"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

5.04.2009

the truth sets you free

Rick Warren's defense of Paul Kagame as one of Time's list of the 100 most influential people in the world is difficult to stomach. Aside from reading Stephen Kinzer's hagiography of Kagame, Warren appears to have done almost no research on the activities of a man he considers to be a "model of the transition from soldier to statesman." In fact, most of the entry is comprised of statements that are demonstrably false, or at least up for serious debate.

Let's take it point-by-point, shall we? Warren's words from the Time piece are in quotation marks; mine follow.
  • "During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the world watched in horror but did nothing. Kagame was responsible for ending the slaughter." Um, not exactly. As Romeo Dallaire (the Canadian general in charge of the UN peacekeeping mission that was present in Rwanda during the genocide but was not allowed by UN member states to actually do anything to stop the slaughter) points out in his haunting autobiography, Kagame's primary goal was not to end the genocide. It was to take absolute power in the country. Kagame did not take the most direct route to places where Tutsis were being slaughtered. His sights were set on Kigali, which he flanked around to choke off the national army. As Gerard Prunier puts it, "[the RPF] never planned their military operations so as to try saving as many as possible." And the genocide did not end until after Kagame had achieved his primary objective.
  • "After the genocide, the nation was in shambles. Kagame and others began the slow process of rebuilding." This is true, to some extent. But the RPF government initially focused most of its energy on exacting revenge rather than on reconstruction. There's also increasingly clear evidence that Kagame's forces began slaughtering innocent Hutus en masse shortly after taking power. The most reliable estimate is that about 30,000 people were killed by the RPF during and after the genocide for no reason other than their ethnicity. The massacre of approximately 5,000 displaced Hutus at Kabeho camp in April 1995 is but one example.
  • "Kagame's leadership has a number of uncommon characteristics. One is his willingness to listen to and learn from those who oppose him. When journalist Stephen Kinzer was writing a biography of Kagame, the President gave him a list of his critics and suggested that Kinzer could discover what he was really like by interviewing them. Only a humble yet confident leader would do that." Well, that's one interpretation. Another is that Kagame has silenced or forced into exile most of his serious critics. Does Rick Warren genuinely believe that a man who allows no political opposition to contest elections "listens to and learns from those who oppose him?" Some, like former government minister Seth Sendashonga, are dead because they dared to oppose the RPF leadership. Others are banned from entering the country because they've dared to criticize Kagame's rule in public. This happened just last year to the late Alison Des Forges, America's foremost expert on Rwanda.
  • "Then there is Kagame's zero tolerance for corruption. Rwanda is one of the few countries where I've never been asked for a bribe. Any government worker caught engaging in corruption is publicly exposed and dealt with. That is a model for the entire country — and the rest of the world too." This is true. There's very little corruption in Rwanda, at least in the sense of being asked for bribes at every turn. Kigali is one of the safest cities in the world; I feel perfectly safe walking through its streets alone at night. However, that lack of corruption comes at a high price. Rwanda is one of the most authoritarian states in Africa. The government spies on its own citizens and on foreigners. Civilians are to report suspicious or behavior that is not consistent with the reconciliation narrative to their local authorities. Those transiting through the country to Congo are advised to have a consistent story for everyone about where they are going and what they are doing because discrepencies will be noticed. Human rights observers in the Congo whose entries into the country are tracked by the Rwandans, and not just like they track every entry and exit from the country. Put it this way: one would not normally expect a border guard to immediately identify an international human rights observer who works in another country just by seeing his or her name on a passport.
  • Also on corruption, there is incontrovertible evidence that Kagame's regime has been stealing mineral wealth from and fueling in the Congo for more than a decade. The invasions of 1996 and 1998, the backing of the RCD-Goma rebel government during the war, and the funding and supplying of Laurend Nkunda's CNDP forces directly contributed to the deaths of 5 million Congolese.
Warren's praise of Kagame is disingenuous and largely unmerited. I have no doubt that Warren believes Kagame is a benevolent leader because he has seen the good side of the things that Kagame has done in Kigali and in the countryside.

But Rick Warren has also been to Goma. Surely he saw the results of the last fifteen years' worth of war in his visit to a hospital that treats rape victims and in the community's houses of worship. How could he not make the connection that Kagame is responsible for much of that suffering?

Instead of attempting to learn more about Kagame's character, Warren has chosen to take the man at his word. My hope is that the pastor would learn a little more of the truth about Kagame's character and actions before he puts so much trust in the man. If Paul Kagame is a model for African leadership, the continent is doomed.

8 Comments:

Blogger Scarlett Lion said...

Thanks for this point by point analysis - just the kind of thing necessary to cut through the hype and understand what's really going on here.

Monday, May 04, 2009 6:05:00 AM

 
Blogger coldtusker said...

Dear Texas in Africa,

The 'relative' truth is that Kagame is good for Rwanda. look at the neighbours where corruption & tribalism/ethnicism accounts for thousands (if not millions of deaths).

