Category Archives: David Himbara

Kagame Quarantined Me. Covid-19 Quarantined Him.

Kagame Quarantined Me. Covid19 Quarantined Him.

Kagame is a club member of billionaires who fly the Gulfstream G650ER jet including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, co-founder and chief executive of Oracle Corporation, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, Apple’s cofounder.

I have lived under General Paul Kagame’s quarantine for a decade since 2010 when I fled Rwanda to South Africa. The year 2010 was when hell broke loose in Rwanda. A year of presidential elections which Kagame won by 95%, many Rwandans were jailed, others simply disappeared, fled, or died mysteriously. Among those who died in 2020 were opposition leader, André Kagwa Rwisereka, vice-chairman of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda. He was found murdered and partially beheaded near a wetland in Butare on July 14, 2010.

In South Africa where I fled, I was quarantined in my house, especially after I was almost kidnapped to Rwanda in 2012. On the New Year’s Day of 2014, the exiled former Rwandan intelligence, Patrick Karegeya, was murdered in Johannesburg, which led me to flee to Canada. Once there I was quarantined once again – I couldn’t travel least of all to Africa.

Fast forward to 2020. Kagame who is a club member of billionaires who fly the Gulfstream G650ER jet – including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, co-founder and chief executive of Oracle Corporation, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, Apple’s cofounder – is quarantined.

Coronavirus has trapped Kagame in Rwanda. As the saying goes, God works in mysterious ways.

David Himbara,  PhD


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The danger of unchallenged myth: The lie that is Rwandan President Paul Kagame.


1*9mch3Fn5a2fXGPQ7M-Byng@2xThe danger of an unchallenged myth: The lie that is Rwandan President Paul Kagame

When I set about writing this, two poignant quotes kept bouncing around in my head, which describe everything I want to express in this column. The first, by Martin Luther King goes thus: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” The second quote, from a speech by US President John F. Kennedy at Yale University goes thus: “For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”

These two quotes perfectly sum up my views on the sudden appearance of Paul Kagame as a kite being flown within Nigerian political and policy circles. Regardless of who is behind the sudden emergence of an East African strongman as a purported example for Nigerian or African leadership, it is very important to question and challenge this dangerous narrative before it takes root and begins to infect national decision making, as is so often the case. The case for Kagame-style leadership as a panacea to African development issues hinges on two major beliefs: that Kagame is a “benevolent dictator” who leads with his country’s interests in mind, and that he is a “competent dictator” who knows how to get things done and achieve results.

Let us briefly interrogate these two notions.

The ‘benevolent dictator’ is fictional

What is most commonly used to sell the myth of Paul Kagame is the idea that he is some sort of patriotic strongman – the father of the modern Rwandan nation who came in like a hero at the country’s darkest hour to steer it away from genocidal division toward the cusp of a 21st century economic breakout. His “example” is typically cited by non-Rwandan Africans as a stark contrast to their incompetent and corrupt (elected) governments. “If only Kagame’s peers across Africa could be like him! Africa would be so developed by now!”

This myth conveniently ignores some very inconvenient facts that tell a completely different story about who Kagame is and what the modern state of Rwanda is actually built on. First of all, Kagame’s portrayal as a hero in the context of the events of 1994 could not be wider of the mark. It often comes as a shock to many who discover upon some cursory reading, that there was a second genocide happening almost concurrently in Rwanda as well as in neighbouring Burundi and Eastern DRC in 1994. This genocide, which was characterised by massacres and rapes of hundreds of thousands of Hutu civilians and refugees between 1990 and 1996, was twice recognised the UN in 1997 and 1998 as a genocide under Article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and later on his Rwandan-backed Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), were repeatedly implicated in these sordid events, but the sheer ferocity of the 1994 Tutsi genocide perhaps allowed him to fly under the radar as the lesser of two evils. By invoking the memory of April 1994 at every opportunity, Kagame has successfully convinced the world to forget that he was in fact, a tribal warlord fighting an illegitimate war against an elected government, before a series of “convenient” events led him into power in Kigali.

