What event is Rwanda about to stage? That is the question Rwandans find themselves asking, whenever, usually through the Guardian newspaper, they are yet again, the target of Michela Wrong’s sustained campaign against their country, and its leadership in particular.
There is something especially odd about Wrong’s most recent effort to demonise Rwanda, and the country’s head of state, Paul Kagame. Yes, the Guardian has long given her carte blanche, to declare open season on Rwanda, but nonetheless, why now? Like other Rwanda detractors, she usually times her articles to deflect attention from some event or other, taking place in Rwanda. Steal their thunder, appears to be the thinking. So, what has she seen?
Although this is perhaps a naïve question. After all, Kagame sells, all a journalist with a gifted pen need do, is be prepared to shed their integrity enough to twist and bend the truth, and theirs is a chance for more earnings, and a profile raised that little bit more.
“I criticised Rwanda’s leader – now I wake up screaming after constant online attacks,” the headline moans dramatically, to which an exasperated Rwanda government spokesperson, Yolande Makolo, tweets or should that be posts on X, “peak Karen.” Ms Makolo’s pithy riposte, carries more than a grain of truth, but only up to a point.
Unlike your average ‘Karen,’ there is sophisticated method in Ms Wrong’s entitlement. Think of someone who knows perfectly well how entitled she is, but with the shrewd awareness to project that entitlement onto others, to drive her agenda. If Karen she is, Ms Wrong is a special kind of Karen indeed.
Let us begin with her book, to which she takes the opportunity to draw further attention, and why not. If one of the world’s major newspapers gives you a plaform to peddle your obsessions, it would be rude not to take them up on it. By rights however, in claiming that her book is about Rwanda, Wrong could be had up for false advertising. Her book bears no resemblance to the actual country.
Like her male counterpart, another journalist and writer, Anjan Sundaram, or the equally Rwanda obsessed Judi Rever, who also purport to have written books on Rwanda, she stands firm by the position of, I say it therefore it’s true. And anyway, it’s only Rwanda, who is going to bother checking for accuracy.
And so, we have books on a Rwanda, which exists only in the imagination of authors, whose minds are marinated in malice, against the place about which they profess to write.
Wrong’s book is an amalgam of jaundiced rumour mongering, half truths, fabrications, inuendo and insinuations, all of which were dismissed for what they are, by anyone with the slightest knowledge of Rwanda, the histories of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), and Uganda’s National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Enter our Africa expert, in search of material for a book. She is convinced Rwanda had something to do with the murder of former Rwandan chief of intelligence, Patrick Karegeya, with whom she seems to have formed a close acquaintance, and now appears to have sworn vengeance, on all she believes had a part in his murder.
Wrong ostantatiously claims to have been beguiled by the RPF, into believing them to be a force for good. Once released from their spell, she saw the light, and determined to write a book, ostensibly to atone for her naivety, and to show the RPF for what she claims it really is, a malign force. That in a nutshell is her book’s concept.
To learn this truth, she sat, primarily at the feet of the leaders of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), and gulped down every word about Rwanda, the RPF, and Paul Kagame, that they poured into her.
It must have been dizzyingly exciting for her, what a story, what a find, the words best seller, must have constantly danced before her mind’s eye.
And indeed, her book has done well. In Western circles, it was judged by some among her carefully selected reviewers, to have been “meticulously researched,” never mind that the supposed meticulous research was little more than bar room gossip.
The RNC, was founded by former head of the Rwandan army, Kayumba Nyamwasa, after fleeing his country to evade charges, which included allegations of corruption. It would go on to make common cause with armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), some of which were directly involved in the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. This earned them proscription by the UN, as a terrorist organisation.
It does not seem to have occurred to Wrong, or her book reviewers and their judgement of “meticulous” research, that the RNC might not have been the most reliable source of information. Unless that is, the intention was an agenda other than seeking the truth.
As with her book, so it is, not only with her most recent article, but all her articles supposedly about Rwanda. As she presents a benighted Rwanda, which she insists is the reality of the country, because of course, she says it is, so she imagines a character, whom she then insists is Rwanda’s head of state, Paul Kagame.
This character takes up ample space in her head, but he does at least pay for it, by guaranteeing her an income, and recognition, everytime she feels in need of either, or both, which seems to be often.
