Open Letter To General Paul Kagame
Dear General, you accomplished two objectives in your speech on corruption delivered at Abuja, Nigeria, on June 11, 2019. First, you flattered Nigerian leaders that they lead a model African nation — wealth side by side with mass poverty notwithstanding. Second, you shamelessly lied to your Nigerian hosts that in Rwanda you are Mr. Clean while your opponents fled Rwanda because they were corrupt. General Kagame, it’s a truism that politicians bend the truth. But in your case, the question is whether there is an element of truth in what you utter. Case in point is your Abuja speech on corruption.
Kagame flattered his hosts that Nigeria is a great achiever that makes Africa proud
”I wish to start by calling to mind the greatness of this nation. The diversity, creativity, and ambition of Nigerians represent Africa. The achievements of Nigeria’s sons and daughters, here at home and in your global diaspora, make our continent proud. Nigeria has always shown common cause with Africa’s progress and prosperity, and this does not go unnoticed. This country is truly the engine of Africa’s potential. This is how we see Nigeria. I hope you know that.”
General Kagame, if you had said that Nigeria has the potential to be great, that would have been truthful. Your statements were ill-informed, embarrassing, and clearly opportunistic designed to impress your hosts.
According to the World Bank, 53.5% of Nigerians are poor — defined as the population living on less than US$1.90 a day. With a population of 200 million, therefore, 107 million Nigerians are poor. Yet, Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and the largest oil and gas producer on the continent .
The reason for enormous wealth side by side with mass poverty, as the eminent son of Nigeria, Chinua Achebe used to explain, is failure of leadership, social injustice, and corruption. Add to this mix the rise of Boko Haram, a jihadist terrorist organization that has caused havoc in northeastern Nigeria and beyond.
General Kagame, instead of uttering sycophantic phrases to your Nigerian hosts, a real African statesman would have encouraged them to lead Africa in fighting corruption since this was the topic being discussed. You could have also congratulated Nigerians in their current efforts to repatriate from foreign banks billions of dollars stolen by previous dictators. Nigeria has recently begun to recover some of the stolen assets — which is highly commendable.
Kagame’s description of corruption in Rwanda was a big lie
General Kagame, this is how you described corruption in Rwanda:
”We tend to focus on the petty corruption of everyday life while turning a blind eye to the more consequential forms, that people only whisper about because the rich and powerful are the main beneficiaries…Corruption does not take decades to eradicate. Huge gains can be made relatively quickly, once we decide to break the habit…Officials who did not live up to the agreed standards were dismissed or brought to justice. Others fled into exile and pretended to be so-called “opposition” or “pro-democracy” groups…Between fighting corruption and being authoritarian, I prefer being authoritarian. Some thought we could not afford to take this zero-tolerance approach, given the fragility of our environment. The truth, however, is that we couldn’t afford not to do it. It is the foundation of the modest progress for which Rwandans continue to work.”
General Kagame, these are pure lies. The people of Rwanda do not turn a blind eye to the more consequential forms of corruption. Rwandans know you are the kingpin of corruption but they dare not say so because you will wipe them out. Rwandans know you are the Chairman of the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which owns the business empire known as Crystal Ventures Ltd (CVL). This is how The Economist described the Rwandan situation:
“The dominant political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), does more than help business: it runs its very own conglomerate. Crystal Ventures, the RPF’s holding company, has investments in everything from furniture to finance. It owns the country’s biggest milk processor, its finest coffee shops and some of its priciest real estate. Its contractors are building Kigali’s roads. There are several firms offering security services in Rwanda but the guards from ISCO, part of Crystal Ventures, are the only ones who tote guns. The company is reckoned to have some $500m of assets.”
General Kagame, these CVL companies make money from your government’s contracts. CVL subsidiaries build roads for your government. CVL companies such as the East African Granite Industries were established using Rwanda’s pension fund. Your government charters the executive jet you travel in from CVL. Kagame, very simply, you have entrenched corruption and cronyism that would not be tolerated anywhere on the African continent.
Kagame and the history of the big lie
General Kagame, you are a perfect example of politicians who pretty much bend the truth as they please. In your case, the issue is not bending the truth — rather, the question is whether you have ever uttered an element of truth. You belong to the thinking pioneered and mastered by Joseph Goebbels who infamously said that ”if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Goebbels added:
”The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
General Kagame, you are the best pupil of Joseph Goebbels. You get away with the big lie because your regime has used all its might to smash dissent at home and abroad. Because you are fully aware that the truth is the mortal enemy of your big lie, you hounded out of Rwanda anyone who stood in your way. As the cliché goes, “history is written by the victors” — that is how you are able to call your victims who fled Rwanda the corrupt ones instead of you.