By David Himbara
On April 14, 2020, General Paul Kagame boasted that the Coronavirus has levelled everyone and that “it does not matter how much money you have in your bank account or how powerful you are as a leader of a powerful economy.” This was the usual Kagame talking tough. This attitude and rhetoric did not last long, however.
Fast forward to April 20, 2020. Kagame made a U-Turn. He now changed his tune by saying that powerful economies must rescue Rwanda and Africa which “could take a generation to recover from coronavirus.” Kagame uttered this in an interview with the Financial Times in which he begged the richer world must rescue Africa with US$100 billion support in 2020 alone.
Africa needs international support of “US$100bn and probably more” this year alone, said Kagame, adding that this is “a fraction of what wealthy countries are already injecting into their economies with the stroke of a pen”. Suddenly, Kagame is the loudest beggar in Africa.
Kagame needs to beg given especially the size of the debts he has accumulated. According to Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance, Rwanda’s total public and publicly guaranteed debt stock amounted to FRW 4,751.0 billion as of end June 2019, or 55.3 percent of GDP. This translates into US$5 billion. Kagame hopes that repayments of debt will be suspended for at least 2 years, until 2022.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund says that “the COVID-19 Pandemic has ground Rwanda’s economy to a halt, creating an urgent balance of payments need.”
In the interview, the Financial Times switched gears and asked Kagame a rather unexpected question. Have Rwandan security forces made widespread arrests and even killed two people for violating Covid19 lockdown? Kagame answered that two people were killed but for different reason. Stay tuned.