Home Voices Privilege Blinded Neil Edwards’ Experience in Rwanda

Privilege Blinded Neil Edwards’ Experience in Rwanda

by Albert Rudatsimburwa
1:16 pm


Early this week, a former American Peace Corps intern, Neil Edwards, published his musings on Rwanda on the Council on Foreign Relations’ blog with a title “Alongside real progress, Kagame’s human rights abuses persist.”

The young intern’s writing is an excellent case study of privilege at work. He catalogues a very long list of President Kagame’s achievements; yet, Kagame has not satisfied him, “policymakers must applaud social progress, but continue to remain vigilant to ongoing human rights abuses,” he writes.

His privilege has him convinced that Kagame doesn’t measure up to the standard he has set for him, one that Kagame must preoccupy himself with having to satisfy. Why else would he think that rather than working to improve the lives of Rwandans, Kagame’s intent in promoting “gender representation, access to health care, and improved development statistics” are all “to mask human rights abuses.”

One wonders why the young man thinks Kagame exists to serve his expectations?

Has he, in his privilege, even considered that were Kagame busy satisfying this youngster’s wants there would be nobody addressing the needs of Rwandans think Kagame is doing just fine and living up to the expectations they had for him when they were voting him as their president?

As someone living in Washington DC and, presumably, wishes to speak for Africans, shouldn’t he rather be directing his self-righteousness at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to demand for protection against the violations, with impunity, of the rights of Africans and Rwandans that’s taking place in that country? Or does he also think that they, along with the legislators of African origin, should return to their countries?

One would think that what is happening right in his backyard would bring some perspective to the erstwhile intern and Peace Corps “volunteer”, who seems to have dabbled into spying, as if to confirm the suspicion that often attaches to this presumably benevolent group.

This young man is one of those people who are convinced that they come to countries such as Rwanda to do things that the people there have failed to do for themselves. In so doing, they carry themselves with the kind of hollow, sanctimonious self-importance that Neil aptly demonstrates in his writing.

Imagine the audacity for this callow intern to try to re-write Rwanda’s history to imply President Kagame’s credentials regarding the genocide and “his global image as a war hero who rebuilt the nation after he led an army to stop the 1994 genocide” to be something that is made-up.

Privilege clearly prevented Neil from seizing the opportunity he was afforded to learn from Rwanda, in line with the claimed objectives of the Peace Corps programme. Had he actually paid any real attention while in Rwanda, rather than come incapacitated from learning by his own White Man’s Burden, he would have known that Kagame doesn’t work to satisfy anyone but Rwandans.

He would also have learned that part of the evidence against Diane Rwigara – which she never denied – was that she had been working with Jean Paul Turayishimye of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), which is responsible for terrorists attacks in Rwanda that claimed the lives of innocent people. Neil would also have realised, very rapidly, that Ms Rwigara – who has negligible following in Rwanda to the point of needing to forge voter signatures to support her failed presidential candidacy – has been inflated as a political figure far beyond the actual reality. She is serving Western interests and their media – through the likes of Neil – for their own unavowed, but easily deducible purposes. She is, in other words, a creature and malleable tool of their own creation with zero actual weight on the Rwandan political scene.

While occupying himself with the goings-on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, our callow Peace Corps intern could also urge for the immediate extradition of Turayishimye from Boston – a city that has itself experienced the unfortunate trauma of extremist terrorism and should not harbour similar terrorists from elsewhere – to Rwanda to face justice.

This would be a better use of his time rather than making unsubstantiated conclusions on the case of Jean Paul Mwiseneza that is still under investigations and exploiting a tragic situation for cheap scores. This is not even a practice in his own country, let alone promoting himself from intern to judge, juror, and now apparent executioner. Being an intern is not an excuse for ignorance.