By David Himbara
Rwandan head of state, Paul Kagame, reminds me of two sayings — one African, the other English. The African saying comes from the famous Nigerian novelist/philosopher, Chinua Achebe, who spoke of a young antelope that danced itself lame before the main event. This was Achebe’s metaphor for someone who rushes into the pleasures of the moment without considering the aftermath. The English saying comes from the streets and refers to same phenomenon — someone who acts without a thought about the consequences. Excuse the language here please, but such a person is said to be “either very brave or uncommonly foolish.”
Why does Kagame fit in this phenomenon?
Kagame fancies himself as a creator an economic powerhouse in Rwanda. Kagame fancies himself as an African statesman keeping the peace across Africa and beyond. Kagame fancies himself that he is reforming the African Union institutions — and is currently the Chairman of the African Union itself. Kagame fancies himself that he is a global leader networked with American and British political elites that consider him as the new breed and visionary African leaders creating prosperity.
The delusional grandeur that has eroded Kagame’s brain leads him to step on other people’s toes, especially Rwanda’s neighbors, including Uganda. Kagame’s security operatives simply cross into Uganda to kidnap and even kill Rwandan refugees breaking all national and international laws. Kagame seems to believe he is the de facto ruler of the Great Lakes Region.
Kagame, the antelope that is dancing itself lame before the main event
But Kagame is Achebe’s antelope dancing itself lame — or the English character that confuses braveness and foolishness. That is why he is crawling across the border to meet Museveni. Kagame is sobering to his weakness and vulnerability relative to Uganda whether in economic, political, and regional/international diplomacy terms.
In economic terms, Uganda’s GDP of US$24 billion is three times larger than Rwanda’s that stands at US$8 billion. Uganda’s exports to Rwanda in 2016 was US$193 million, while Rwanda’s exports to Uganda was US$14 million. In other words, Ugandan exports to Uganda is nearly fourteen times larger than Rwanda’s exports to Uganda. Additionally, Rwanda is doubly landlocked, with a significant commercial traffic between Rwanda and international markets passing through Uganda onto the Kenyan seaport of Mombasa.
In political terms, Museveni is now in his 32nd year of Ugandan presidency and has obviously accumulated political influence. He wouldn’t have lasted that long if he was not clever. Among the milestones accredited to Museveni is no less than enabling Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to take power. So, how does Kagame conclude that Museveni will roll over?
Kagame is facing reality — again
Kagame’s grandstanding against Uganda led to Rwanda’s isolation several times before, especially in 2010-2011. Kagame had to literally beg for mercy. Museveni relented and went on the famous state visit to Rwanda in 2011. Kagame was humbled and conceded to Museveni’s leadership in both Ugandan and Rwandan contexts in a remarkable speech that contained the following:
“The vision of Uganda’s struggle, the manner of its conduct and, most specifically, Mr President, your own leadership, not only provided solutions for the Ugandan context, but also addressed the broader and often complex challenges that Africa faced, including those that Rwanda had to confront. For this I wish to thank you most sincerely…For those of us who were able to live that life, and who were able to participate in that effort, many lessons were learnt and our own struggle was only stronger because of it. We were not only inspired, but also energised and strengthened. You, personally, provided us with singularly vital support when it mattered most; not just as a leader in our neighbourhood, but also as a pan-African who was truly concerned about the plight of fellow brothers and sisters.”
But the antelope soon forgot and continued to dance foolishly
And we are back at square one, whereby Kagame is once again crawling for mercy. The meeting in Uganda on Sunday, March 25, 2018, should be very interesting indeed. By going to Uganda, Kagame is eating a humble pie. That is an English expression that means accepting humiliation.