Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. Picture: AP/John Muchucha
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. Picture: AP/John Muchucha

Why is the UN so intent on besmirching Paul Kagame’s name?

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 9, 2020

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Victor Kgomoeswana

“If the UN, government officials, the international media and other observers had paid more attention to the gathering signs of disaster, and taken timely action, it might have been averted.”

Former Head of Peacekeeping Operations at the UN, Koffi Anan, speaking as UN Secretary-General on March 26, 2004, said this at the Memorial Conference on the Rwanda Genocide in New York.

He was scathing and self-critical for having missed the warnings.

He particularly said that the international community had failed Rwanda, “and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret and abiding sorrow”. He regretted not having “acted promptly and with determination” to stop the killing, but “the political will was not there, nor were the troops”.

This makes me grimace at the enduring accusations of war crimes against Paul Kagame.

As President of Rwanda and as the former leader of the onslaught that freed the country and ended the genocide in July 1994, he has nothing left to prove about his ability as a turnaround specialist.

Now, why would the very UN – which omitted to stop the genocide – devote so much to besmirch the pilot of Rwanda’s transformation, as reported in a Mail & Guardian exclusive, “Top- secret testimonies implicate Rwanda’s president in war crimes”?

Citing “Tutsi soldiers who broke with the regime” the article states that UN investigators, for many years, have been secretly compiling evidence that implicates “Kagame and other high-level officials in mass killings before, during and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide”.

Apparently, the sworn testimonies of these “Tutsi soldiers” negates the depiction of “Kagame and his RPF as the country’s saviours”. A simple visit to Rwanda will expose one to the perpetrators of the genocide who have already done time after being tried through the Gacaca court system.

The people of Rwanda have used the past 26 years – not to investigate each other for war crimes. They have been rebuilding with the help of cultural practices like Umuganda, the civic education programme Itorero and Agaciro (self-dignity).

The fundamental flaw in this tenacious quest to prove Kagame’s involvement in the disappearance of his opponents or of how he suppresses dissent is that it overlooks that “you cannot argue with results”, as he always says.

It overlooks to ask the people of Rwanda what they think of Kagame, not “Tutsi soldiers” who broke ranks. Ask the taxi drivers, the street sweepers and the coffee farmers what they make of Kagame.

None of these ordinary people of Rwanda will be in denial about the gory truths of decades of internecine fighting that sought to wipe out a significant proportion of the population. They will not pretend that Kagame walked into a boardroom in a suit to negotiate a peaceful solution in July 1994 – but they also know that when they were hacking each other to death with machetes funded by foreign governments, the UN did nothing.

Without seeking to exempt Kagame from any responsibility, let us rather go to the streets of Rusizi or the hills of Bugesera for an opinion poll on the UN’s secret investigations. If the resounding response is that it must continue, then we are talking. Otherwise, let us leave Rwanda be.

* Victor Kgomoeswana is author of Open for Business, media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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