General Paul Kagame deserves credit for rebuilding Rwanda from the ashes in a mere 30 years since 1994. Rwanda’s 7 million population in 1994 doubled in 2024, while life expectancy tripled. Put another way, half the current 14 million Rwandan population was born during Kagame’s 30-year peaceful, prosperous, and democratic governance. This explains Kagame’s extraordinary popularity. For example, he won an impressive 99 percent of the vote in the 2017 elections. Rwandans adore him because he improved their lives by completely obliterating and leaving no trace of poverty, providing health and education for all, and making Rwanda an African socioeconomic success story. However, if he is to retain power and reach the next 30-year milestone, Kagame needs to sharpen his strategies. Only then will he continue to outpace his younger political rivals in Rwanda’s highly competitive and increasingly democratic environment.
The five things that Kagame should do to secure another 30-year milestone
First, the immediate must-do task is to prepare well for the upcoming July 2024 elections. His campaign manifesto should simply highlight his extraordinary accomplishments and performance in the past 30 years. His impressive record of turning Rwanda from a dirt-poor nation into a middle-income economy gives him an advantage over other presidential contenders. He should also emphasize his new strategy of transforming Rwanda into a high-income economy in the near term. Kagame’s competitors have no chance whatsoever if he focuses on both his record and his future vision of making Rwanda even richer. This time around, he should win the presidential elections by no less than 100 percent in the July 2024.
Second, General Kagame should be mindful of the resurgence of coup d’état in Africa.
In the last four years alone, there have been seven military coups on the continent. Kagame must therefore closely monitor Rwanda’s military generals, many of them sitting idly at home after removal from the Rwandan Defence Force. General Jean Bosco Kazura, the former Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Force, is the latest to be dismissed. Kagame should scatter these generals overseas to lessen any possibility of a coup d’état by giving them ambassadorships. To his credit, he has always shipped troublesome generals overseas to become ambassadors. That is how General Kayumba Nyamwasa became Rwanda’s ambassador to India; General Ceaser Kayizari to Turkey; and General Charles Kayonga to China. After being recalled from China, Kayonga is the ambassador-designate for Turkey. Kagame is therefore ahead of the game. He knows more about the most recent developments in African politics than fellow African heads of state who sleep at the wheel and get overthrown.
Third, Kagame must deal firmly with Rwanda’s neighbours who keep badmouthing him to deflect their own failures.
DR Congo’s Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo and Burundi’s General Évariste Ndayishimiye continue to falsely accuse Kagame of sponsoring militias and stealing minerals. Rwanda is a rich country that doesn’t need to steal minerals from anyone. Enough is enough. These noisemakers should remember that Rwanda is one of the world’s wealthiest countries in natural resources, with large reserves of gold, iron ore, manganese, chromium, nickel, platinum, titanium, and other minerals. Kagame should punish Tshisekedi and Ndayishimiye by closing the borders to these two countries, a powerful tool he used to bring Uganda to its knees.
Fourth, Kagame should no longer tolerate any lectures from foreign aid-donors who keep falsely characterizing him as a human rights abuser. Rwanda does not need any handouts as Kagame keeps reminding Rwandans and Africans as in his powerful words quoted here:
“Stop begging…Will countries always take money from the taxes paid by their citizens and give it to Rwanda and other African countries, and when that money is not made available we complain that we did not receive our aid? Why does a citizen from another country have to support Rwandans? Why? When will we change that mentality and realise that nobody owes you that support?”
Being Africa’s most visionary leader, Kagame established the Agaciro Development Fund to end Rwanda’s dependence on foreign aid. His determination to free Rwanda from foreign aid and donor lectures is further demonstrated in these no nonsense statements:
“It is better to face things the hard way and go straight to the heart of any problem. An example, is something we have been talking about for a long time, the issue of relying on others to pay for things that benefit us. It is really a question of dignity, our agaciro. Therefore, among the decisions of this Umushyikirano, we should resolve to set a deadline, which should come sooner rather than later, after which Rwanda will no longer be waiting for what others hand out to us.”
Fifth, Kagame should expand his practice of relying on foreign nationals to lead key Rwandan institutions. In some cases, he has brilliantly deployed both foreign nationals and one of his children to run top strategic institutions.
An excellent example is the Strategy and Policy Council based in Kagame’s office. The first in command is Mauro De Lorenzo, an American while the second in command is Kagame’s daughter, Ange Kagame. The Rwanda Development Board is chaired by Itzhak Fisher, a foreign national, joined by two other foreign nationals, Eric Kacou and Liban Soleman Abdi. Kagame’s son, Ivan Kagame sits on the board as well.
Kagame deploys foreign nationals because Rwandans are highly troubled and troubling people who can’t seem to do the right things. These are Kagame’s own words:
“I have always regarded Rwandans to be people of integrity. But now I realize that the people of Rwanda are spineless and devoid of the courage to reject the wrong. Rwandans are just indifferent creatures who are just there – like soft mud without any hard substance inside.”
To conclude, General Paul Kagame has transformed Rwanda from a dirt-poor nation into the Singapore of Africa in a single generation. Watch out – his next 30-year rule will see Rwanda become the Switzerland of Africa. Stay tuned.