Kagame was fighting a war against unknown forces. Unknown meaning the Interhamwe composed of 'citizen' militias. With tacit french support. He was a good general & chose the path to victory.

You accuse Kagame of 'theft'. I do not know of his complicity in the 'theft' of DRC's resources. Whereas other 'leaders' (mugabe, moi, kibaki, museveni, etc) steal from their own country/people, Kagame is, erm, taking from other countries.

Also note that it was a free-for-all at the time in Eastern Congo. The Angolans, Ugandans, Zimbabweans, Kabila's troops, etc... They were all there. The strongest won.

The so-called innocent Hutus may have been Interehamwe. Or supporters. I am NOT saying it was right but how was Kagame to consolidate power. Considering the wholesale slaughter of Tutsis, this was 'minor'.

Nkunda is a Tutsi - who were also subjected to harassment in Eastern Congo - and it is logical for Kagame to support a 'greater Tutsiland' to secure Rwanda. Eastern Congo was the hideout of the Interehamwe factions that were not destroyed.

IT WAS A GENOCIDAL WAR AGAINST THE TUTSIS. Kagame could not sit back & 'hope'.

Monday, May 04, 2009 10:50:00 AM

 
OpenID Jeff said...

Maybe the pastors should stick you - uhhhhh - pastoring.

Monday, May 04, 2009 10:56:00 AM

 
OpenID Jeff said...

Sorry - typo. I meant: "Maybe the pastors should stick to - uhhhh - pastoring..."

Monday, May 04, 2009 10:58:00 AM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Jeff, that's a great point.

ColdTusker, I'd advise you to read the UN Committee of Experts report from December 2008 (linked to on that last bullet point), as well as scholar Gerard Prunier's book, Africa's World War. The UN report outlines exactly how Rwanda has stolen mineral wealth from the Congo and how directly Kigali has been in the activities of Nkunda's CNDP forces.

Prunier does an excellent job of summarizing the fact (and that's not up for debate at this point) that the wars in the Congo were not a "free-for-all"; they were deliberately planned and executed by Rwanda, Uganda, and other external actors. Kabila was incapable of winning without Kigali's support, and the Angolans, Namibians, etc. got involved AFTER Kabila and the RPF had a falling out.

My point is not that Kagame et al weren't justified in fighting the war, but rather that just because they are of the same ethnicity as the Tutsis who were slaughtered in the genocide does not mean they are automatically trustworthy people. Five million people have died in the Congo, and much of their blood is on the RPF's hands. There's no way around it. That fact does not mean that Kagame isn't serious about reconciliation in Rwanda, but it damages his credibility for sure, which is exactly why Rwanda suddenly threw Nkunda under the bus earlier this year.

Monday, May 04, 2009 11:06:00 AM

 
Blogger austinokie said...

First of all, that is not a great point by Jeff because pastors are called to a prophetic role that goes beyond holding people's hands during times of trauma. "sticking to pastoring" is a misguided though often stated comment that doesn't understand the complex role of "pastoring".

As for Rick Warren....why not send him a point by point e-mail with your excellent anaylysis. If you can get through the maze of people that are there to provide him some needed privacy, I think he has a good track record of changing his mind when he gets better information.....and I'm not writing that as some kind of blind Rick Warren loyalist....I just admire his willingness to riska and to learn along the way...

Monday, May 04, 2009 11:31:00 AM

 
OpenID Jeff said...

TexInAf - very sorry for cluttering your blog. I'll stop after this comment.

Austinokie - Maybe pastors really are 'called to a prophetic role' (whatever that means, exactly). But I'm pretty sure that they're NOT called to meddle and dabble in areas where they're not experts but where expertise matters a great deal. When the toilet is broke, you call a plumber...

For someone with the visibility and influence of Rick Warren to go outside of his area of realm of actual knowlege, in such public manner (for many, the fact that it appeared in TIME is the same thing as it being "true"), and to do so without actually doing his homework, is irresponsible.

Monday, May 04, 2009 11:55:00 AM

 
Anonymous rwandarwabanyarwanda said...

hey guys thanks for this article but also if u want to know more about how this so called pastor warren hates rwandans and hutus you can go to www.rwandarwabanyarwanda.over-blog.com or www.rwandaonline.wordpress.com. this man has nothing else to do to put a murderer like kagame on that list and makes it a list of shame instead.kagame has killed all hutu and tutsis intellectuals since 1990.kagame has put all hutu intellectuals behind the cells.kagame does nt care even about the future of his sons and daughters after all damage he has done against rwandans and the emptyminded like warren suggest such murderer and a terrorist who killed habyalimana and ntaryaira on the list of heroes.any way kagame is a hero who managed to mislead the world claiming that there was a genocide and yet there was a fratricide.kagame knew very well that if he attacked rwanda his tutsi people could die in reprisal but he went ahead and attacked.this shows you that he was not concverned with his tutsi people but his empty stomach.we rwandans whether inside rwanda or in diaspora we will fight until we remove that terrorist to put a more democratic and pple oriented leadership for the prosperity of rwandans

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 10:34:00 AM

 

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