When President Kagame went to Chicago

“This is what has become the hallmark of the so-called dissidents – ill-mannered, have no programme except insults, out of touch with events in their own country. If they have any programme it is to destroy their country,” wrote Joseph Rwagatare in The New Times.

Do not ask me who the feisty gentleman is. The last time I checked, he was the headteacher of one if not the leading girls school in Rwanda – FAWE Girls School. That was before he switched trades. He is gradually and progressively assuming the position of Rwanda’s critic in chief specializing mainly in criticizing Rwanda’s critics. A cool way to earn a living.

I love reading from Joe. He is smart, knowledgeable albeit selectively, articulate and writes with too much passion. He typifies someone who knows what his readers want and is willing to give them exactly that, nothing more unless it is like I said, selectively less.

Anyway, Joe was referring to the events during President Kagame’s recent visit to Chicago for the much talked about Rwanda Day. Unlike Joe, I did not attend. In hindsight, I wish I had. I am a poor lad you see. Crossing the Atlantic is far from catching a train to say Brighton. It needs bucks. Had I been “the good guy” (from the with us camp) I probably would have benefited from the generous envelopes that were being handed to selected members of the Rwandan diaspora for travel and accommodation expenses to and from Chicago. Unfortunately, whoever was in charge of giving out the said envelopes appears to believe that my opinions over the years have put me on the other side (the against us camp). Thus if I had to attend, and assuming of course that I could guarantee my security, all expenses had to be on me.

But why travel so far, spend so much money, to see someone you have seen before and listen to them speak when whatever is to happen will after all, be delivered right to your desktop by great writers like Joe or members of the mainstream media?

Enough of that. Turns out that while Kagame had a good time in Chicago and was received by so many including leading businessmen and potential investors, something rather ugly was happening just outside the venue where this event was happening – a protest against Kagame.

We know from Joe’s report that this was a small group of nobodies who besides failing to raise a respectable quorum were also afraid to show their faces. Wrote Joe, “Outside, in the deserted streets, a handful of fugitives, not more than a dozen, and hired protesters made a lot of discordant noises…Even their organizers did not seem to believe in what they were doing. Theogene Rudasingwa who had promised to disrupt the North American diaspora meeting (aptly dubbed Rwanda Day) with the President of Rwanda even refused to talk to the media he had invited”.

“He and many others did not want to show their faces – perhaps out of shame and guilt (although those are not qualities you would associate with Rudasingwa). They certainly lacked conviction”.

He continued, “It was clear that the dozen noisemakers and their crest-fallen organizers were only performing a task they had to do because they had been either hired or needed to justify to their funders so that money could keep flowing”.

I am trying to figure this out. A dozen rag tag noisemakers are on Chicago’s deserted streets justifying their funding  for protesting the visit of a visiting ” kick ass” head of state and a former headteacher cum presidential advisor finds this worthy worrying about? Well, I ain’t a big time gambler but if I was to put anything on this, I wouldn’t mind a tenner on the rag tag noisemakers having had such profound effect.

Experience has taught me that when it comes to protests, quite often, it is not the numbers that count but the message. The Rudasingwas may have hidden themselves away from the camera but the very fact that we are talking about this protest now or even writing opinions about it could be to them the gain they aimed to achieve. Which brings me to the question: who really benefited from Chicagogate? Was it Paul Kagame and his entourage? Was it those potential investors who got to meet Rwandan officials and speak to the man who matters? Or was it the dozen noise makers who despite their failure to show their faces have managed to have us all, including by the way mainstream media, talking about their small act of resistance to what they say is Kagame’s oppression on Rwandans?

It is easy for a spin doctor or a writer for that matter to sit down at home and write a critical commentary on an event he or she considers anti-his/her belief. While getting carried away is normal, I guess we must never forget to desist from falling into the trap of risking absurdity or the possibility of being accused of double standards.

As someone who missed out on the big day in Chicago, I would have preferred to hear and read from good writers like Joe, a rendition of what exactly happened inside Hyatt Hotel. A more detailed account of the conversations that Rwandans inside the hotel had with Rwandan officials leave alone President Kagame. I would have rather Joe told how any of the invited investors had reached a deal or promised to invest in Rwanda. Yes. Investment because at least, I would know that somehow, our president went to Chicago, spent a fortune on transporting himself and a few colleagues there – on board an expensive private jet – but in a few months or years to come, some qualified Rwandan who has been looking for a job for the last 2 years will finally get employed courtesy of a resultant multi-million dollar investment deal reached on the said day.

