Kagame’s External Support Is Crumbling

Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Paul Kagame during Kagame’s visit to France, May 2018.

By David Himbara

When you see President Paul Kagame attempting to become France’s friend — even proposing his foreign minister to head La Francophonie — you should realize that a profound change is underway. Kagame is on a fishing expedition. He urgently needs friends. His external support is crumbling.

How and why is Kagame’s external support crumbling?

Bill Clinton gave Kagame a strong footing in the US by including the Rwandan ruler among the “new breed of African leaders” committed to democracy and development.

Up until 2017, Kagame could do no wrong in the US— he was America’s darling from the days of Bill Clinton to Barack Obama administration. From Clinton’s, George W Bush’s, and Obama’s America, US foreign aid to Rwanda kept flowing nicely. OGOA opened doors to tariff-free Rwandan exports. American military support and financing turned Rwandan military into a leading peacekeeping force. Besides the American presidents, Kagame could count on powerful and strategically-positioned friends in Washington, DC. Key among Kagame’s powerful friends were influential individuals that had served in both President Bill Clinton’s and President Barack Obama’s administrations. Take Gayle Smith for example — a long-term supporter of Kagame. Under Obama, Smith was the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She was a special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council. An even more influential Kagame friend Washington was Susan Rice. Under the Obama administration, Rice was the US Representative at the United Nations, later becoming the National Security Adviser. Rice held the post of assistant secretary for African affairs in Clinton’s administration.

The new crew in Washington hardly know who Kagame is

Kagame has seen four American presidents come and go.
Unlike in Rwanda where Kagame is a permanent fixture since 1994, the United States has changed — Kagame has seen four American presidents come and go. The new American government hardly knows or cares much about Kagame. Even worse for Kagame, people like the Susan Rice and Gayle Smith are long gone. Washington is an alien town to Kagame and company.

Times are hard for Kagame — he hardly has any friends left in Washington, except Senator Inhofe.

Senator James Inhofe visiting his friend Kagame in Rwanda on May 31, 2018.

Kagame’s external support will continue to crumble. The 84-year-old Senator from Oklahoma, James Inhofe, is all that is left among Kagame’s friends in the power corridors of Washington, DC. Meanwhile, Kagame is watching the clock. The 60-day grace time that the US gave him to either play according to trading rules or lose tariff-free exports into the US is up. Suddenly, France looks attractive to Kagame. We wish Kagame good luck in his charm offensive in the La Francophonie.