For many nations around the globe, the struggle for democratic reform is yet to materialize. Many countries have been taken hostage by brutal leaders, who intentionally undermine freedom to fulfill their selfish ends.
Writing for Foreign Policy, George Ayitteh, sounds the alarm, “[t]here are at least 40 dictators around the world today”. Of these, approximately 1.9 billion people live under the tight control of 23 tyrants.
We also learn that most of these despots began their careers as “freedom fighters”. That is, before turning into thoughtless thugs, more comfortable detaining opponents, spreading terror and rigging elections.
But the modern tyrant, unlike the old fashioned one, has maneuvered his way around economic collapse. Important to note is that some of these dictators have delivered impressive economic results. For instance, we are told, Hu Jintao of China, “beguiles foreign investors with a smile and a bow, but ferociously crushes political dissent.”
Perhaps, this point is more important and most relevant to the “rationalization of despotism” floating around in media circles when it comes to Rwanda. The beleaguered media- beleaguered because it naively bought into the myth that Rwanda was undergoing democratic transition- is finally realizing that Paul Kagame is interested in anything but democracy.
As such, the current rhetoric among some circles has shifted towards justifying Kagame’s heavy-handedness with the unconvincing argument that Rwandans have chosen a dictator for the sake of peace and economic reform. This argument erroneously presupposes that Kagame’s destiny is intertwined with that of Rwanda. That without Paul Kagame the “strong man”, Rwanda will cease to be.
Ironically, this is the same logic that was used by Hutu extremists (as a pretext) to massacre Tutsi and hutu opposition members, during the 1994 Genocide.
Without President Juvenal Habyarimana “the protector of Hutu people”, the Hutu extremists reasoned, Tutsi had to die. When he got assassinated, they did exactly that.
Africa and Rwanda, in particular, will have to move beyond the big man syndrome, if we are ever to attain sustainable democracy.
It is not surprising, therefore, that our own version of a “crocodile liberator”, Paul Kagame made it to the list, ranking 20th.
Describing Mr. Kagame, Ayitteh states:
A liberator who saved the Tutsis from complete extermination in 1994, Kagame now practices the same ethnic apartheid he sought to end. His Rwandan Patriotic Front dominates all levers of power: the security forces, the civil service, the judiciary, banks, universities, and state-owned corporations. Those who challenge the president are accused of being a hatemonger or divisionist and arrested.
Given the sham election that is predicted to happen next week, Kagame should probably rank a few points higher (closer to comrade Robert Mugabe) on the list of world famous dictators.