by Ann Garrison
The tiny East African nation of Rwanda has played a unique and prominent role in U.S. political ideation since the 1994 massacres known as the Rwanda Genocide. The West’s so-called “failure to intervene in Rwanda” – and the Holocaust – became arguments for violating the national sovereignty of nations in the Global South to protect people from their own governments.
The 1994 bloodbath in Rwanda also became an argument for the suppression or even criminalization of speech. No one makes these arguments more fiercely and absolutely than Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Kagame is now campaigning for his third formal term in office, though he has in fact ruled Rwanda since overthrowing its government with the covert assistance of the U.S. and U.K. in 1994, at the end of a four-year war. That four-year war began when Kagame’s army invaded Rwanda from Uganda.
Kagame claims to have inspired Rwandans to rise from the ashes to build an economic miracle and example for all Africa, and no one reinforces these claims more than Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. In a new book, however, economist David Himbara says that Kagame’s economic miracle is in fact an economic mirage. I spoke to David Himbara.
Ann Garrison: David Himbara, why do you call Kagame’s so-called economic miracle a mirage?
David Himbara: Kagame has grossly exaggerated his social and economic accomplishments of the past 23 years. He says he has built an African economic lion – the Singapore of Africa. In reality, Rwanda remains the poorest country in East Africa.
Its per capita income stands at $697, versus Kenya’s of $1,376.7, Uganda $705 and Tanzania at $879. Rwanda receives $1 billion a year in foreign aid, which is half of its annual budget of $2 billion. This is hardly a spectacular success.
Kagame has grossly exaggerated his social and economic accomplishments of the past 23 years. He says he has built an African economic lion – the Singapore of Africa. In reality, Rwanda remains the poorest country in East Africa.
AG: And you held a unique position in Kagame’s administration that enabled you to observe the so-called economic miracle, no?
DH: I was the president’s principal private secretary for two years and head of strategy and policy, Office of the President, for four years. In the latter category, we made some good reforms in the first two years, but the last two years were frustrating.
Kagame was more obsessed with the looks of the capital city of Kigali than building national systems to improve lives. He routinely manipulated statistics to exaggerate social and economic performance.
AG: Rwanda will be staging another election this year on Aug. 4. Since Kagame has in effect ruled since 1994, this will be his fourth term, though he’s calling it his third, after having the Rwandan Constitution changed to make that acceptable.
In 2010, he awarded himself 93 percent of the vote, an improbable number in any real pluralist democracy, but none of the Western donors who provide half of Rwanda’s budget withheld their support, as they have with neighboring Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term with 64 percent in 2015. Kagame will no doubt claim to win another improbable mandate this year, but do you think there’s any chance that the Western donors providing half of Rwanda’s budget will finally turn away?
DH: The U.S. is the largest bilateral aid donor to Rwanda, while Britain is the second largest. American aid supports agriculture and health, while U.K. money goes into education.
A smaller portion of U.S. aid supports Rwandan troops who serve as peacekeepers. I doubt either of these two countries would cease supporting Rwanda. They have invested too much into Kagame to abandon him – unless he does something extraordinarily foolish like invading Congo again.
The U.S. is the largest bilateral aid donor to Rwanda, while Britain is the second largest. American aid supports agriculture and health, while U.K. money goes into education.
AG: In your book, you write that you fled Rwanda after Kagame asked you to misreport economic statistics. Could you give us the specifics of that?
DH: A confrontation convinced me to leave Rwanda. I questioned the annual economic growth of 11 percent in 2009 during the global financial crisis.
Kagame became aggressive and abusive. I decided to leave Rwanda at the earliest opportunity, which was January 2010.
There are many examples of statistical exaggeration in Kagame’s Rwanda. He says for example that Rwanda has achieved universal healthcare coverage, but there are less than 700 doctors in Rwanda and there are 12 million people.
A confrontation convinced me to leave Rwanda. I questioned the annual economic growth of 11 percent in 2009 during the global financial crisis.
In any event, when I moved to South Africa in 2010, it soon became apparent that I was not safe there either. That was the year that Kagame’s former army chief of staff was almost assassinated in South Africa, where he was living in exile.
Soon after that, the former intelligence chief – also in exile in South Africa – was assassinated. Kagame had turned South Africa into a hunting ground; that is what convinced me to move to Canada.
AG: Why do you think Bill Clinton and Tony Blair seem to be as committed to these misrepresentations as Kagame himself?
DH: These two former leaders support Kagame no matter what. The two have foundations in Rwanda.
The Americans and British also feel guilty because they stopped the U.N. from organizing an intervention in the Rwandan Genocide. Clinton and Blair seem to have overcompensated by becoming Kagame’s ambassadors even when he does nasty things. When Kagame’s proxy militia overran Goma in DR Congo in 2012, Blair in particular stood by his man.
