In an exclusive interview with Jeune Afrique, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda opened up about the concerning rise of military coups across Francophone Africa. The interview, conducted by François Soudan, the Editorial Director of Jeune Afrique, was published on September 19, 2023.
Kagame was asked about the series of military coups that have struck six African countries—Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sudan, Niger, and most recently Gabon—in less than four years. Kagame responded that these events don’t happen in a vacuum but are the result of accumulating grievances over several years. He stressed that governance and security form the cornerstone of a country’s development. When mismanaged, these factors can lead to drastic political changes, such as coups.
On the issue of the African Union’s stance toward military coups, Kagame questioned the efficacy of mere condemnation. He argued that condemnation alone hasn’t prevented the occurrence of such events, suggesting that underlying causes should be addressed. Kagame also critiqued the focus on toppling civilian governments while ignoring those that manipulate constitutions to serve personal ambitions rather than their nations’ needs.
Kagame was further questioned about the rise of ‘anti-French’ sentiments in countries affected by coups, a sentiment that also existed in Rwanda post the Tutsi genocide. Kagame confirmed that there is a strong negative sentiment towards foreign interference in African politics, regardless of whether it comes from France, the United States, the United Kingdom, or Belgium.
Discussing his West African tour in April, where he met Guinea’s President Mamadi Doumbouya—who came to power through a coup in 2021—Kagame emphasized that a country isn’t defined solely by its leader. He argued that if people decide they want a change in governance, they’ll support whoever comes next. Kagame concluded by saying that African nations must take full responsibility for their failures as well as successes.