The strongman is the one that God created in a strange way, only to paraphrase how the Rwandan president sees himself at the end of a long interview with the East African New York Times journalist Jeffrey Gettleman.
Let me first highly appreciate Jeffrey Gettleman’s writing skills in his recent article on the Rwandan president. After getting its flavor I found even unjustified the reason the director of communication at the president office considers it unpleasant while instead it makes me somehow uncomfortable. What the journalist achieves and that probably the official in Kigali does not get is branding his boss still as the strongman that the global elite can continue dealing with despite everything else.
These guys at the New York Times are really good at turning their reader’s head around into agreeing, then disagreeing and finally agreeing with them and conclude saying that the story being told is well fair or balanced. In fact, what they have managed is manipulating the reader with their pen and giving out a particular image of themselves – some condescending attitude-, and of the object or person they are talking about. Surprisingly, it turns out that the weight of millions of the victims in the whole story become insignificant.
It’s deliberate and well thought through. The objective is reached: it can be business as usual with the boss. We have done our diagnostic. That is what the story tells. The technique has worked in the past with him, either the boss seeks himself its use whenever necessary, or those who benefit from his activities particularly in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo come and suggest it to him, to keep their profits flowing in. That’s it.
Each time when his public image fades away his protégés and criminal partners come to his rescue. Some people might object to me calling his associates even criminals. In my understanding, and in any partnership dealing, if in the list of the members’ actions there are bodies of victims uncovered, and in his case there are millions, where there are signs of crimes, there are undoubtedly involved criminals.
His defenders will argue that no court has ever condemned him for any of the alleged crimes. Of course he will never be investigated as long as those courts are run by his associates in the crime. Others will bring up his status of being a seating president, who cannot be prosecuted, but they forget that the Sudanese president Omar Bashir is also a seating president, and this did not stop the International Criminal Court from sending out an international warrant for him.
Bad publicity is as good as any good one. It is still publicity. Jeffrey Gettleman’s portrayal of the Rwandan president is the best I can think of which achieves one special thing: telling Kagame’s partners and protégés that nothing has changed. Ultimately, this cannot be bad publicity for him since he can expect to still be in business for some time.
The director of communication at the president office should not complain that his boss has been portrayed wrongly. Nobody can portray wrongly a wrong person. I would instead have expected that nobody talks about him with so much undeserving praise. So much so that when I saw the article and particularly its intentions, I thought the strongman had paid the reporter for such an impeccable piece to be featured in the New York Time. But it seemed to me that two partnerships only were giving each other a helping hand.
What shocked most is the length of the story and the title. Some elements are true, but also many others are not. For example the reporter stresses in his piece of writing that Rwanda is a completely changed country since the genocide. Yes it is true it has been receiving almost 1 billion dollar of aid on average almost every year. If a small country like Rwanda cannot be transformed which such amount of money, someone in the involved aid chain would completely be either idiot and insane, and while continuing pumping more of it.
A question worth asking however – a thorough analysis of all aspects touched upon by the journalist could bring up many more-, is why that such a significant amount of money cannot provide classes for children since Jeffrey Gettleman says that: “Many Rwandan schools have become so overcrowded that the government has to run double sessions, rotating children out in the morning and bringing in new ones in the afternoon.”
My only and plausible explanation is that aid and other government resources are channelled in structures [army, police, intelligence, propaganda machine, so forth] of sustaining the regime, or maintaining a persistent situation of war in the region where the apparatchiks of the ruling RPF enrich themselves rather than improving the population’s future prospects.
Well done New York Times for the renewed image of the Rwandan president. He needed it badly. It is not the first time, and it might not be the last. But millions have died with your help, and they continue until today. Will you be ready to stand with your protégé in the court room when the day comes?