What can we Rwandans learn from the fall of Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore?

A political tragedy has been evolving in Rwanda, spectacularly illustrated by the two images of President Paul Kagame attached here – one showing him as a young, dashing and indeed at peace with himself; the other image depicting a sad shadow of a leader who appeared at one time destined for great things. But alas – Rwanda has continued to be associated with death, disappearances, exiling, imprisonment and other ugliness most people had hoped would be the thing of the past after the “liberation.”

As I look at these two sharply contrasting portrayals of the Rwandan ruler, I cannot help wondering what Kagame must be thinking of the recent events in Burkina Faso.

When a million people turned up on the streets of Ouagadougou to oppose the amending of the Burkinabé constitution to allow the former president Blaise Compaore to stay in power, he was initially dismissive. Accustomed to having his way after 27 years in power, he could not help it – he was the head of state, and would stay on, and that’s all there was to it.

When the people forced their way into parliamentary chambers to say no in no uncertain terms, still Compaore could not get it – he only yielded his ground slightly to dictate that he would serve the rest of his term after which he would give up power.

But it was too late…the political tragedy had run its course…Compaore hurriedly run out of the country much luckier than his counterparts in, for example, Cote d’Ivoire and Libya a few years ago. Ghabgo who led the former awaits trial at the ICC in the Hague, while Ghadafi who ruled the later was murdered by citizens as he hid in a sewage pipe.

What lessons will Kagame and indeed most Rwandans draw from their sisters and brothers in Burkina Faso?

Whenever I look at the powerful ruler in the person of Kagame, try as I may, I can’t seem to resist thinking of a Shakespearen political tragedy – in particular, Julius Caesar. Why you may ask.

When the powerful Julius Caesar vanquished all his adversaries and declared his dictatorship in ancient Rome in 44 b.c., he failed to see dangers threatening his rule. Citizens and senators who favored more democratic governance feared that Caesar’s power would lead to the disintegration of Rome itself.

Fearing the unfolding tragedy, a group of conspirators assassinated Caesar. The assassination, however, was to lead to even more lethal power struggles, with civil war erupting shortly thereafter.

Where to Rwanda now?


Dr David Himbara