Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Friday, January 28, 2011

What happened to Stephen Kinzer?

Stephen Kinzer, a staunch supporter of Rwandan President Paul Kagame just published an opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper saying that the country's authoritarian turn is risking its future.

Strange, because less than a month ago, Kinzer published a piece in the same paper, saying that "the authoritarian regime is the best thing that has happened to Rwanda since colonialists arrived a century ago."

Just compare these two passages. In his December piece:
The Rwandan regime has given more people a greater chance to break out of extreme poverty than almost any regime in modern African history – and this after a horrific slaughter in 1994 from which many outsiders assumed Rwanda would never recover....My own experience tells me that people in Rwanda are happy with it, thrilled at their future prospects, and not angry that there is not a wide enough range of newspapers or political parties. 
 The piece published yesterday:
President Kagame should accept the possibility that his judgment may not always be correct, and listen earnestly to Rwandans with different ideas. He still has the chance to enter history as one of the greatest modern African leaders. There is also the chance, however, that he will be remembered as another failed African big-man, a tragic figure who built the foundations of a spectacular future for his country, but saw his achievements collapse because he could not take his country from one-man rule toward democracy.
The motivation for his criticism, he says, are events of recent weeks, and in particular the opposition to the regime by Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and three other former high-ranking members of the RPF. But the "Rwanda Briefing" he mentions was published in August last year, and the assassination attempt against Gen. Kayumba was in June. Yes, over the last month we have seen the sentencing in absentia of those four former officials, as well as an alliance being forged between Kayumba's Rwandan National Congress and Victoire Ingabire's FDU-Inkingi.

But Kinzer's about face is surprising.


Anonymous said...

" alliance being forged between Kayumba's Rwandan National Congress and Victoire Ingabire's FDU-Inkingi."

Not so much a "forging" as a marriage of convenience I suggest. If either achieved its objective of "taking power" in Rwanda (presumably by whatever means were found to be necessary) its first step would be to drop the other like a hot potato.

If Kinzer thinks that "the gang of four" have ideas worth listening to then he has more to learn about Rwanda than he may have thought.

But his piece has appropriately been applauded by a well known authoritarian frustrated that Rwanda will not do what he tells it to, Kenneth Roth of HRW. Mr Roth has no researcher in Rwanda at present since his previous one forged signatures on her visa application and had to leave. Is Mr Kinzer in need of a job I wonder?

Anonymous said...

Kinzer may be under serious pressure from Kenneth Roth and other big guys within the Rights groups. After his first objective publications, you remember very well that he came under heat from Kenneth & Cie.

Kinzer may be trying to protect his job but he should remember that Rwanda is for Rwandans and we refused to be buldozed by those people with neo-colonialist tendencies.


Anonymous said...

Methinks that the Powers That Be have leaned on Kinzer to, ah, change his mind.

But I think Kinzer still gets the last laugh. His suggestion is so absurd, so hard to take seriously, that it's as if he's winking as he says between the lines, "You know I obviously don't believe what I'm saying but such is the way the world works that, as you know was inevitable, I am now forced to say the opposite. But in reality, I wish more power to you guys and all the best in your continuing struggle for dignity."

To better understand the modus operandi of these Powers That Be, read this illustrative article below, as well as other articles by the writer on is website:

Colored Opinions said...

Kinzer's article is merely an illustration of the changing consensus on what is happening in Rwanda. I don't buy all these theories by the Rwandan chapter of "conspiracy anonymous" that there is some neocolonial plan for Africa. Bloggers en journalists in the west just have opinions.

Anonymous said...

Opinions that have been shaped and molded and manipulated. It can be difficult to come to terms with having been a dupe.

Anonymous said...

I am the first Anonymous. My final para above was not serious.

I do not think that Kinzer is being pressurised although there is a common and wrongheaded idea in the US that if Rwanda is supported by the US then it can only be for colonial ambitions (and there is something in that) and Rwandans are not capable of making their own decisions or resisting interference.

Kinzer has lost his way badly. For example, he suggests that Bizimungu and Rusesabagina should be Kagame's allies and that the "gang of four" should be listened to.

Bizimungu spent time running his own businesses and then secretly setting up an ethnicly based political party contrary to the Constitution.

Rusesabagina is a former deputy-hotel manager who has been recruited by negative forces outside and now uses his Foundation to try to destabilise Rwanda and frustrate its development. No one has seriously suggested that he has anything positive to contribute to the running of the country. Gahima ran away because he was revealed to be corrupt.

One of Kinzer's errors is to treat such people with a seriousness they do not deserve. If he went to ask the ordinary people on the hills in Rwanda if they want the development gains rolled back so that Nyamwasa and others can "eat" (or if they think they are being ruled by a Tutsi elite) they would reject the idea. Perhaps it is time for Kinzer to go there and properly inform himself about Rwanda.

While the sentences given to "the gang of four" are notional - they will never come back to serve them - a sentence of 33 years for a journalist, as proposed by the prosecution, would be wholly disproportionate. Architects of the Genocide have got away with less.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in Europe now for more than a decade and my experience keeps reminding me a long journey we Africans have towards our own true emancipation and freedom.

Let me put it the right way! When you're from Africa living in a Western Country, you have no place in the media at any level to write all kind of whatever nonsense about their established instutitions. To the most youngest kid, you will be called a third world foreigner with nothing to tell people.

However, when you are a Westerner and find life boring for your own ineptitude to please yourself with what your society has to offer, then the easy escape is to find some so-called "humanitarian" avenue to serve the so-called "poor people of Africa". When you find this still boring since you have no mind for anything constructive, you bet first on getting onto your first plane to your homeland and begin to write bullshit about some top leaders in some corners of Africa.

I cannot agree more to Kagame when he gets to the point of telling you utterly to "go hang"!!!
So go hang if all you see in Africa is your damn dark world.
Btw, Africans are the most happiest people on earth! Did you know that?

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