Peter Beaumont’s seriously flawed analysis “Paul Kagame: A tarnished African hero” (Observer, 18 July 2010) argues that Kagame’s success as a leader of his country is the creation of Western leaders like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, that Kagame is actually a sinister manipulator and that Rwandans are now complaining.
For evidence of this neat little chronicle and its startling conclusion, Beaumont looks to several less than savoury sources that have minimal credibility in Rwanda and beyond.
French Judge Bruguière’s shoddy and reprehensible indictments of senior Rwandan officials could not even be upheld by his own justice system when Rose Kabuye, one of those he indicted, appeared before a Paris court.
Ambassador Robert Krueger, a virulent detractor of the current administration, and cohort of Paul Rusesabagina, self made hero turned terrorism supporter, is mired in a network of genocide deniers and fringe conspiracy theorists.
The notoriously negative organisation, Reporters without Borders’ very existence is based on adopting the causes of rogue or bogus journalists whose modus operandi is repeated run-ins with the law – the hundreds of other journalists who ply their trade lawfully apparently do not matter to their self-appointed protectors.
Human Rights Watch doles out protection to select humans and has taken to defending the rights of genocide fugitives to impunity.
The opinions of marginally influential Africa Confidential, whose claim to fame is its peddling of imaginary conspiracies, are passed off as insider analysis.
But, these are rooted in a view of African politics as driven by tribal and clan conflicts, personality clashes and assassination plots hatched in hallways of presidential palaces or military barracks.
Nevertheless, these are the authoritative sources that Beaumont finds more credible than Tony Blair, Bill Clinton or Clare Short.
And who are these Rwandans that Beaumont offers us, from his comfy armchair in London, as complaining about Kagame’s leadership?
One is Dominique Makeli, who claims to have survived a kidnap attempt in Uganda by Rwandans. This somewhat fantasy account is taken as fact even when the only existing source of this incident is Makeli himself, who quite possibly made the claims to gain political notoriety.
The other is Bernard Ntaganda – an aspiring politician who failed to run his own legally registered party democratically, was ousted and chose instead to plot murder against his rivals within the party.
Victoire Ingabire, a prominent suspected associate of FDLR terrorists in the DRC, is described as prominent politician but only a handful of people in Rwanda would be able to identify her in a police line-up.
These are the people whose opinion matters so Beaumont wants us to believe, the views of the other 11 million Rwandans apparently do not count.
What this outrageously unbalanced take on Rwanda neglects to factor in, is evidence such as a recent Gallup Poll in which 62% of Rwandans said they were optimistic about their economic future. This is the highest level of satisfaction in this region. It is a number that cannot be dismissed by any standards.
This optimism is supported by social programmes of government such as health insurance that covers almost every citizen, free basic education that now extends to lower secondary school, and numerous schemes including community policing for increased security, and “one cow per family” and crop intensification, aimed at raising family incomes.
Perhaps the feelings of ordinary Rwandans and findings like the Gallup Poll are simply too inconvenient. The real state of affairs in Rwanda would really mess up Beaumont’s nicely laid out narrative and deceptive assertion that “Kagame has never lived up to the breathless hype”.
Beaumont’s narrative finds it expedient to stretch the imagination in order to link the murder of a lawyer in far away Dar Es Salaam, attempted murder in Johannesburg and two murders in Kigali to the forthcoming elections in Rwanda.
It doesn’t matter that all of these criminal cases are under investigation and suspects have been apprehended, some have even confessed to their crimes.
While Beaumont lines up the coincidental nature of these events with a period of heightened political activity – as well as increased agitation of those who would benefit from chaos and instability, it is difficult to believe the coincidence of a supposedly seasoned journalist and such blatant carelessness in reporting on a country. Now that’s the kind of tarnishing Rwandans are complaining about.