AG: The United States and Britain never seem to acknowledge the human catastrophe caused by Kagame’s repeated invasions and plunder of the Democratic Republic of the Congo despite abundant documentation. Why do you think that is?
DH: Kagame has outlived four American presidents – Clinton, Bush, Obama and now Trump. Each American president has his reason of maintaining the status quo. Clinton, under whose terms Kagame invaded Congo, simply looked the other way.
Clinton was driven by guilt of having abandoned Rwanda during genocide. Kagame took advantage of this by his adventure and plunder of Congo.
George W. Bush presidency supported Kagame for different reasons – peacemaking operations. The American military establishment helped build Rwanda into a peacekeeping force in such places as Darfur, Sudan, South Sudan and Haiti. Meanwhile in Britain, the same pattern held, both under the Labour and Conservative governments.
Kagame has outlived four American presidents – Clinton, Bush, Obama and now Trump. Each American president has his reason of maintaining the status quo.
Different from American and British administrations was the Obama presidency. When Kagame’s militia invaded the capital town of eastern DR Congo, Goma, Obama cut military aid to Rwanda – an action that other donors soon followed.
Donors either cut or suspended aid to Rwanda. The U.N. sanctioned a robust force comprised of South African and Tanzanian forces that defeated Kagame’s militia. That is how Kagame met his defeat in Congo.
AG: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
DH: Regarding Kagame’s economic performance, we have to give him his dues. Here is a man who mastered the “big lie” philosophy. As the infamous big lie reasoning goes, if you keep repeating a falsehood over and over again, people will sooner than later believe it.
And so Kagame relentlessly went on a global stage and repeatedly lied that he had built an economic powerhouse. He had a motive. He believed that if he convinced his international supporters that he was creating prosperity in Rwanda, they would tolerate his human rights abuses.
In other words, Kagame sold them a trade-off; he told them that Rwandan people are more interested in food and jobs than democracy and human rights. There was one problem though – Kagame delivered neither development nor democracy.
Kagame sold them a trade-off; he told them that Rwandan people are more interested in food and jobs than democracy and human rights. There was one problem though – Kagame delivered neither development nor democracy.
David Himbara holds a Ph.D. in political economy from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. He is the author of “Kenyan Capitalists, the State and Development” and “Kagame’s Economic Mirage.”
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at [email protected]. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.
Greg Hunter: N Korea Threat Turns Hot, FBI & CIA Look for Traitor, Economic Update (Video)
Why Are So Many Millennials Living With Their Parents Instead of Getting Married and Starting Their Own Families?
Backfire! Facebook Accidently Identifies Real Fake News!
Why You Would Not Want to Be a Billionaire! Context Is Everything!
Latest Bombshells! Mike Zullo Unloads About BC and Arpaio Federal Case!
Prophesied Final Financial Manipulations
The Next Four Days Will Tell You a Lot About the Next Four Years!
Exclusive: Bill O’Reilly, The Factor and the Conservative Base
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Central Bank Manipulation
False Flag Alert Now Active! U.S. Gov to Simulate Nuclear Blast Over the NYC and Across the Nation This Week (Videos) OYEP
Dr Horace Drew - Decoding Crop Circles
Backfire! Facebook Accidently Identifies Real Fake News!
Fox Is Dead: Hardcore Liberal James Murdoch to Turn Fox News into a ‘Global Brand’ Promoting ‘Progressive Values’
US Pilot Ejects From Jet Approaching Carrier Headed for Korean Peninsula
Car Dragged by Truck for Miles, Truck Driver Oblivious
Vice President Mike Pence Warns North Korea By Telling Them ‘The Sword Stands Ready’
York police say 104 men arrested as part of child sex trafficking probe
This map shows what $100 is actually worth in your state
Russia And China Send Troops And Tanks To North Korea Border As Ramp Up To War Continues
Berkeley Co. deputies release dash cam video in fatal motorcycle pursuit
Dr Horace Drew - Decoding Crop Circles
Cross ‘Piano’ Off Your List of Best Places to Store Gold
Cheesy Chicken Burritos Recipe
Ancient Stone Carvings Confirm Comet Struck Earth in 10,950BC
We Drive a 1959 Cadillac Convertible!- Fireball Malibu Vlog 591
Saturday Funny: Pets Who Accidentally Saw You Naked
First Cloned Cat ‘Like Any Other’ 15 Years Later
Glitch in the Matrix
Time Capsule Opened by Metal Detectorist Revealing Mysterious Alien Manuscript (Video)
Arrest Assange? For What?