Rwanda: “should Western universities associate themselves with dictators?”

Carnegie Mellon University, one of many American universities working with Rwanda

For academic institutions to partner with other similar educational organisations or others [businesses and NGOs] in different countries, with a purpose of furthering their aims, that can only be seen as a laudable initiative on their part.

Nevertheless, UNESCO, the UN institution for sciences and cultures, was denounced by human rights groups as irresponsible and shame full for awarding a science prize [£1.9m] sponsored by Equatorial Guinea president Teodor Obiang Nguema.

In 2011, at the height of Libya bombing by NATO forces, funding once received by the London School of Economics from Muammar Qaddafi’s family became an interesting case study of moral and ethics.

Because of British public outcry against that funding from a leader that Western media described at the time as the worst of dictators, the school forced out some senior staff.

BBC reported that,

“The school’s director, Sir Howard Davies, resigned in March [2011] over a £1.5m gift from a foundation led by Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif, a former student.”

As the adage goes, celebrity sells, or is attractive. But before an academic institution, particularly Western, choose which celebrity [or dictator] to work with, an objective assessment is required. And that is what seems to have been missed in all the following list of universities which have been fooled by the personality of the Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and gave him an honorary degree or medal.

  • Patron and Honorary Fellow of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa – COSECSA (2009)
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by FloridaStateUniversity (2009)
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by University of Glasgow (2007)
  • Honorary Doctorate by OklahomaChristianUniversity (2006)
  • Andrew Young Medal for Capitalism and Social Progress by Georgia State University (2005)
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of the Pacific (2005)
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) by Vellore Institute of Technology (2002)
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Service by La RocheCollege (2000)

This list is not exhaustive.

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Sacramento State in California

Claude Gatebuke, Rwandan activist, at Oklahoma Christian University protesting against the invitation of the Rwandan president Paul Kagame – Image courtesy SFBV

are two other universities which work closely with Rwanda. One point needs to be clarified. What is criticised is not cooperation between institutions of learning or others, but honouring personalities at the highest imaginable level whose credibility in terms of respect of human rights has been so often proven very poor.

Milton Allimadi, editor of Black Star News, wonders what Western universities who honoured Paul Kagame think today. If the leaders of these institutions had had any moral or ethics, further to the revelations pilled in several UN reports and particularly the most recent one on him supporting M23, they should revoke the degrees they gave him.

In case they cannot resort to declaring irrelevant the honours they gave him in good faith, they can at least review their policies. That is what the London School of Economics did in the aftermath of the Qaddafi outrage.


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