Economic reforms taken by President Kagame rightfully have attracted positive attention from the media and an array of outside supporters. These economic policies—unlike those of most other African governments—are the best way to enable Rwanda’s people to lift themselves from poverty.
Yet his supporters seem far too willing to overlook or forgive his views on free speech and the freedom of the press. From first-hand experience, I know that President Kagame goes far further than “Europe’s laws against Holocaust denial,” practicing a policy of zero tolerance toward any journalist who criticizes him. If Gordon Brown emulated this policy, few journalists would remain in the U.K. right now.
Mr. Kagame’s record on political freedom also looks increasingly weak at the moment. Who of us would feel our democratic system to be in good working order if our political leader was facing no opposition in an upcoming election after being in power for seven years, because he had momentarily imprisoned the only potential opposition, in order to stop them from registering their party in the approaching elections?
President Kagame works very hard at his PR, but surely freedom is not divisible. Those of us who believe in its creative power should give credit where credit is due, but also express constructive criticism or condemnation where freedom is seriously threatened or indeed extinguished.
International Policy Network
Hartfield, Sussex, U.K.