Kagame’s Unquenchable Appetite for Medals and Recognition on Display

He is busy collecting medals and recognitions from the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Middle East, and Across Africa

General Paul Kagame receiving the coveted Bahamas Order of Excellence during his 2023 self-promotion campaign

By David Himbara

General Paul Kagame received the coveted Bahamas Order of Excellence on July 9, in recognition of his “extraordinary leadership.” Kagame is no doubt pleased with his 2023 self-promotion tour that has taken him to North America, Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Western Africa, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa. A leading scholar of dictatorships, Alexander Dukalskis, provides an insight into why autocrats are obsessed with medals and recognition. In his book, Making the World Safe for Dictatorship, which looks closely at China, Rwanda, and North Korea, Dukalskis explains:

“Authoritarian states work hard to manage their images abroad. They invest in foreign-facing media, hire public relations firms, tout their popular celebrities, and showcase their successes to elite and popular foreign audiences. However, there is a dark side to these efforts that is sometimes overlooked. Authoritarian states try to obscure or censor bad news about their governments and often discredit their critics abroad. In extreme cases, authoritarian states intimidate, physically attack, or even murder their opponents overseas.”

Dukalskis’ book has three case studies namely, China, North Korea and Rwanda

As noted above, Dukalskis’ work contains three case studies namely, China, North Korea and Rwanda. He demonstrates how the authoritarian rulers of the three countries manage their image abroad using two methods. On the one hand, the totalitarian rulers use “promotional” tactics of persuasion overseas. On the other hand, they use “obstructive” tactics of repression at home and in the diaspora to silence and even murder their critics. General Kagame has spectacularly succeeded at both. Because of the need to whitewash his image overseas, Kagame to relentlessly hunts for invitations for rubbing shoulders heads of state, influential global elites and foreign audiences. At home, meanwhile, repression is business as usual. The latest US Department of State’s human rights report on Rwanda paints the following picture:

“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; transnational repression against individuals located outside the country, including killings, kidnappings, and violence…

The government did not follow through on conducting full, timely, and transparent investigations of the killing of Kizito Mihigo in 2020, a popular gospel singer and genocide survivor, nor the killings of several political opponents in previous years, such as the 2019 killing of Anselme Mutuyimana, a member of the unregistered United Democratic Forces-Inkingi (FDU-Inkingi) opposition party…

The government failed to complete investigations of or take measures to ensure accountability for the disappearances of Rwandan poet Innocent Bahati and political opponents Venant Abayisenga, Eugene Ndereyimana, and Boniface Twagirimana.”

Here is General Kagame’s ongoing self promotion campaign in North America, Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Western Africa, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa:

  1. Bahamas |Nassau, 7 July 2023
  2. Trinidad and Tobago | Port of Spain, 5 July 2023
  3. Seychelles | Victoria, 28 June 2023
  4. Türkiye | Ankara, 3 June 2023
  5. Nigeria | Abuja, 29 May 2023
  6. Qatar | Doha, 23 May 2023
  7. UK | London, 5 May 2023
  8. Guinea-Bissau | Bissau, 17 April 2023
  9. Zimbabwe | Victoria Falls, 26 April 2023
  10. Tanzania | Dar es Salaam, 27 April 2023
  11. Guinea | Conakry, 18 April 2023
  12. Benin | Cotonou, 15 April 2023
  13. US | New York, 12 April 2023
  14. Ethiopia | Addis Ababa, 18 February 2023
  15. Burundi | Bujumbura, 4 February 2023
  16. Senegal | Dakar, 2 February 2023

Where next? Stay tuned.