The Economist on March 28, ran an article on Rwanda that appeared to be appropriate at this time when Rwandans mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi.
The article -: Rwanda: 25 years after the genocide, how well has Rwanda healed? suggested that it was going to be an objective appraisal of what has happened in Rwanda in that period.
However, it was far from being a disinterested analysis. It was actually an attempt to deny that there has been any healing.
Some might even say it was nothing more than a vilification of Kagame. And even though it acknowledges the genocide, it seems to apologise for its perpetrators.
What does it actually say?
First, that Rwanda is an enigma. Nothing could be further from the truth. No other African country has been under so much scrutiny as Rwanda. Each move, every decision, is dissected and analysed.
The article admits as much, Perhaps by enigma is meant Rwanda’s frustrating (to outsiders) refusal to be placed into a pre-defined category or to fit a pre-ordered narrative of typical African country.
Immediately it becomes clear that the writer wishes Rwanda were a country whose citizens and politics are defined by ethnicity and sectarian interests and not by nationhood and the national interest.
And so in this redefinition of the country, Kagame is the “Tutsi rebel commander who stopped the genocide at gunpoint”. Already this reveals bad intentions. What is the point of appending the Tutsi label to Kagame?
Does it add to his abilities as a commander or is it meant to set him apart from the rest of Rwandans? Stopping the genocide at gunpoint also carries negative connotations, like it was an execution of innocent people.
In any case, how was the genocide supposed to be stopped – by prayers, appeals to the good sense of the killers, wringing of hands, or by endless debates?
Then, on the basis of the above label, the writer goes on to question the intentions of Kagame as president of Rwanda. Has he healed the wounds of the genocide? He thinks not, or wishes he has not.
Rwandans would beg to differ. Healing is not an event or even a short term outcome, especially when the wounds have been inflicted over a very long time. It is a long process that can take generations.
The writer then says, without evidence, that Kagame is cynically using the genocide to hold on to power. Who is actually being cynical here?
The writer goes on in the same cynical way to appeal to previous divisions in Rwanda and almost praying the country returns to the pre-1994 situation. At every opportunity he returns to the so-called Tutsi-Hutu divide, which seems to be at the centre of the piece.
He says Kagame leads a predominantly Tutsi regime and then immediately questions what the majority Hutu are thinking about the future. What is the evidence for this conclusion, except a recap of past characterisations of Rwanda?
And what is the intention in mentioning these labels?
According to the article, the situation inside Rwanda is terrible. There is so much fear none dares to speak; Freedom and democracy are glaringly lacking. Again, Rwandans see things differently and they have said so on numerous occasions in elections and surveys of every sort. In any case, freedom and democracy as defined by whom?
Even a conviction handed down by a competent court of law, after due process does not escape the writer’s questionable intentions. And so Victoire Ingabire was convicted on trumped up charges. Is this the product of analysis, or rather of contempt or fitting the script into an existing narrative?
The writer can’t resist pinning the military adventurer label on Kagame. He says he has scaled back military adventures abroad. I have never heard the West’s military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria referred to as military adventure.
We are told there are legitimate security and national interest concerns that can only be addressed by such action.
When it comes to Rwanda, such interests and concerns do not exist. Yet it is well-known that the defeated FAR and interahamwe had regrouped in eastern Zaire (DRC today), been re-armed by some in the West and were poised to attack the new government in Rwanda. Did that constitute a security threat?
Yes, in fact an existential one. The existence of the FDLR in eastern DRC today and the security threat they pose is equally well-known.
The article concludes with a dire prediction of the future of Rwanda, rather than an assessment of the present. It set out to evaluate Kagame’s contribution to national healing, but did no such thing and only ended up prophesying doom.
We have had enough prophets of doom and can do without more, even coming from The Economist. The article, coming out at this moment of commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi is clearly insensitive to Rwandans.