As Dutch blogger Vincent Harris opines, these are difficult times for dictators in the world. In Rwanda, Paul Kagame’s PR machine seems to be crumbling.
For a regime that is used to flattery from the international media, the about-face that spotlights Kagame’s misdeeds, which are obviously incremental, might be too difficult to handle. Already Rwanda is recruiting young RPF students to help “resist negative propaganda through writing.” But for pro-democracy activists, there are hardly any surprises: every man shall reap what he sows. Rain or shine, the struggle for democratic reform will continue!
When the “BBC have you say” program announced that they would host Kagame in their studios, I was skeptical whether I should participate in their question session. Furthermore, I wondered whether such a platform wouldn’t do more harm than good.
Using twitter, I wrote: @BBCAfricaHYS International media should boycott #Kagame in solidarity with the demands for free press in #Rwanda
Nonetheless a good question to ask is, why are dictators and well known predators of press usually so eager to enjoy the fruits of free press in foreign lands? Yet they would never allow for the same freedoms in their own countries.
Regardless, I must thank the BBC reporter for a job well done. And of course, the courageous individuals who made the calls to challenge the dictator.
Pertaining to Rwanda, the questions asked focused on four crucial areas: The human rights situation in Rwanda, the UN Mapping report, government allowances to university students, and Laurent Nkunda’s imprisonment.
Interestingly, Kagame unreservedly accused the journalist of harboring a negative agenda. It was entertaining in a sick and twisted way. Here was an all powerful dictator complaining of being bullied by a journalist. Even dictators want to be treated with fairness, I couldn't believe. I thought to myself, “If this interview was held in Rwanda (which would undoubtedly never happen), the journalist would easily land himself a 20 year sentence!” Allegations of “insulting” the president are usually taken VERY seriously.
A caller identifying himself as James asked valiantly whether the president would accept to be tried by an international court for crimes committed against the ethnic Hutu in the Democratic Republic of Congo as established by the United Nation’s Mapping report “to prove his innocence.”
Immediately, Kagame lost it and started to stammer. His response was basically that the killings that targeted Hutu civilians whom he identified as killers, were justified. “I would do it again”, he stressed. As for justice of the victims, he rudely and inconsiderately stated that it was their business. Basically, that he does not give a damn.
Laurent Nkunda's wife had besieged Kagame as well. I am not a fan of Nkunda considering his atrocious crimes in the Congo. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but empathize with his wife. She wanted to know the whereabouts of her husband and why she is not allowed to see him.Quite confusing, given that Kagame has previously described the general as a guest of the state.Why can't he hand him over to DRC where he belongs?
Well, with this kind of incriminatory responses and insensitive language, Kagame surely needs to hire a new PR team along with cyber propagandists.