Editor’s note: Humanosphere has noted before that there are two Rwandas – one an African success story celebrated by the humanitarian sector for its stunning improvements in health and poverty reduction; the other a nation quietly suffering from oppression, authoritarianism and state-sanctioned violence. The recent murder of a former close colleague of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame supports the concerns raised by the latter camp.
This is a guest post by Judi Rever, a Montreal-based journalist who has reported extensively in Africa and is now working on a book about war crimes in Rwanda.
Rever recently wrote about her research for Foreign Policy Journal and, below for Humanosphere, makes the case for the West to adopt a more realistic – less simplistic and celebratory – view of Rwanda and Paul Kagame’s government.
It was New Year’s Day when the body of a Rwandan dissident was found at a luxury hotel in South Africa.
Patrick Karegeya, a former spy chief for President Paul Kagame, was apparently strangled. The chilling symbolism of his death – a critical voice forever gagged – sent another wave of terror among Rwandans that dare to speak out against a man whose political reach is nothing short of astonishing.
Rwanda’s opposition has cried foul, but skeptics have said it is premature to point to a culprit before South African police complete an investigation. Human Rights Watch cautiously concurred, yet conceded there has a been a pattern of attacks, assassinations and attempted assassinations against Rwandan dissidents abroad that is ‘extremely alarming.’
Only a handful of Western critics are willing to be blunt about the force behind the targeted killings of Rwandan dissidents.
“There is no place that Kagame would not strike. And he does it so bare-faced,” concludes Stephen Smith, a formerly journalist with the French newspapers Le Monde and Liberation, who now teaches at Duke University in North Carolina. Smith appears in the trailer of a new film called the Rwanda Gambit by Andre Vltchek.
“Any Mobutu or Idi Amin Dada looks like an apprentice in comparison,” Smith says of the former dictators of Zaire and Uganda. “Because at least they had sort of red lines they would not cross.”
“You would not try to kill someone once, miss him and try it again going through official embassy people. You would not kill an opposition figure in London, Paris or New York. You would just wait for them at the very minimum to be in Kinshasa,” Smith added.
Karegeya’s murder in Johannesburg has cast a long shadow over the legacy of Kagame — a hitherto poster boy for international development aid and a former rebel leader credited with halting the 1994 genocide by Hutu extremists against the country’s minority Tutsi. Continue reading