By David Himbara
In its editorial of June 12, 2018, the ruling party’s newspaper, The New Times, likened the critics of Rwanda’s sponsorship of Arsenal Football club to “barking dogs.” The ”dogs” questioned the payment of £30 Million, or nearly US$40 Million to Arsenal Football Club to wear on their sleeves the sign ”Visit Rwanda.” The ”dogs” included Dutch and British members of parliament as well as the media that raised various questions about the US$40 Million Arsenal sponsorship. The UK and the Netherlands are major aid donors to Rwanda — hence the interest in the Arsenal matter.
Why would a leading newspaper call people dogs? Where does this abusive culture come from?
The New Times seem to be following in the footsteps of its owner, namely, the president of the republic. What a pity. In Rwanda, abusing people should be left to the specialist — President Paul Kagame. It is only he who has given himself the privilege of viciously attacking people who disagree with him. Kagame does not spare anyone – whether Rwandan or non-Rwandan. Kagame famously stated that he would smash “mosquitoes with a hammer” — meaning that he would kill his political adversaries. When Kagame disagreed with the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, the Rwanda head of state promised ”to hit him” at an opportune moment. When the United States government complained of the mass arrests in Rwanda, Kagame’s response was that he will ”shoot suspects in the broad daylight.”
The New Times cites the response to the Arsenal sponsorship by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) but misses its point.
DfID explained that its aid to Rwanda was not used in the Arsenal deal. DfID did this because it is obligated to explain itself to the British parliament and to the British taxpayers. And DfID justified its aid to Rwanda because the country is very poor. DfID explained as follows:
”UK aid to Rwanda has been carefully and specifically earmarked for programmes that will support the country’s most vulnerable people and help it stand on its own two feet. UK aid is not used for sponsorship deals with Arsenal FC and DFID is not giving any money to Visit Rwanda or the Rwanda Development Board.
Rwanda remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over a third of its population live in poverty. UK aid contributed to Rwanda’s achievement of lifting almost two million people out of poverty since 2005.”
Dear The New Times, in normal countries, people robustly debate and vehemently disagree. This is normal. The purpose of debate in a healthy society is to expose all the critical issues to public scrutiny. Put differently, the debate is the bedrock of democracy in any culture or political system — except in Kagame’s Rwanda, evidently. By calling the people who criticized the Arsenal sponsorship ”dogs”, The New Times has outdone its owner — Paul Kagame.