Kagame Should Not Host Queen Elizabeth II And Commonwealth Leaders In 2020
Open Letter to The Right Honourable Theresa May, British Prime Minister
Dear Right Honourable Theresa May, as you are of course well aware, the 2020 Commonwealth Heads of States and Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Rwanda. This means Rwanda’s President, General Paul Kagame will hold the position of Commonwealth Chair-in-Office from 2020 to 2022 as leader of CHOGM host country. With all due respect, Kagame hosting CHOGM and subsequently holding the position of Commonwealth Chair-in-Office for two years is most appalling.
Madam Prime Minister, how you and fellow Commonwealth leaders determined that General Kagame would be a suitable host for CHOGM remains a mystery. You were fully aware that Mr. Kagame practices politics that does not remotely resemble the Commonwealth’s democratic principles and norms. You knew, for example, that in 2017 Kagame “won” a presidential majority of over 99%, after “winning” a referendum to end term limits that could see him remain president until 2034 when he will be 77 years old. This puts General Kagame in the league of the North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
Be that as it may, what is currently taking place inside Rwanda and in its neighborhood leaves no doubt about what Mr. Kagame stands for. In the past four days, General Kagame literally shut down Rwanda’s common border with Uganda. The two countries are members of the East African Community (EAC) and the Commonwealth. Nobody knows for sure why the Rwandan ruler has taken this extraordinary measure and its impact, but one thing is for sure. This outrageous action will adversely affect Rwandans, not least because more than half of the country’s annual international trade of about US$3.3 billion transits through Uganda onto the seaport of Mombasa, Kenya for overseas markets. For a poor country with a per capita income of US$748, shutting the gateway to international trade is a case of shooting oneself in the foot. This is a country heavily dependent on foreign aid of which UK’s contribution was £55.8 million for 2018/2019.
Madam Prime Minister, Kagame is also involved in conflicts with Burundi and South Africa. In the South African case, the national prosecutor has stated in court that the four Rwandan nationals who murdered the former Rwandan intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya, in Johannesburg in 2013 are closely associated with the Kagame government. Because of the Karegeya case and past illegal activities by Rwandan officials in South Africa, relations between the two countries, remain poor. For example, South Africa no longer provides consular services in Rwanda, despite the fact that hundreds of Rwandans do business, study, and seek medical attention in that country. To travel to South Africa, Rwandans must apply for visas in other countries, especially in neighboring Uganda, whose country Mr. Kagame has now locked up.
Meanwhile, inside Rwanda itself, fear, tension, and uncertainties which the people of Rwanda experience every day have intensified in the past two days. Reports indicate that Mr. Kagame has placed three top military generals under house arrest including General Joseph Nzabamwita who is the chief of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
Right Honourable Prime Minister May, I put it to you that Mr. Kagame should not host Queen Elizabeth II and the Commonwealth Leaders in 2020. None of the unfolding conflicts involving him and his counterparts in neighboring states can be fixed in the near term. This being the case, the Commonwealth should instead urgently mediate between Rwanda and Uganda to avert the worst case scenario of a war breaking out between two members of the Commonwealth.