Rwandan President General Paul Kagame is planning to travel to the United States. He will follow two tracks: attending the United Nations General Assembly and then leading or participating in a series of events, some private and other public, such as Clinton Global Initiative. According to a close aid, as General Paul Kagame is traveling around the world – he has been recently courting Asian governments- one of the major concerns on his mind is a critical dilemma: engaging the opposition or pleasing extremists inside his house of government and the military.
As he is about to travel to the United States, his international standing has never been so weak:
- His government is accused by UN Security Council, Western governments, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) government and major Non Government organizations of founding, supporting, funding, training and reinforcing the marauding, raping, mass murdering M23 Congolese rebellion.
- his opposition, inside and outside the country, has been more active than ever before, painting or helping to depict him as one of the most brutal dictators Africa has ever known.
- His own entourage is more and more fractured, with some of his closest military aids and former comrades fleeing the country.
- The poverty in Rwandan villages and inner cities has reached proportions to the point that some desperate Rwandans have been immolating themselves.
To better understand the challenges faced by General Paul Kagame and the inner workings of his house, AfroAmerica Network has talked to the close aid of General Paul Kagame on key topics.
The mindset of and the image projected by General Paul Kagame
According to the aid, General Paul Kagame is viewed as a man of two faces: one for the international and public consumption and the other for the internal action within his house of government and the military.
The international and public image is that of a smooth, visionary, and peaceful leader, always seeking the good and welfare of his people. However, inside his political house, he is viewed as a ruthless, bullying, and erratic leader, who cannot stop at anything to reach his idiosyncratic goals.
According to the aid, both are true and false. In fact, the aid said that General Paul Kagame is the same in his house of government and the military and inside and outside Rwanda: a man torn between his own ambitions to remain in power and the gravitational forces around him. The aid touched four areas: Diplomacy, Opposition, Politics inside Rwanda, and the ever present dilemma faced by General Paul Kagame.
Initially, when General Paul Kagame ascended to the top of the power, he was interested in satisfying only three governments: the United States of America and Great Britain, he viewed as the leaders of the West and Uganda, which helped him to conquer power. He quickly fell out with Ugandan Yoweri Museveni and has gradually lost his support in the United States of America and Great Britain. However, he still has a heavy weight support in the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, readily to come to his rescue in bad times and whose foundation helps General Kagame run an effective bureaucracy around him.
Currently, from the three initial centers of focus, General Paul Kagame can only rely on Great Britain, also hanging on one thread: Prime Minister Tony Blair. That is why he has recently been turning towards East and courting China. Whether China can replace the Unites States, Great Britain and the West in general, remains to be seen.
When General Paul Kagame took power, the existing opposition was a blessing for his ambitions. The opposition was mostly composed of ex-FAR and then ALIR, all blamed for crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994. It was easy for him to mobilize internal and international support against the threat. As time went, opposition gradually morphed into armed groups composed of both Hutu and Tutsi, hence not easy to accuse of crimes committed in 1994. But most importantly, unarmed opposition groups, some led entirely by General Paul Kagame’s own former comrades and aids, have mushroomed and have been conducted well coordinated actions. They are far from taking power in Rwanda, but have managed to tarnish the image of General Paul Kagame and his government and put them on the defensive.
Politics inside Rwanda.
On the surface, there is limited opposition in Rwanda. Apart from a few daring individuals that support imprisoned opposition leaders, if one travels to Kigali and the major cities and talk to people in public, General Paul Kagame is the incarnation of good leadership. But talk to people in private regardless of the ethnic groups: repression, monopolization of government, military, economy, education, resources by a small clique from one ethnic group, appalling poverty in the countryside and inner cities, etc. is the refrain.
According to the source, General Paul Kagame knows about all that but he is afraid to act and take actions to address these issues. He worries about losing the support of extremists led by an organization called “IBUKA” and the extremist military leaders. According to the source, for General Paul Kagame the Man, there should be a more democratization of government institutions and equitable and fair sharing of opportunities in economy, military, education, and government to benefit all Rwandan ethnic groups. However, for General Paul Kagame the President, it would be a major risk of losing his core support made of the extremists, his actions could even lead to a potential coup-d’etat by the military extremists. According to the close aid, General Paul Kagame’s government is sitting on a volcano, whose eruption is certain but the timing is unknown.
According to General Paul Kagame’s close aid, General Paul Kagame is torn among obvious choices, that are interconnected. Diplomatically, he has to reaffirm and convince the West that he still is reliable democratic leader.
However, this would require him to take bold initiatives and engage his opposition, especially the armed opposition and the more vocal sections outside the country. By doing so, and if he is successful, he would then be able to calm the growling volcano under his government. However, even if he wanted, he is afraid of the extremists around him. Engaging on this path would require the courage that he may not possess, according to the aid.
Perhaps, as he travels outside the country, especially to the United States of America and away from his house, he may take his courage between his hands. Or maybe he won’t dare challenge his extremists awaiting for him when he returns to the realities of his government. He may prefer the uncertainty and the isolation of his regime to the wrath of extreme fringe of the men and women in his government and the military.