After emerging brutalised and bloodstained from the 1994 genocide, little was expected of Rwanda. However, under the leadership of Paul Kagame, the victorious leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, signs emerged of a brighter future for his country. Rebuilding relationships between warring ethnic groups and bolstering a virtually non-existent economy through the promotion of tourism and massive foreign aid, all underpinned by a commitment to electoral democracy, it appeared Kagame’s leadership was nothing less than enlightened. Indeed, he quickly became feted as the ideal modern African ruler by a host of Western leaders. Rather than the military strongman prone to corruption, here was a democratic and fair leader willing to listen to his countrymen. So the story went…
Recent revelations by the UN that Rwanda’s defence minister is actively supporting March 23 Movement (M23) rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo is the latest blemish on Kagame’s increasingly-stained administration. It is alleged that the Rwandan government has encouraged and aided M23 in waging war against the Congolese regime of Joseph Kabila as part of a long-standing policy to root out Hutu “traitors” who escaped Rwanda after the genocide ended. There may be some truth in this. Nevertheless, it is also fair to say that the eastern territory of the vast anti-state known as DR Congo is rich in a variety of minerals and other natural resources, including timber, precious stones and gas reserves. Could this be an extra motivating factor for Kagame’s administration?
Of course the real issue is how such a benevolent leader such as Kagame could allow his regime to support armed insurgents in a neighbouring country, a group led by a man self-styled as “The Terminator”, in the meantime causing misery to thousands of civilians in a way reminiscent of the genocide itself?
In addition to this major transgression, Kagame’s regime has been accused of widespread human rights abuses, political corruption, electoral manipulation and press censorship. In short, his administration acts as virtually every other in Africa. Why can Kagame get away with it? Because he was held up as the poster boy for a new political dawn in Sub-Saharan Africa by international leaders worldwide, people now reluctant to admit that they were wrong.
Amidst all this is the persistent misery of the lives of people unfortunate enough to be born in DR Congo, who remain hostage to a lawless government and unscrupulous neighbours willing to back maniacal insurgents.