By David Himbara
Kenya’s head of state William Ruto, the self-proclaimed champion of Kenya’s ‘hustler nation’ made a two-day visit with his Rwandan counterpart, General Paul Kagame. The trip must have been distasteful for Ruto because he despises Kagame for the latter’s irrational and reckless behaviours. When Ruto was the Vice President of Kenya, he publicly slammed the Rwandan strongman for closing an international border between Rwanda and Uganda in 2019. As he put it,
“The discussion we should be having should be over the East African Federation; that is the discussion we should be having. We should not be discussing closing borders. That in my opinion is a retrogressive discussion.”
Ruto instead praised Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni for doing the opposite to Kagame’s border closures:
“As our elder, President Museveni you have the challenge to lead the church in ensuring that we bring down the boundaries, the borders and the barriers so that we can have a borderless East African Community.”
Ruto’s low opinion of Kagame is further demonstrated by the fact that since he was sworn in as Kenya’s head of state in September 2022, Ruto sidestepped Rwanda until April 4–5 2023 when he visited the country. Ruto visited all other neighbouring states soon after he was elected – he visited Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia in October 2022; the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Egypt in November 2022; Eritrea in November 2022; and Burundi in February 2023.
Fast forward to the joint press conference held at the end of Ruto’s visit to Rwanda, where the Rwandan strongman and Ruto outdid each other in spewing falsehoods. Here are Ruto’s biggest lies of the day no doubt intended to flattering General Kagame:
“What President Kagame has done from where I sit is commendable. He has provided sufficient mentorship to enough people to be able to step forward in a democratic manner and do what they have to do as a nation. I am very confident that he has provided many lessons to other leaders and it is up to those leaders to do what they have to do.”
Here was a shameless Kenyan head of state characterizing a dictator in the famous words of the leadership guru, Tom Peters. As Peters put it, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” Peters also coined the phrase “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” President Ruto of course knows that General Kagame is the opposite of a leader who develops more leaders. Kagame’s leadership style is characterized by the destruction of leaders in his own party and in the parties of the opposition. There is more – Kagame’s leadership style is characterized by abusive usage of power, monopolizing decision-making, and being dismissive of alternative opinions. Without a doubt, Ruto is fully aware that General Kagame is a totalitarian ruler who has been in power for 30 years come next year. Ruto knows that at one point Kenya closed the Rwandan embassy and deported Rwandan diplomats after they were incriminated in the assassination of exiled Rwandans in Kenya.
Not to be outperformed in gushing crude lies at the joint press conference, Kagame dropped a bombshell. He declared that he is happy to retire and become a journalist, adding that he is looking forward to handing over power after 23 years in office. Kagame forgot that months earlier he had affirmed that “really I have no problem with running for another 20 years.” I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln famous words that “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”