By David Himbara
Give credit where due. President Paul Kagame loves and knows how to acquire power in and outside Rwanda. Outside Rwanda, Kagame cleverly uses what I call the Donald Kaberuka model. This is Kagame’s strategy to punch above his weight by influencing international politics and economics. Kagame does this by embedding subservient subordinates into key international and continental institutions. Once embedded in external agencies, Kagame’s underlings push his agenda by remote control. Before I explain the Kaberuka model, however, a bit of background is essential.
Kagame’s ministers and military officers end up in three categories
First, Kagame routinely dismisses his ministers and military officers. Once dismissed, they are marginalized and quietly sink into poverty.
Think of former ministers such as Patrick Mazimhaka and Jacques Bihozagara. Both were prominent and accomplished leaders of the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The two men were dismissed, marginalized, and died in dire poverty.
In the second category are Kagame’s ministers and military officers who flee into exile. Some of them die mysteriously.
This was the fate of former minister Seth Sendashonga assassinated in Kenya and Patrick Karegeya, former chief of intelligence strangled to death in South Africa. The former army chief of staff, Kayumba Nyamwasa survived four assassination attempts in South Africa.
Kagame’s ”Donald Kaberuka model”
The third category is the Kaberuka model. Kagame uses this category to kill two birds with one stone.
- Kagame gets rid of long-serving ministers but retains them for a strategic purpose abroad.
- Kagame deploys these types into global and African institutions as influencers and power-mongers.
For the Kaberuka model to work, however, Kagame needs a particular type of personality. The individual Kagame chooses for this role must be meekly obedient and passive — he or she must have served Kagame with total loyalty and in silent acquiescence. Kagame is able to use the remote control on these types when deployed outside Rwanda. The likelihood of these types taking independent actions from Kagame’s orders is zero — geographical distances notwithstanding.
In Kaberuka’s case, after obediently serving as finance minister for eight years, his time was up. Kagame wanted to get rid of Kaberuka but still considered him a useful tool. Kagame then ruthlessly campaigned for Kaberuka to become the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Kaberuka never imagined that this was possible. But Kagame, supported by the donor lobby, put Kaberuka into the presidential seat of Africa’s premier institution — AfDB.
Kagame was not primarily motivated by AfDB’s loans and grants. No. He sought to maximize power, influence, and prestige. Via Kaberuka, Kagame acquired a seat at the table of who’s who of global multilateral and bilateral agencies. Upon completion of his tenure at AfDB, Kaberuka went right back to Kagame. Kaberuka is now Kagame’s roving expert, influencer, and spokesman at global gatherings. Kaberuka is also Kagame’s frontman in reforming the African Union.
Enter Kagame’s foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo and La Francophonie
When Kagame proposed his minister of foreign affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, to head La Francophonie, some people were surprised. To those who closely follow Kagame’s maneuvers, however, his utterance makes sense. Mushikiwabo is the perfect tool for implementing the Kaberuka model at La Francophonie.
First, Mushikiwabo has long past her expiration date. Serving as foreign minister in Kagame’s cabinet for nearly 10 years is a remarkable achievement. But it is time to go. Second, Mushikiwabo cannot be accused of possessing any independent thoughts. If Kagame told Mushikiwabo to jump, all she would ask is how high. Kagame is his own foreign minister. Mushikiwabo is a rubber stamp.
Should she head La Francophonie, Mushikiwabo would do Kagame’s bidding within the European French-speaking world, especially France, that has never warmed up to Kagame. Even more crucially, Kagame needs the African part of La Francophonie. Kagame has built a robust alliance with most of French West Africa in recent years. RwandAir, the national career, has established its regional hub in Cotonou, Benin. From there, RwandAir serves Conakry, Guinea; Bamako, Mali; and Dakar, Senegal. This is in addition to the three destinations, namely, Libreville, Gabon; Brazzaville, Congo; and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Mushikiwabo’s job at La Francophonie would be to watch France and to market RwandAir.
Kagame’s Kaberuka model worked in AfDB. Will the scheme work in La Francophonie?
The English phrase ”punching above one’s weight” refers to a country that is punching above its weight — in other words, a nation that has more influence internationally than its size would suggest. To achieve this, Kagame uses the ”Kaberuka model” whereby Kagame deploys obedient former ministers into key global and African institutions to peddle influence. Kaberuka was the most successful Kagame project. In this case Kagame embedded Kaberuka into AfDB. Similarly, Kagame seeks to deploy Mushikiwabo in La Francophonie. Kagame is ready to punch above his weight in the French-speaking world. What remains to be seen is if Mushikiwabo wins the vote. Kagame cannot rig this election.
Lastly, Kagame’s nomination of Mushikiwabo reveals a measure of desperation on Kagame’s part
At one time, Kagame had rejected everything French. Overnight, he turned Rwanda into an English-speaking nation. Once in total control, Kagame unapologetically lifted Rwanda from French to Anglo-American world. Kagame became the darling of both the United States and Britain. Fast-forward to 2018. Kagame’s friends are no longer in power in Washington and London. Kagame is definitely not welcome in Donald Trump’s America. Might this change account for Kagame’s sudden affection of La Francophonie?