DAVOS, SWITZERLAND — January 16, 2024
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a figure both praised and criticized on the international stage, is actively participating in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. His involvement in various high-profile meetings underlines Rwanda’s growing influence in global affairs, despite ongoing controversies surrounding his leadership.
At the forefront of President Kagame’s agenda was his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. According to the U.S. State Department, this encounter focused on fostering sustainable peace in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Antony Blinken posted on his X account: “My conversation with Rwandan President Paul Kagame was part of our effort to urge all actors to commit to a diplomatic solution to the crisis in eastern DRC.”
President Kagame’s diplomatic reach extended further with a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, discussing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This interaction signifies Rwanda’s engagement beyond its immediate geographical sphere, showcasing Kagame’s ambition to position Rwanda as a player on the global stage.
In the economic domain, Kagame’s meeting with Jakob Stausholm, CEO of Rio Tinto, a leading mining group, highlights Rwanda’s efforts to attract foreign investment. This aligns with Kagame’s broader economic strategy, which critics argue is buoyed by allegedly inflated statistics and an aggressive approach to regional diplomacy, particularly in the DRC.
Locally, President Kagame continues to face accusations of human rights abuses and dictatorial tendencies, with critics pointing to his over three-decade-long hold on power. These allegations contrast starkly with his efforts at the WEF, where he engaged in discussions on topics like the African Continental Free Trade Area and fostering North-South cooperation, alongside leaders like WTO Head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and philanthropist Bill Gates.
Kagame’s participation in a talk titled ‘Timbuktoo: Unleashing Africa’s Start-up Revolution’ alongside African counterparts, and his involvement in discussions on major global challenges like AI and climate change, showcase his multifaceted diplomatic and economic agenda.
As President Kagame navigates these complex global and regional landscapes, the dichotomy of his leadership — as a figure of African progress and innovation, against allegations of authoritarianism and human rights violations — remains a contentious aspect of Rwanda’s international relations.
The juxtaposition of Kagame’s diplomatic engagements at the WEF against the backdrop of these controversies offers a glimpse into the multifaceted and often paradoxical nature of modern global leadership.