Amid a mountain of evidence that Paul Kagame is arming proxies in Eastern DRC, and silencing dissidents at home, his regime is getting increasingly desperate--and perhaps even more fragile.
This is not difficult to see. For the last 17 years after the genocide, Rwanda has benefited immensely from the international community's good will. This has helped fasten the reconstruction process and created somewhat of an economic miracle.
At the same time, the international community has been rather reluctant to criticize Kagame's regime owing to its failure to stop the 1994 genocide.
Mr. Kagame, praised by the pentagon as brilliant military strategist, has taken advantage of the West's silence to amass fortune by destabilizing the Congo, a region greatly endowed with mineral wealth. While Rwanda looks stable on the surface, the human rights record has continued to take a nose-dive.
So blatant are Kagame's crimes that it is becoming difficult for the West to continue paying a blind eye. As the West awakens from its slumber, Kagame and his PR team are having nightmares.
Here is an example. I joined Twitter about two years ago. Back then, supporters of Kagame's regime were scant and hardly visible. Their work was mostly to sing praises to the regime hoping this would create a positive international image. Today, there exist numerous pro-Kagame accounts that repudiate and attack anyone who posts anything that is even minutely critical of their "great leader".
But is it really possible to silence the truth? Is it possible to exchange the truth for a lie? Recent events in the region give us a clear answer. I hope Kagame's supporters are reading this.
In the past one year or so, a number of international reports have emerged that illuminate the challenges that members of the opposition have been voicing. The first (and perhaps the most significant) is the 2010 Mapping report that accuses Kagame's ruling military of revenge genocide in the DRC. It is believed that Kagame's regime killed probably up to 250,000 Hutu refugees between 1996-7. This is a very crucial finding for at least two reasons. The first being that victims of these atrocities deserve some sort of justice. The second being that, Kagame is exposed for what he is--a cynical murder.
The key question is, of course, whether Kagame will continue to play the victim card and even use it to repress any indigenous form of protest. The answer is that he probably will--habits die hard. However, his whining will most likely be ignored.
This is beginning to happen. Yesterday, Belgium announced that it is terminating all forms of military support to Rwanda. Belgium's foreign minister stated via Twitter that, "We will not train soldiers who could contribute to the destabilisation [of the Congo]". Other countries, including the United States, have suspended or terminated aid.
Pro-Kagame media continues to whine that this is a sign of betrayal. A post by Kagame's speech writer, seems to take an anti-western stance. There is little doubt on my part that such a direction will be difficult for Kagame's loyalist. Imagine playing the usually Iranian anti-west card with an economy almost entirely dependent on foreign aid!
One hypothesis is that Kagame and his handlers are completely in shock having never imagined the West would ever be tough on them. This is plausible. Hence it may explain the anti-West chest thumping. Personality-based regimes are probably weakest when the leader is weakened.
Just a few years ago when Kagame was still the darling of the West, it would have been unthinkable that he would deny a western dignitary entrance to Rwanda. Denying entrance to Bob Brown, the former Green Party leader and an Australian senator, is yet another sign of the confusion resulting from the self-destructive downward spiral.
To the relief of Rwandans the beauty of dictatorships is their tendency to self-destruct!