Paul Kagame: Hero or Villain?

The Guardian published this weekend an interesting piece about Paul Kagame:”Is Kagame Africa’s Lincoln or a tyrant exploiting Rwanda’s tragic history?”

It provides a good overview of the praise and critics against the Rwandan leader and what he has achieved since he took power.

Nearly two decades after the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) emerged from the hills to overthrow the extremist Hutu regime trying to exterminate the Tutsi population, Kagame is still a combative and divisive figure. To some he is the Lincoln of Africa for rising above his country’s old divisions – and his own suffering after narrowly escaping as a child across the border to Uganda during an earlier bout of Tutsi killing – to preach forgiveness, reconciliation and hard work as he forges a new Rwanda out of the ashes of genocide.

To others, Kagame has exploited his country’s tragic history, and the west’s guilt over its inaction during the slaughter, to construct a new Tutsi-dominated authoritarian regime using the legacy of genocide to suppress opposition and cover up for the crimes of his own side. In doing so, critics warn, he is laying the groundwork for another bout of bloodletting down the road.


Kagame increasingly takes a “with us or against us” view of even sympathetic criticism. The sharpness of his reaction suggests he was caught unawares by those he regarded as loyal friends deciding to keep a distance. He denies this. “Nothing would catch me off guard because I understand the world I live in. I understand it very well. And the world I live in is not necessarily a fair or just world. I have dealt with these injustices for the bigger part of my life,” he says.

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