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Rwanda Twitter fight: Journalist vs President

Ian Birrell

Paul Kagame

Conservative British journalist Ian Birrell, formerly Prime Minister David Cameron’s speechwriter, recently got into a Twtter argument with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

If you are familiar with reading Twitter (and reading Tweets is something of an acquired skill), you can see the entire exchange at Tom Murphy’s A View from the Cave. It apparently started when Birrell Tweeted about an article on Kagame in the Financial Times.

Here’s a post on KigaliWire that tries to put this Tweet battle in context, noting that Kagame has frequently used social media tools like Twitter to get his views out there. Britain’s Channel 4 News offers a video with voice-over actors speaking the Tweets and a brief interview with Birrell.

It’s interesting to see a journalist and head-of-state go at it on Twitter. But I’m still not sure I learned much.

Basically, Birrell criticized Kagame’s government for cracking down on opponents, stifling free speech and for human-rights abuses. Kagame and his supporters say critics like Birrell are ill-informed, biased and ignoring the progress made in rebuilding Rwanda after the devastating, genocidal civil war.

As the FT article notes, Kagame has been quite successful in restoring and rebuilding war-torn Rwanda, which now has one of Africa’s highest economic growth rates. But he’s reportedly done it a fairly authoritarian manner, which has caused many — like Birrell — to raise concerns about Kagame’s methods and accountability. It’s not a new debate and perhaps there wasn’t much new said in the exchange.

But it’s still fascinating to see President of Rwanda spar with a journalist on Twitter.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.