It would be a colossal error to invite Pres. Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is himself one of the foremost genocidists in the world, as a panelist to discuss this topic on Sept. 29. Why do I say this? Because from June, 1994-August, 1996, I served as U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, neighbor to Rwanda, as 1,000 refugees per day were fleeing from Rwanda to Burundi.
I interviewed hundreds of them in the UN camps. My question was: Why are you fleeing Rwanda to come here, and when will you return to Rwanda? Their answer was always the same: “We will return only when Kagame and his troops stop massacring us.”
I personally visited with Kagame in September, l994, when I accompanied Undersecretary Tim Wirth, and U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda, David Rawson, to meet with the Rwandan leader. In that meeting he could not deny that his soldiers engaged in vengeance, but he refused to be held accountable for the massive number of killings, and claimed he could not control the actions of his troops . One Danish missionary whom I knew who had served 30 years in Burundi and Rwanda, told me: “Paul Kagame is the most ruthless dictator on the continent of Africa; there is blood all over his hands.”
I describe my visit with Kagame in chapter 8 of my book “From Bloodshed to Hope in Burundi: Our Embassy Years during Genocide,” a work that has been endorsed by three Nobel Peace Prize winners: Presidents Carter and Clinton, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who wrote the foreword to the book.
To support my legitimacy in making this criticism, I will offer several quotes. President Clinton: “In Burundi, or Rwanda, if we didn’t have brave people there, like Ambassador Krueger, it would be even harder to avoid human tragedy. Our symbols need to be people like Ambassador Krueger, who risked his life to keep people alive in Burundi”; Ted Koppel, in his Nightline program, “Mr. Ambassador,” on my work in Africa: “There is a lot about Bob Krueger that exemplifies the best in America….a man with a profound sense of right and wrong…” Jean Marie Ngendahayo, former Foreign Minister of Burundi: “Robert Krueger is certainly the most influential and the best ambassador ever to serve in Burundi.
He fought for the preservation and consolidation of democracy with all his heart and his intelligence….He saved many lives and gave hope to those who lost their cherished ones…Norbert Ndihokubwayo, Member of Burundi Parliament, “As ambassador…he would go to the countryside to see for himself the atrocities committed against a population too afraid to speak out…He went wherever there were massive violations of human rights…he even risked his own life in an ambush planned by those who feared his outspokenness.” (I believe I’m the only living American ambassador to have had gunfire pass through his car– in an ambush that left two dead and eight grievously wounded.)
The fact is that the U.S. did nothing to stop the first Rwandan genocide in 1994, and, having done nothing, did not want to admit that the leader who had been trained at American military bases in Kansas, Paul Kagame, was no less a genocidist than those whom he replace
If the panel includes Kagame, it will have invited perhaps the world’s most vengeful living genocidist, sitting in judgment of others, and speaking of reconciliation, at the table. It would be comic, if it were not so tragic.
Ambassador Robert Krueger