If President Paul Kagame has been tracking the furore over Priti Patel’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, he’s been doing it on the hoof. Kagame moves constantly these days: the news broke while he was en route to Barbados after a visit to Jamaica. In the past two months he has been to Congo-Brazzaville, Kenya (twice), Zambia, Germany (twice), Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Mauritania, Senegal and Belgium.
How the president of one of Africa’s poorest nations can afford all this travelling is a puzzle, and the fact that his Gulfstream jet is supplied by Crystal Ventures, his Rwandan Patriotic Front’s monopolistic investment arm, raises interesting budgetary questions. In a country where checks on the executive have been whittled away, the dividing line between a ruling party’s business interests and the presidential expense account is distinctly blurred.
This is a tale of two dictators. Both have a background in espionage, trained in the dark arts of intelligence and security. Both became president in 2000 and proved themselves masters at controlling their countries by crushing dissent, stifling democracy and stealing elections. Both imprison or kill political foes, even those who fled into other nations for sanctuary. Both silence journalists and use state-controlled media to pump out a twisted narrative to further their own rule. Both treat state assets as their own. And both invade neighbouring nations and meddle abroad with disastrous consequences for millions of innocent people.
One of them is Vladimir Putin, now firmly established as Public Enemy No 1 for the free world after his latest assault on Ukraine. The full-scale invasion and atrocities unleashed by this self-serving despot have finally shocked the complacent West into action as it witnesses his attack on a sovereign nation. His misjudgement has turned Russia into a pariah state as the West tries to throttle his economy and sends his billionaire pals scurrying into safety with their stolen assets. As the Kremlin bombs cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv, Mariupol and Mykolaiv, one in four of the country’s citizens were displaced from their homes in just three weeks.