Connect with us

Politics and Society

Don’t do this to me: An Open Letter to Paul Kagame

The rumours around Paul Kagame seeking a third term are becoming more rife daily and an admirer of Kagame, Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire of TIA, writes an appeal to the man who ‘is changing’ Rwanda



Dear PK,

You do not know me, of course. I am not Rwandan. I am just an admirer of what I have heard and read about you and Rwanda. I have seen with my eyes some of the great things written and said about your leadership in Rwanda. Whoever cares, knows of how well paved the roads in Rwanda are. How those accused, tried and convicted of corruption are punished swiftly. How you have implemented projects at a much lower cost than the cost of those same projects in other countries. How the Rwandan state is providing quality health services to citizens. How Rwandan residents engage enthusiastically in community work based on an African ethical system known as Umuganda in Kinyarwanda. How self-reliance and dignity have been ingrained in the psyche of the Rwandan state. How you are experimenting with the use of  solar energy to satisfy the country’s electricity needs. We have even heard that Kigali is turning into East Africa’s technology hub, ahead of Kenya’s silicon savannah dreams.

The story of the cleanliness and beauty of Kigali has also been told and heard. Don’t they say that Kigali is one of the cleanest cities in the whole world? You have matched these good things with the most open immigration policies one can find in the whole of Africa. No African needs a visa to come to your country. And isn’t your country still the leader in gender participation in governance? Your public servants are accountable; they report to office on time or suffer sanctions for not abiding by the rules. The country is undoubtedly moving forward under your leadership. Some Ugandan journalists are ridiculed for praising your work ethic and achievements. They are called names, some accused of doing public relations work for your government, because they attack whoever seeks to criticize you to metaphorical death. They over do it, you know.

Rwanda's plans to light the country with solar energy plans, is just one of the initiative that supporters admire. Photo: Clean Technica

Rwanda’s plans to light the country with solar energy plans, is just one of the initiative that supporters admire. Photo: Clean Technica

Of course you have critics as well. Detractors. Everyone does. But your case is special. There are people who almost throw up on hearing your name. They have said that you are corrupt, that you are a killer, and very many other ugly things. It seems impossible to love some bits of you, and hate other bits at the same time. Debates about you are so sharply divided that one wonders if you are not human. Every human being is allowed to have some great things about them and flaws as well. But the polarization that happens in the anti versus pro Kagame debates and discussions is unparalleled. What happened to nuance?

Your detractors have accused you of killing your opponents in cold blood. They claim that you run assassination squads targeting your opponents. They say that you have looted, invaded, disorganized, killed and committed atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There was even a story by Jeffery Gettleman, the New York Times’ East Africa Bureau Chief, reporting that you physically spank ministers and high officials in government. Some have called your style of leadership dictatorial. You have rubbished all this criticism as propaganda and lies. Even sour-graping.


How can such a charismatic leader as you be so evil at the same time? Those who listen to everything good and bad said about you wonder. The debate over whether Kagame is a good or bad leader, a transformative or dictatorial leader, won’t end. Some middle-grounders have said that yours is a benevolent dictatorship: a dictatorship, but one for the good of the country and its people. Your admirers are fanatical in their admiration and your detractors are also fanatical in their hate.

But there are two things that both your admirers and detractors can’t deny. First, that you are a very effective leader. A perfectionist. Second, that you are a man of your word. Whether you are being accused of running assassination squads or applauded for ensuring order and safety among boda boda riders in Kigali, one thing is agreed upon. Effectiveness. Thoroughness. The law is enforced as it should be. Walking on Kigali streets, one knows that one should not litter. If one does, the punishment is waiting. Polythene bags are banned in your country; all border checks enforce this scrupulously.


Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Photo: AFP/Junior D. Kannah

After you said that you would invade the Democratic Republic of Congo if they did not move to stop the FDLR from posing a threat to Rwanda, you went ahead and followed through. After you said that Rwanda’s borders would be opened to all African citizens in the spirit of Pan Africanism, you abolished visa requirements for citizens of African countries. After the death of the Rwandan dissident Karegeya, as some of your propagandist journalist friends went on and on with this and that conspiracy theory, you just put it plainly: the government of Rwanda does not wish its enemies well. While other African leaders criticize the International Criminal Court but soon dine with the court officials, sign onto the Rome Statute, and refer cases there etc., you refuse to sign the treaty at all. You preach water and drink water. There is such a thing as ideological clarity, which you exhibit. Even if one may disagree with your ideology, there is at least something tangible to disagree with. Indeed, many disagree with your invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. But they do not have to guess why you did it: you put it out there in the open that Rwanda has a right to defend its borders and is willing to, even if it means invading another country.

This ideological clarity is what sets apart Pan African heroes like Thomas Sankara, who unfortunately did not rule Burkina Faso as long as you have ruled Rwanda. The stories of women’s empowerment we hear about Rwanda were only heard during Sankara’s short-lived regime in Burkina Faso .

Economic World Forum ranked Rwanda 7th best country in the world for women. (Photo Source: Women Lead To Change).

Economic World Forum ranked Rwanda 7th best country in the world for women. Photo: Women Lead To Change

Paul, it is understandable that your admirers would love you to stay on course, continuing to lead Rwanda beyond the constitutionally allowed term limit. It is expected that they would push for the amendment of the constitution to abolish term limits. A leader with such ideological clarity is not easy to come by. But if you support these calls to amend the constitution, you will betray what I most admire about you: that same clarity of purpose. Paul, your ideology, I believe, is strong enough to live on its own legs, without you in control as President of Rwanda. I believe that the strength of an idea is in its ability to live on its own without the aid of its proponent. Surely, your very admirable ideas are strong enough, Paul.

I am not convinced by the so-called Western democratic justifications for term limits. My argument is for principle and for clarity. You have made a name as the man who means what he says. In the past you have mentioned that you would not seek a third term in office. You have laughed off insinuations that you could, indeed, seek a third term. If you turn around on this one issue, it would be a departure from the honest, true-to-your-word Paul that we know. I would love to say that in the hall of Pan African ideological clarity we have Thomas Sankara, and Paul Kagame. Going back on your word regarding the term limit would be too giant a stain on your legacy to ignore. Don’t do that to me, Paul. I need to believe that an African leader can have a certain ideological clarity.

Yours; Bwesigye