“Paul Kagame understands the value of the visual image” Wrong writes, “he loves being snapped glad-handing a dignitary at the World Economic Forum in Davos…” you can imagine the rest. This is all apparently because the Kagame in her head, the Wrong Kagame, as it were, is the kind of character who wants or needs to project himself in a flattering light, as “a dynamic African president who hangs out with sexy, important people.”
The reality of Kagame however, she informs us, could not be more different. This reality is naturally known only to her, as the expert, who has written a “meticulously” researched book. “Underbellies rarely get darker than Rwanda’s” shet reveals, knowingly.
What follows is a description of what can indeed be described as a dark underbelly, except it has little or nothing at all to do with Rwanda. It is all really about Ms Wrong. The words “my book,” crop up an awful lot in the article.
There are any number of narcissistic, self seeking Westerners, whose neo-colonial entitlement, is at the heart of a conviction that they are devinely appointed, to define and instruct Africans, not only on how they must conduct themselves, but on who and what they are. It is relatively rare however, to come across one, for whom that conviction is so unshakable as to be a virtual article of faith.
Rwanda is not what it is, but what she says it is, and heaven forbid that Rwandans may have the temerity to define themselves, without first ascertaining with her, what she might think of their understanding of themselves.
We have the bewildering state of affairs, where a journalist appoints herself the arbiter of how, arguably one of the world’s most outstanding leaders, should lead his nation, and one of the world’s leading newspapers, does not think twice about publishing her pontifications. Not to put too fine a point on it, it could only happen in Africa, only to Africans, and it can only be entertained by people with a colonial hangover, and racist undertones.
“The man reporters like me first met in 1994 in post-genocide Rwanda…has undergone an extraordinary transformation. He’s gone from awkward, camouflage-clad rebel, to sleek-suited habitue of the red carpet and banquet hall…” Anyone who knows Paul Kagame, even as most do, from afar as a public figure, will be left bemused by Wrong’s description of the Rwanda leader.
Unlike the Kagame who inhabits Wrong’s head, far from loving the limelight, a more reticent, self effacing political leader, than the actual Paul Kagame, is difficult to imagine. And whether in military fatigues or besuited, the self assured, self possessed head of state, toils on behalf of his nation, his people, meeting whomever he needs to meet, and going wherever he needs to go, in their service.
And whether Wrong likes it or not, and it does seem to gnaw at her, Kagame is a universally highly regarded figure, whom many wish to consult and with whom they want to be seen. Little wonder she incurs the wrath of diverse Rwandans, who are riled and appalled by her unabating campaign, to demonise the man the overwhelming majority of them all but revere.
Wrong regales us with tales of the “controversies” that followed her books on other African countries, and her expectation that “a book on Rwanda would take things to a whole new level…What followed took my breath away…”
Judging by her description, Rwanda seems in control of the entire internet, the world’s media, not to say the power to “no platform” her at every turn.
“The tide of vilification” she complains, “ignored the topic of my book – Kagame’s extraterritorial assassination campaign – while repeating certain tropes…I’d always taken it as read I would be accused of racism. What was extraordinary though for a journalist who reported on the 1994 genocide…was to be accused of ‘genocide denial’.”
If anything takes the breath away, it is surely the level of Wrong’s self absorption. It should be noted that the supposedly all pervasive attention from Rwanda, did not seem to have put even a dent in her freedom to take her book on speaking engagements, to almost every event where the name Rwanda, is so much as mentioned. And a fair judge might decide that it is she who employs “certain tropes.” Everything she has done on Rwanda, including her book, is based on these tropes.
Note for instance, that President Kagame, is always a lone, omnipresent figure, who circumnavigates the globe, committing every wicked outrage, Wrong can dredge up from her imagination. There is no team, no government, no institutions, just this looming, villainous figure. Rwandans are an oppressed, “cowed” lumpen mass with no agency. Thank heaven there are the likes of Wrong, and others like her, to speak for the wretched Rwandans.
Whoever perceived racism and genocide denial in her anti Rwanda campaign, should be congratulated on their perspicacity. Both charges fit perfectly.
The insensitivity with which she refers to one of the worst genocides in human history, is offensive, verging on sadistic contemptuousness. She first met now President Kagame, she informs us, in 1994, “when the country stank of human carrion.”