But what did we get instead? Well, Joe accusing Paul Rusesabagina of “wanting Rwandan history to revolve around his fictitious image”. And yes you heard that right. Wanting Rwandan history to revolve around his fictitious image? Is this not the man who has been internationally honored for saving 1,268 refugees during the Rwandan genocide? Joe, unless you want Rusesabagina to start peddling your said claim now, when was it that you heard him say Rwandan history revolved around him? As a a former headteacher, I am sure you are aware that if anything, someone else with the same first name but different surname has effectively assumed a cult hero figure status as Rwanda’s saviour and if claiming the whole country’s history is problematic, you are better off channeling your well deserved advice somewhere nearer to you than to a man you and your ilk have essentially made a monster when history has it that he was and will remain a hero to some if not many.

There is more to criticism than blatant bashing.

Over to you my little monsters…


Author: ellyakanga

I am Eleneus Akanga. Welcome to my blog about my experience as a Rwandan journalist and all that comes with the trade in East Africa. It's been a great journey so far but very challenging at times. Join me, let's get cracking! ellyakanga@usa.com

3 thoughts on “When President Kagame went to Chicago”

  1. You got it right Elly. Kagame had no business going to Chicago to do nothing.
    He gave the opposition the opportunity to weigh up their strength.
    True, a lot still needs to be done (by the opposition) but there is nothing anymore to expect from Kagame.
    He went uphill and cannot maintain his position there. It is only natural that he goes down.

    One thing the opposition needs to rectify: protesters must stop carrying the old rwandan flag to the protest.
    That flag means opposite things to different groups of Rwandans. Unless they have transcended their ethnic sentiments, you cannot expect tutsis to protest alongside people holding that flag. Which shows how Rudasingwa matured so much since last year. I also learned that Kayumba was apologetic for having been part of an army that killed many people (speaking on skype to a meeting in London). Patrick Karegeya was asked the same questions (his involvement in the RPF killing army) and was sorry that he was part of such an institution, by clarified that personally he did no harm to anyone (he was speaking to a group of Rwandans gathered in Durban over the past weekend).
    This is great news. I applaud the efforts of these guys to transcend their sentiments and begin to think and act Rwandan, not tutsi.

    But these efforts must be complemented by courageous hutus and ask their “brothers” to stop spoiling or standing in the way of progress to topple dictatorship in Rwanda. Next protest, guys carrying the old flag must be denied participation and law enforcement authorities be called to discourage their attendance.
    Forward Rwandans, forward

  2. Sikera thanks for this wonderful remark. I agree there is something fundamentally flawed when it comes to people carrying the old Rwandan flag alongside them when protesting Kagame’s rule or visit to a given city.

    I am not sure I understand exactly why anyone especially given what we have gone through as a nation would want to parade this flag around if it can be proven that the same flag was an instrument of oprression or in anyway, was used to fane genocide. I feel that those carrying the old flag to these protests are doing so either because they do not have access to the new flag, have been let down by the present regime and thus feel some connection to the days gone by (not neccessarily the genocide days) or they could be diehard past regime fanatics who are still stuck in old thoughts.

    The use of old flags has become a modern thing. In Georgia, some protesors were happy to use their old flag, Libyan rebels are using it in Misrata and Benghazi but these are different contexts. While in Libya the old flag signifies patriotism, in Rwanda, it has been linked and associated with our horrible past(read genocide). Anyone carrying this flag risks displeasuring those who might see it in a different way. It must be avoided. Hurting each other’s feelings and bringing back the bad old memories is not what most Rwandese want but a free country and a people able to excercise their fundamental rights in a free and fair society.

    One thing though Sikela, if I understand what you are saying, are you suggesting in anyway that there are some people who you think are or have been thwarting efforts to fight dictatorship in Rwanda? Or is this in relation to the use of the old flag? I find your last paragraph a very strong statement and would gladly appreciate some substantiation on the same. Thank you.

  3. Let me repeat exactly what I told Joe Rwagatare and his fellow insiders:

    FIRST: There is nothing more disgusting than watching brothers dtripiing one another stark naked at the global marketplace — YOU SHOULD ALL BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES !!!!!!!!!

    SECOND: Rwandans need to stop behaving and thinking if they have an exclusive monopoly (copyright) for dysfunctional families, governments and nations. We your neighbours have even bigger “skunks” in our villages but you do not see us displaying our tatters in public — STOP PROVIDING FREE COMEDY !!!!!!!!

    THIRD: if there was a space shuttle available — you all deserve to be crammed tightly in that shuttle and relocated permenantly to Pluto — WHERE YOU CAN ELIMINATE ONE ANOTHER WITHOUT SPLATTERING BLOOD ALL OVER THE CIVILISED FOLKS !!!!!!!

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