The New York Times three days ago published an opinion article by one Anjan Sundaram that made quite interesting reading. It focused on the record of Mr. Paul Kagame the president of Rwanda, the writer attempting to grade his performance as the nation’s leader. Anyone could see the intention was to give the president a worst score possible. However, by the time he wound up the piece, Rwanda’s head of state had accumulated far more accolades from the writer than disapproval. Mr. Sundaram enumerated various works attributed to the president in a way that unintentionally left him looking like he was on a mission to praise. This was not on purpose, certainly. He set out to criticize, but in the face of glowing strength accruing to a statesman of exceptional caliber, so-called flaws quickly diminished, naturally.
That is how increasingly constrained the anti-Kagame propagandists are getting. Evidence of success by the Kigali administration has gotten to a level so outstanding it cannot be ignored. Not even by the most indifferent of observers. Such people we now often witness, that the moment they start to narrate the story of Rwanda, facts stand out from all over the place, including from within their own heart and mind, rendering it impossible to omit the obvious.
Now anybody deciding to give an account of developments in this country will critically risk their credibility as researchers or journalists if they choose to leave out well known truths. The result is that to avoid being seen to be biased haters as opposed to doing it in good faith, professional writers nowadays find themselves having to reluctantly spell out Rwanda’s transformation details. Sometimes they do this meticulously, like Mr. Sundaram did.
Rwanda’s career critics are getting hard time by the day, maligning Mr. Paul Kagame’s presidency. It is not the easiest of jobs being paid to regularly find fault with a leader this smart. To keep earning their cheque, they have to either be consummate liars like David Himbara, nostalgically disgruntled like Rudasingwa Theogene, acutely vendetta-driven like Michela Wrong, ominously insincere like some voices in the Western media, blinded by imperial arrogance like Ken Roth, or as angry and hopeless as Charles Kambanda. Or else, one would have to be the negativist wishful thinker that Jude Rever is, or a Jeffrey Smith so beholden to the genocide ideology. Someone please remind this latter dude that Rwanda has since wisely moved on beyond the destructive thinnest artificial ethnic divisions devilishly bloated by colonialists.
A British businessman operating in Kigali recently observed thus: “Being expected to objectively criticize President Kagame every day without sounding irrational or looking like a serial hater is a tough ask.” I concurred. In my own view, it is like being required to dent an egg without breaking it. Because its surface is so even and brittle, any attempt to tamper with its original shape will inevitably damage it irreparably.
Take Mr. Sundaram’s opinion piece as an example, starting with its controversial title: He’s a Brutal Dictator, and One of the West’s Best Friends. Surely how is this possible? Aren’t the West supposed to be morally different, or is it sheer fantasy?
Birds of a feather flock together. Assuming this English proverb still carries meaning, Mr. Sundaram and the New York Times will have to contend with a West that shares similar tastes and interests with Rwanda. The two parties, you would be forgiven to assume, are in the same bed, be it politically, economically, diplomatically or otherwise. The writer cannot refute this notion at all. Not after asserting that the West and Rwanda are Best Friends.
Democratic governance and human rights is one particular area in which Rwanda’s career critics forever dwell. They allege lack of political inclusivity, absence of citizen participation in matters of governance, shortcomings in press freedoms, suppression of dissenting political views, and other accusations. Always the standard gauge is the West, right? If Mr. Sundaram and the New York Times would like the rest of the world to value their opinion, they will have to first answer the simple questions below.
If the West has been the world’s role model in these matters of democracy, and if Rwanda operates from the other side of the democratic divide as alleged, on which basis have the two sides built their Best-Friends relationship? Or put the other way, if the two Best Friends are indeed intimate and therefore in the same bed, which one of the two is it exactly – the democracy bed or the dictatorship bed? Would it be fathomable that the saintly West knowingly, for 29 years now, continuously partners with, or funds development projects in, a country that critically falls short of their international development collaboration rules?Earlier above I mentioned how Rwanda’s career critics have been compelled, though reluctantly, to spell out the country’s success stories. From Mr. Sundaram’s article I picked one particular example.
“Mr. Kagame’s Western friends include FIFA, which held its annual congress at a shiny sports complex in Kigali in March, and the N.B.A., whose African Basketball League plays in Rwanda. Europe’s largest carmaker, Volkswagen, runs an assembly plant in Rwanda, and major international organizations such as the Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum are close partners.”
What should we take home? That Western governments and iconic institutions from their countries will not listen to hearsay, when Kigali is just a few hours away aboard a Rwandair flight. Ask Suella Braverman, Home Secretary of the United Kingdom. The British government remains committed to the bilateral agreement of sending illegal migrants to Rwanda, and CHOGM would return to Rwanda all day if it was not for the rotation rule.
Since it has been 29 years of steady progress, wouldn’t the nay sayers be better off cutting their losses and align with the truth? Because from here things most likely can only get better, faster.