By David Himbara
Even the most rigid and hardened Kagame supporter ought to reflect on the Panama Papers. In almost all other countries in which relatives and associates of current or former leaders were mentioned in the Panama Papers, there has been intense national debate on the implications of this expose. Not in Kagame’s Rwanda — not even one word uttered. But in all other countries affected, citizens and the national media organisations have led the way in these debates. Citizens are rightly angry. In one case, protesters took to the streets, and succeeded in driving a government out of office. That is exactly what happened in Iceland.
A mass protest in Reykjavik, the capital city, turned to celebration as Icelanders vented their anger at the outgoing prime minister who was mentioned in the Panama Papers. In Russia, President Putin, whose associates and friends were mentioned in the Panama Papers has had to contend with an unprecedented media attention on this matter.
In the case of Africa, the Panama Papers’ scandal includes Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Zambia.
In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jaynet Desiree Kabila Kyungu apparently opened an offshore company account soon after her brother, President Joseph Kabila, assumed the presidency in 2001, according to the Panama Papers. Besides being Kabila’s twin sister, Jaynet is member of parliament. She reportedly opened up Keratsu Holding Limited in 2001 with a Congolese businessman Kalume Nyembwe Feruzi, as co-director.
In South Africa, Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma was also thrust into the spotlight — it emerged that his company Caprikat Limited held offshore accounts.
In Ghana, Addo Kufuor, the eldest son of Ghana’s former president John Agyekum Kufuor, who led the country from 2001 to 2009 is also mentioned. Meanwhile, Congolese President Denis Sassoon Nguesso’s son, Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, is also featured.
Rwanda stands out from African and other cases around the world reported in the Panama Papers for one main reason — there has not been a single comment in Rwanda about this matter. No one would dare ask how Emmanuel Ndahiro, who in 1998 was Kagame’s assistant and military spokesman, opened an offshore account. This — while Rwanda had not yet emerged from the genocide-related emergency. No news organisation in Rwanda would dare raise let alone discuss this matter. Absolutely not. Everyone in Rwanda rather pretend they have not heard anything about the Panama Papers.
If anyone still entertained any doubt that Kagame’s Rwanda is a totalitarian state, she or he better reflect on this case. Here is a totalitarian regime — understood as a state that “strictly controls all aspects of life by coercive measures.” In Rwanda, better that you see nothing, hear nothing, and smell nothing. It is safer than way. Do not expect any discussion of the Panama Papers.