Laughing At Kagame, His Cabinet Ministers, MPs, Or Generals Is Now A Crime😂

In this cartoon by Bwana Mdogo, Nairobi, Kenya, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are championing their protege as a‚ÄĚvisionary leader.‚ÄĚ

By David Himbara

Historically, political satire and cartoons terrified kings, emperors, and all manner of dictators. Since they started appearing in Western European newspapers in the 19th century, cartoons continue to drive fear into dictators to this day. Rwanda‚Äôs ruler, General Paul Kagame, just became the latest victim of what I may term ‚ÄĚcartoon fear.‚ÄĚ Kagame just banned cartoons. The question is‚Ää‚ÄĒ‚Ääwhy do dictators fear laugher? More importantly, does laughter dramatize the limits of power? In Kagame‚Äôs case, is his regime too weak to handle a joke to the point of banning cartoons?

Cartoons and political satire are now crimes in Kagame’s Rwanda

Cartoons such as the above are not tolerated in Rwanda. Drawing cartoons or producing writings that ‚Äúhumiliates‚ÄĚ Kagame, his cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, and military generals is now a crime in Rwanda. Strangely, ‚ÄĚdefaming‚ÄĚ Kagame was already illegal‚Ää‚ÄĒ‚Ääthis fetches five to seven years in prison and a US$8,140 fine. The new law widens the net of the untouchables as follows:

‚ÄĚAny person who, verbally, by gestures or threats, in writings or cartoons, humiliates a member of parliament when exercising his/her mandate, a member of the Cabinet, security officers or any other person in charge of a public service in the performance or in connection with the performance of his/her duties, commits an offence.‚ÄĚ

According to Kagame’s new law, any cartoonist who targets public servants faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to US$1,145. But if the cartoonist targets a parliamentarian or a cabinet minister, the penalty doubles. There you have it. In Kagame’s Rwanda, laughter is now a crime. One wonders what Kagame will ban next.