President Kagame Discloses Visits to Rwanda During His Exile in Uganda

Kagame with his Aunt, the Queen Rosalia Gicanda. During his visit in Rwanda in 1970's

During a revealing interview with local Rwandan media, Radio10 and Royal FM, on Monday, April 1, 2024, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, shared insights into his complex journey from a refugee in Uganda back to the helm of leadership in Rwanda. His narrative, deeply intertwined with the history of the Great Lakes region, sheds light on the path that led him from being a young refugee questioning his identity and future, to becoming a key figure in Rwanda’s struggle and eventual leadership.

Born into a family that fled to Uganda when he was just four years old, Kagame grew up in a refugee camp, facing the harsh realities that come with displacement. The death of his father when Kagame was 15 years old marked a turning point, prompting him to question the circumstances that led his family to live as refugees. Reflecting on his childhood, Kagame revealed the early seeds of leadership and a desire for change, driven by the hardships he witnessed among his family and other refugees.

The narrative takes us through Kagame’s clandestine visits to Rwanda during his youth, a time when he navigated the complexities of identity and belonging. Unlike today’s Rwandan refugees who face restrictions, Kagame managed to visit Rwanda multiple times, freely exploring his homeland and reconnecting with relatives. These visits played a crucial role in shaping his understanding of Rwanda’s challenges and his resolve to contribute to its future.

Kagame’s involvement in the Ugandan struggle for power in the early 1980s further cemented his role as a military and political leader. As part of the 27 armed individuals who initiated the war in Uganda, he gained invaluable experience and insight into guerrilla warfare and leadership. This period was instrumental in developing the strategies and alliances that would later be pivotal in his leadership in Rwanda.

However, Kagame’s path to power and his tenure as Rwanda’s leader have been marred by controversy and criticism. Accusations of authoritarianism, suppression of opposition, and involvement in regional conflicts cast a long shadow over his presidency. Critics point to Kagame’s role in the destabilization of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), citing support for rebel groups and contributing to a conflict that has resulted in millions of deaths, according to reports from the United Nations and various NGOs.

Under Kagame’s leadership, Rwanda has achieved notable progress in certain areas, yet the narrative of success is often challenged by allegations of manipulated statistics and an overreliance on international image management. Despite being hailed for its development strides, Rwanda remains among the world’s poorest countries, grappling with malnutrition and poverty among its population.

Kagame’s journey from a refugee to a president embodies the complexities of leadership in a post-conflict society. While his early life and involvement in military struggles highlight a determination to transform Rwanda, his presidency is a subject of debate. The balance between development achievements and criticisms of authoritarian rule reflects the ongoing challenges in Rwanda’s pursuit of reconciliation and stability.

This comprehensive examination of President Kagame’s parcours reveals a multifaceted leader whose legacy is as much about the transformation of Rwanda as it is about the controversies and criticisms that accompany his rule.