What Kagame really is more than anything else, is an opportunist – the ruthless winner who got to write history and cynically exploit the world’s emotions by presenting a complicated – and by no means concluded – conflict as a 3-month spurt of madness that he heroically ended. Rather than contextualise the Rwandan genocide as part of a wider African Great Lakes regional crisis, and acknowledge the ongoing role of the Kagame regime in destabilising and plundering the Eastern DRC, Africa and the world have falled for his contrived and carefully cultivated leadership myth, allowing him to repeatedly escape difficult questions.

Difficult questions like: “Why do Rwandan opposition members keep going missing?” “How did he get 99 percent of the votes cast in the 2017 Rwandan election?” “Why is Diane Rwigara in prison?” “Why does his government regularly seize, expropriate and auction homes, property and businesses belonging to government critics?” “How come Rwanda has barely any coltan deposits, but is one of the world’s largest coltan exporters, while coincidentally sharing a border with the Eastern DRC which has extensive coltan deposits and an everlasting civil war fueled by armed groups linked to Kigali?” “How many civilian massacres and mass rapes did the RPF under his leadership carry out between 1990 and 1996?”  “Why did he respond to a 2006 report by French magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière, linking him to the assassination of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana by breaking off Rwanda’s diplomatic relationship with France?”

In an alternate universe, Paul Kagame would be answering questions about RPF war crimes and his role in the events of 1994 at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. Instead, because of the power of the “benevolent dictator” myth, this charming, narcissistic Mobutu Sese Seko regen with a nice smile and good PR is currently the toast of many within Africa’s ironically-termed intelligentsia.

The ‘competent dictator’ is another myth

When Customs Controller General, Col. Hamid Ali recently made a comment comparing Nigeria’s nonsensical border closure to China’s alleged border closure in the 20th century, it was a sign that Nigeria’s government has moved on from selling myths and inaccurate information to Nigerians, and started formulating real policies with long term consequences based on false information. Why this worried me was that it presented the possibility of a scenario where the Kagame myth will be used as a basis for policy and political moves that will destroy our hard-won democratic freedoms and wreck our economy for nothing.

If an MDA head and his boss in Aso Rock are making policy decisions based on Chinese ‘historical events’ that simply did not happen, they can also make decisions based on a Rwandan success story that is entirely fictional. As of today, for example, Rwanda has roughly one doctor per 15,600 people. To put that in perspective, Nigeria has roughly one doctor per 2,500 people, and it is widely accepted that this figure represents a healthcare emergency. Rwanda’s per capita GDP is also a miserable $850, putting it behind Chad and war-torn Yemen, and just ahead of economic powerhouses like Haiti, Afghanistan and South Sudan. In 25 years since seizing power, Paul Kagame’s regime has managed to pave just 1,000km of the country’s 12,000km of roads – about 8.3 percent of the total road network.

Even in the famously clean and shiny capital city Kigali, only the most important roads are paved, with the majority of streets still brown earthroads. Most tellingly, anything from 30 to 50 percent of Rwanda’s national budget is still funded by foreign aid every year, more than a quarter of a century after Paul Kagame seized power. Behind the shiny, clean streets of Kigali and the PR-savviness of Kagame’s regime, complete with poverty statistics manipulated to look good as discovered recently by the Financial Times, Rwanda remains a dirt poor banana republic populated by impoverished and terrified people.

If there is such a thing as a “competent dictatorship,” Rwanda is not it, and I cannot stress this point enough. The economically illiterate decision to self harm by closing the borders without sorting out any of the underlying issues that make imported goods more competitive, is an example of ruinous national decision decision-making based on myths like “the Chinese closed their borders.”

Hopefully, we won’t have to learn the hard way that the myth of Paul Kagame – no matter how much we want to believe in it – is just a myth.


Kagame regime’s false claims on financial self-reliance.

