US – Rwanda relations have never been stronger. And either the US want Kagame to stay on or they know something we don’t.
“… Satan replied, ‘…But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head…” -Job 2:4-7,9-10
Yesterday the United States of America through its State Department Spokesperson Mr. John Kirby released a statement saying it does not support the amendment of Rwanda’s constitution, allowing President Paul Kagame to stand for a third term.
As per use, the media got worked-out with the story, predicting an end to US-Rwanda’s relations. They may have jumped the gun once again; the statement being nothing more than part of a written US foreign policy script, with no substantive consequences ahead.
In typical sensationalism, Radio France International (RFI) titled: ‘Le ton monte entre Washington et Kigali sur un eventual 3e mandat’ (a squabble is on between Washington and Kigali on a potential 3rd term) they explained ‘A one time US favorite, Paul Kagame, is, since 2012, seen with a certain suspicion by Washington’, diagnosed: ‘In diplomatic language, that is called a crossfire’, and concluded: ‘the fracture between the Rwandan President and American administration is deepening.’
Good old Onyango-Obbo jumped in with a title: ‘no longer blue-eyed boy’ referring to a piece in his Mail and Guardian, implying Rwanda’s fall, out of Godfather’s favor. Sadly his title was all there was in the piece he was referring to. Its content, just a minimal literature review of ever-greened Rwanda’s critics, with no related analysis.
So that’s not the problem, it is the naivety in his romantic title that pains me. Yo, Obbo man, this is isn’t about lost love or something, this is politics and business; Man up!
As for the Telegraph, posting a picture of Congolese protesters ‘Les Combattants’ as they call themselves, the article declared: ‘Mr Kagame has fallen from international favor’
One after the other, media houses were all too excited to see that the declaration was a trap –the US went on record making a declaration, indeed to provoke media reaction, quite the sort that is trending.
But which other statement could have they made? ‘We support one man’s perpetual rule?’ As a ‘civilized nation’, whose primary franchise is democracy in the world; it was expected of them to make the statement. Now the US has achieved their goal of appeasing human rights groups and others; who will not say they didn’t say…
But of course they could have kept quiet. However, the amount of anti-Rwanda pressure groups, coupled with US interests in the DRC, Somalia, Kenya and the current Burundi crisis, all make Rwanda’s issues relevant to its foreign policy.
Rwanda is a developmental flagship for the international community; a guarantor of regional security and a pragmatic ally. In spite of what may transpire in the media, all that has been achieved thanks to Mr. Kagame. That is what matters to the US, not some grand ideals of Democracy.
This is true for Ethiopia, and most importantly for Israel. They may say: ‘we condemn the killings of civilians in Gaza or Lebanon’, but that stuff is for the media and NGOs. Alliances are discussed behind closed doors.
For those sober enough, this particular declaration was quiet easy to read. The State Department left a hint, premising the statement with: ‘We respect the ability of any parliament to pass legislation that reflects the will of the people it is elected to represent…’ meaning: ours is just an opinion. Feel free to take it, or indeed leave it – In fact, please leave it!! In other words, the declaration was the US’s petition asking Kagame to waive term limits and stay in power.
So unless Kagame mismanages his third term bid to create unlikely general chaos, the US will not mind.
The only group to mind are France and the Catholic Church – both key players in the Genocide against Tutsis. Then again they know a statement from them would very much be out of place: Kagame couldn’t get time from his busy schedule, to even read Hollande’s congratulatory letter, sent at the occasion of Rwanda’s independence…
So both must be literally praying to see Kagame leave. He has indeed been a real threat to their regional influence – and claimed image and power.
What they both do -a part from funding anti-Rwanda campaigns- is trick, every now and then, their British, Spanish and German counterparts into blunders, like the arrest of Rwanda’s head of protocol Rose Kabuye in Germany, and more recently, that of Rwanda’s Chief Intelligence Karenzi Karake. But the thing always backfires and leaves them with mud in the face –wondering: what were we thinking? Never trust the French; everyone knows it!
It is quiet telling that when Scotland Yard arrests Rwanda’s head of intelligence, UK’s ex-development secretary Andrew Mitchell makes a passionate protest, Cherie Blair, the wife of former UK Prime Minister represents him in court at Westminster, while her husband Toni sits on Kagame’s presidential advisory board.
What is there not to see? If tables turn on Rwanda, these personalities will be the first to go – if they are asked by their own governments. The Congolese ‘combatants’ – famous anti-Rwanda street protestors – may be blinded by their own drama, but international NGOs and opposition in exile mostly get it; they just can’t accept it. As for the media it is just overselling their wire, hoping for their fallacy-now prophesy of doom- to fulfill itself.
Declarations are made everyday. What really matters is what type of rhetoric and what comes after the rhetoric: For instance: Obama declared : ‘our relationship with Uganda will be affected if LGBTI are criminalized!’ now that’s a threat.
Here, there was no threat, merely a toned down communiqué of US doctrine on democracy. But the media has been waiting for too long for something, anything.. So they jumped on it like starved vultures…
Now that the dust has settled, here is what will happen: Nothing! Nada! I mean, Rwanda invaded DRC: twice. Supported M23 rebel movement, and the US froze USD 200.000. And that’s the time when Rwanda was at the lowest stature in its international outlook; and that is the heaviest US sanctions on Rwanda, known to the public.
If Rwanda can send troops to invade a foreign country and walk off with a fine of 200 grand, it’s safe to say they can get away with changing their own constitution and keep their own president.
Politically, Rwanda may indeed be a poster child of the US, like every successful country in this world is a US project. But they are too proud to admit it, for that would be inconsistent with Rwanda’s claimed image of dignity: #Agaciro. That said Rwanda remains a key US ally – and that thanks to Kagame.
However, I am afraid that the particulars of Rwanda’s relationship with Anglo-Saxon countries may be even beyond the grasp of some of their own services, namely: the unseasoned Tori and Obama staffers and their foreign missions here.
Rwanda’s foreign affaires Minister, Mrs Louise Mushikiwabo reacted to the declaration and the media. I think she was both generous and passionate. She could have easily ignored them both.
If this relationship has survived Obama, arguably the least Rwanda-friendly US president, it sure will survive the Congolese ‘combattants’, the Catholic Church and exiled opposition. Because in the next couple of years that’s who will remain in the anti-Rwanda booth: the Bush’s, Clintons and Sarkozys are all cool with Rwanda.