The “human carrion” were men, women and children, tortured to unspeakably cruel deaths. Each one beloved, cherished and forever mourned by someone, themselves forever tormented by the loss of their loved ones, and the manner of that loss. They could do with being spared Wrong’s almost taunting, glib tone.
Wrong’s attack on Rwanda, and President Kagame in particular, follows almost exactly, the strategy of the planners and perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi, devised in 1995, after their defeat. Tactics methodically laid out, include, to always target the person of Paul Kagame, and always suggest that the RPF began the genocide.
It is not by chance that these genocide ideologues, now see Wrong as part of their own continued propaganda campaign. Her stance that although there was a genocide, it was “more complicated than the official” history, is classic so-called HutuPower revisionism. As is the all too predictable claim that “Genocide denial is now an accusation hurled at pretty much any government critic…”
And despite her self serving sanctimony, about fighting the supposed evils of the RPF, when Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), waves a cheque in front of her, she hightails it to the Congolese capital, Kinshasasa, to have the French version of her book, published, reportedly funded entirely by the DRC government.
The cheque is presumably large enough to obscure the almost daily genocidal murders of Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese, instigated by Congo’s political establishment. Wrong now joins the likes of Charles Onana, another prolific writer, in the pay of Kinshasasa, to demonise Rwanda, and of course, trivialise the Genocide Against Tutsi.
The truth is that Genocide denial is on the increase, and in no small part due to individuals like Wrong, who put the wind in the sails of HutuPower ideologues. In Rwanda, as in other nations that have suffered genocide, Germany, to name one, genocide denial is a crime punishable under the law.
It is a law that Rwanda enforces, and given how recent the Genocide Against Tutsi was, it stands to reason that many will fall foul of that law.
Neither the likes of Wrong, and there are many like her, nor organisations like Human Rights Watch (HRW), who have adopted the genocide planners’ tactic of equivocating about their “crime of crimes”, have ever produced a shred of evidence, to show where the law against genocide denial, has been perverted to persercute “critics.”
But then again, for Rwanda’s detractors, it has become the norm that all they need do, is make an accusation, and it is deemed to be true.
Wrong may seek to dismiss the charge of racism, but her inability to see Rwanda, and its head of state, as anything other than her imagined caricatures of the reality, is rooted in the bigoted assumption that where African countries are concerned, she knows best. That the stereotypes, assumptions and dare one say, tropes she peddles, rather than Rwandans own analyses, are the basis on which Rwanda and Rwandans must be understood.
Anyone familiar with Wrong’s anti Rwanda diatribes, might wonder when the country’s intelligence services ever find a moment to do anything else, so apparently taken up are they with tracking her every move.
She grandiosely compares herself to Salman Rushdie, one of the most celebrated writers writing in the English language today. Rushdie, has lived under the shadow of a threat to his life, from Islamic extremists, ever since the late Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa against him, for one of his books, the Ayatollah considered an offence to Islam. She perhaps sees herself under a Rwandan fatwa, and if no such thing exists, it will, if she so ordains it.
It is not only Rwanda intelligence operatives, who we are led to believe, lurk in every nook and cranny of wherever Wrong might be, she also claims the country has set a London PR company on her online trail. The idea of a British PR company being used to target her, she tells us, “triggered a momentary rage.” Perhaps she now understands how Rwandans might feel about years of her campaign targeting them.
Whatever view anyone may have of governments hiring PR companies for their communications, that is precisely what these companies are paid to do, communications, not to go on some cyber wild goose chase, after a self important self publicist.
“Rwanda’s use of Pegasus spyware is well documented” she asserts. Well, no, quite the opposite. Few serious people believe the claim now, which the company itself has all but rubbished. Presumably when Wrong says, “well documented,” she means by herself.
Because Rwanda intelligence supposedly wages this cyber war against her, Wrong claims to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and “wakes up screaming” in fear that they have entered her apartment in Britain. To which the response from Rwanda intelligence, if they could be persuaded to offer one, might be, what? Who? be at peace, sleep soundly, we really have better things to do.
So, why now? Why does someone who claims to be a victim of an online campaign, want to awaken her supposed tormentors? Is she perhaps experiencing some form of Stackhom Syndrome, and could not bear to be ignored by them, or is it that Rwanda is in the news, and she sees an opportunity to once again, profit from demonising its leadership?