General Paul Kagame and his regime live in fantasy land. They tirelessly seek to impress the world that Rwanda is an African success story and development model. The latest big lie is that Rwanda is weaning itself off from foreign aid. This fantasy was floated by the minister of finance who spectacularly claimed in his budget speech that Rwanda is moving towards financial self-reliance:

”Total domestic resources and loans combined account for 85.8 percent of the entire budget of 2019/2020 fiscal year, which is a good indication towards our objective of self-reliance.”

A closer look at the 2019/20 budget shows the reverse. Kagame’s Rwanda remains a Banana Republic heavily dependent on foreign aid.

The 2019/2020 budget demonstrates the reverse of the regime’s claim that it is moving towards self-reliance.

According to Rwanda finance minister, the total budget for 2019/20 is RWF2.87 trillion or US$3.2 billion. He then says that RWF1,963.8 or US$2.1 billion will come from ”domestic resources.” Here, the minister’s story begins to fall apart. The US$2.1 billion to be raised from within Rwanda, in the minister’s own words ”include domestic borrowing.” Even though the minister does not reveal the amount of money that will come from domestic borrowing, he nonetheless indicates what will be generated from government via taxes. In the minister’s own words, ”tax revenue collections are estimated at Frw 1,535.8 billion which accounts for 53.4% of the total budget.” Put in another way, the regime’s own contribution to the 2019/20 is US$1.7 billion representing 53.4%.

This is embarrassing in a double sense. First, here is a regime that can mobilize only 53.4% of its budget from its own tax revenue but keeps boasting that it is an African success story. Second, here is a regime that thinks everyone else is stupid and will swallow its falsehoods.

Where will the rest of budget financing come from?

Government briefing donors during budget formulation, 2019

The rest of budget financing for 2019/20 will come from donor grants and loans — and of course, domestic borrowing. The ministry of finance describes donor financing of the budget as follows:

”The remainder of the budget will be funded through external sources worth Frw906.7 billion which accounts for 31.5% of the total budget. These include grants worth Frw409.8 billion (14.2%) and loans worth 497.0 billion (17.3%).

There goes Kagame’s financial self-reliance. As indicated in the ministry of finance’s statement, the external grant and external loan components of the 2019/20 budget amount to RWF9 billion or US$1 billion representing 31.5%.

Enormous amounts of foreign grants and loans go into Rwanda’s development budget.

According to the World Bank, 58.6% of capital formation in Rwanda comes from foreign aid.

There is worse news than foreign grants and loans that amount to 31.5% of Kagame’s budget. This is shown by the financing of the development budget as opposed to the recurrent budget. In 2019/20 Rwandan budget, 49.5% of the total budget is earmarked for the recurrent budget, while 40% will finance development budget.

The development budget amounting to RWF1.15 trillion or US$1.2 billion reveals an additional form of donor dependence by the Kagame regime. Donors will pump into the development budget some RWF458.2 billion or US$511 million versus the regime’s own funding of RWF694 billion or US$775 million. In other words, the difference between what Kagame and the donors will spend in capital formation is a mere US$264 million. And if 2017/18 is any indication, the Kagame regime may not fulfill its promises and donors may once again step in to supplement the development budget. Here is how the Ministry of Finance explains what happened in 2017/18:

”During the FY 2017/18, total actual capital expenditure amounted to 850 billion FRW…The increased performance under this category was driven by foreign financed expenditure and offset the shortfall in domestic capital financed. Regarding the domestically financed portion, the amount of 463 billion FRW spent was 23.4 billion FRW lower…This lower spending was due to some delays in completing all spending documents including those of tendering on time. While the excess in foreign capital expenditure was due to accelerated implementation of several on-going infrastructural projects especially in the roads sector.”

Wonders never cease in Kagame’s Rwanda

The Kagame regime claimed that it is moving towards financial self-reliance. Stripped of domestic borrowing, foreign grants, and foreign loans, the regime’s own contribution to the 2019/20 is US$1.7 billion representing 53.4%. This is not an indication that Rwanda is achieving self-reliance. Far from it. This is further evidence that in Rwanda, wonders never cease.

Source :Himbara