By David Himbara
What motivates foreign nationals from the industrialized north to sell their souls to tyrannical regimes in far-flung regions of the world? Foreign nationals often become accomplices to atrocities of the dictators they whitewash. One of the most disgraceful examples is Bob Astles, a British-born adviser and factotum to the bloodthirsty Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Astles rose to the very top, becoming head of the Anti-Corruption Squad and chief advisor to the Ugandan dictator on British and foreign affairs. As Astles later confirmed, he was the only person Amin trusted and the only person who could cope with Amin. Asles revealed that other members of Amin’s regime would telephone Astles and say: “Can you come quickly – he is out of control.”
Astles was also instrumental in Amin’s State Research Bureau which massacred an estimated 300,000 people during Amin’s eight-year brutal reign. Astles’ services to the Ugandan tyrant did not end well, however. After the fall of Amin, Astles escaped to neighbouring Kenya which deported him back to Uganda where he spent years in prison. As soon as he was released, Astles renounced his Ugandan citizenship and fled to the UK, his homeland.
The latest example of a foreign nation selling his soul to a ruthless dictator in a far-flung region is Mauro De Lorenzo, an American, who is General Paul Kagame’s mister fixit. De Lorenzo is now a central figure in Rwanda’s power center – the presidency. It, therefore, came as no surprise that De Lorenzo played a prominent role in the Paul Rusesabagina fiasco. As General Kagame’s frontman, De Lorenzo was deeply involved in the case from the start to finish.
Prior to the negotiations that led to Rusesabagina’s release, De Lorenzo had previously led a ferocious crusade in a futile attempt to keep Rusesabagina locked up in General Kagame’s dungeons.
Together with his friend Michael Rubin who is based at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where De Lorenzo used to work, they became Kagame’s echo chamber targeting the US-based influential publications and social media. For example, on February 15, 2021, De Lorenzo tweeted Rubin’s article entitled “Hotel Rwanda’s Rusesabagina Deserves Prison.” Rubin’s article was published in The National Interest on the very same day that De Lorenzo tweeted its contents.
Rubin was not yet done. In his article entitled “Why Blinken Fails to Understand Rwanda,” published on the Website of the American Enterprise Institute, Rubin recycled Kagame’s insidious narrative with gusto:
“With fame and ambition whetted by international attention, Rusesabagina sought power. When he could not achieve this politically – he is less popular in Rwanda than he is in Washington – he both endorsed the violent overthrow of Rwanda and wired money to a terrorist group. For Blinken to categorize Rusesabagina as unlawfully detained is to prioritize Hollywood myth over justice. Rather than parachute into Kigali and lecture Rwandans, Blinken should instead talk to victims of Rusesabagina.”
Another piece written by De Lorenzo’s co-propagandist Rubin is even more barbarous and sickening:
“Hollywood may lionize Rusesabagina, but only his most facile followers and journalists believe that, prior to his capture by Rwandan forces, he was seeking to travel to Burundi to speak at a church. On its face, this beggars belief as few congregations – especially in the world’s poorest country – can afford to fly a speaker by private jet to give a sermon. Rather, many diplomats whisper their belief that Rusesabagina was traveling to Rwanda’s southern neighbor to try to convince its leadership to reverse its prohibition on groups he funded from staging cross-border terror attacks.”
In a strange twist, General Kagame instructed De Lorenzo to lead the secret negotiations with the Americans to free Rusesabagina after Kagame swallowed his braggadocio – “no one can bully me into releasing Rusesabagina.” The withholding US$90 million in American foreign aid, among other things, made the Rwandan strongman to eat a humble pie. Rusesabagina is a free man and back in the United States.
Meanwhile, De Lorenzo continues to follow in the footsteps of Bob Astles. He is now the closest to power among a dozen foreign nationals who sold their souls to the Rwandan strongman.
Like Bob Astles who took a Ugandan citizenship, Mauro De Lorenzo was granted a Rwandan nationality. And in March 2023, he was promoted to the Executive Director of the Strategy and Policy Council (SPC) in General Kagame’s office. Teamed with De Lorenzo in SPC is no less than General Kagame’s high-powered daughter, Ange Kagame, who serves as a Senior Policy Analyst.
To conclude, the Quran and the Bible offer wisdom to foreign nationals from the industrialized north who merchandize themselves to despotic rulers in far-flung regions. Says the Quran: “Follow not the footsteps of the devil. Unto whomsoever follow the footsteps of the devil, lo! he commandeth filthiness and wrong.” Says the Bible: “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and walk not in the way of evil men.”