paul Kagame, admired for his prudent political and economic management after the 1994 genocide.

That’s Blake Lambert writing in the excellent World Politics Review. “The problem”, he writes, “is that Kagame has blurred the line between legitimate social control and repression.”

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4 thoughts on “The One (of Rwanda)

  1. Isn’t Kagame, roughly, the new Museveni? I remember when M7 spoke in Washington in 2001 or 2002 when I was working there, and he was treated like a rock star by many of my peers in the NGO community. Now, not so much.

  2. In terms of “social order”–

    I was just struck by how all the [i]boda[/i] drivers in Kigali not only wear helmets with ID numbers on the back, but also carry one for their passenger, too. (I even had one driver make sure that I had it strapped on properly.)

    This is strikingly different, of course, than [i]boda[/i]ing in Uganda.

  3. People like Stephen Kinzer obviously have no memory of the Habyarimana regime which ruled Rwanda from 1973 to the eve of the genocide in 1994. Habyarimana was similarly praised for impressive development outcomes, with low inflation, high primary school enrolment, low infant mortality, etc. Peter Uvin has written about the way donors praised Habyarimana as a great leader but ignored his anti-Tutsi policies. The worry is obviously the same with Kagame – all of his accomplishments – which are real – is that they would be wiped out with another bout of ethnic violence.

  4. of course we shouldn’t forget that Robert Mugabe was once knighted by the Queen of England for his progressive stance on development of his country. its amazing how quickly aid darlings can fall from grace.