Michela Wrong's "Do Not Disturb" is a scathing critique of Rwandan President Paul Kagame's authoritarian rule and the international community's failure to acknowledge it. Photo Handout PublicAffairs
Rwandan President Paul Kagame is often portrayed as his nation’s savior. But in her new book “Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad”, former Financial Times journalist Michela Wrong presents him as a ruthless dictator.
Michela Wrong’s investigation is a public relations disaster for Paul Kagame. “Do Not Disturb”, published by PublicAffairs, is a contemporary history book that reads like an intricate thriller. Wrong seeks to dismantle Kagame’s image as the saviour of Rwanda and the man who helped the small nation develop into the country it is today following the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis.
Her 500-page work is based mainly on interviews with those who have known Kagame all his life. From his youth growing up as a refugee in neighbouring Uganda to his rise to power following the genocide and his more than two decades as president.
The book focuses on two Rwandans who were once very close to Kagame: Fred Rwigyema and Patrick Karegeya. Both have since been murdered.
“Men of whom one can honestly say, ‘I never heard a bad word said about him’ are rare, but Fred Rwigyema appears to have been one of them,” writes Wrong.
Throughout the book he is described as a charismatic and humane leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in stark contrast to Kagame, who is portrayed as insecure and cruel. To this day the circumstances of Rwigyema’s 1990 death in northern Rwanda remain unclear – that same year the RPF first tried to overthrow president Habyarimana’s Hutu regime.
Wrong, who was a journalist for Reuters and the Financial Times in Africa for many years, knew Patrick Karegeya well. Karegeya served for a long time as Rwanda’s intelligence chief. But realising that Kagame was becoming increasingly authoritarian, he eventually fled to South Africa.
He was strangled to death in a Johannesburg hotel in January 2014. Kigali denies any involvement. But a few days after his death, Kagame declared: “Whoever is against our country will not escape our wrath.”
Threats 'dealt with preemptively, and extraterritorially'
Karegeya, the main character in the book, is portrayed as witty, intelligent and likeable. In contrast, Kagame is “introverted, suspicious, unaccountable, and a prey to sudden violence”.
It is Karageya who best explained the nature of the regime in 2003, when he was still close to Kagame.
“We have a higher population density than any other country in Africa,” he said. “So we have no space for another war (...) Because of that every threat will be dealt with preemptively, and extraterritorially (...) There are two countries in the world that have this doctrine, us and Israel.”
The Uganda years
Some of the most riveting chapters in the book recount the years the RPF leaders spent in Uganda. Many fled there in 1959 and in the following years after anti-Tutsi violence erupted in Rwanda.
They joined the rebellion led by now President Yoweri Museveni and helped him seize power in Kampala in 1986. As thanks, they were given high-ranking jobs in the Ugandan army. Gradually the RPF became an army within the army.
Museveni still says he was taken by surprise when it attacked Rwanda in 1990. “The mass departure was a major humiliation for the Ugandan government,” writes Wrong.
Over the years the relationship between Kagame and Museveni, his former mentor, would sour. The two countries later battled each other in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over access to the vast nation’s mineral resources, killing many Congolese civilians in the process.
The plane crash that triggered the genocide
The event that triggered the Rwandan genocide occurred in April 1994 when the plane carrying Hutu president Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down.
Wrong devotes many pages to the question of who fired the missile, whether Hutu extremists or the RPF. Kagame’s former allies, including Karegeya, declared after fleeing Rwanda that it was the RPF. But French judges concluded in 2012 the most likely culprits were Hutu extremists.
Three months after the start of the genocide the RPF seized power. During those three months, writes Wrong, “despite RPF’s ubiquitous modern-day label as the ‘former rebel group that stopped the genocide’, the movement’s priority at this juncture was capturing power, not saving lives”.
She describes how, 10 days after Habyarimana’s assassination, the RPF vehemently objected to the UN sending more peacekeepers to Rwanda. She also cites UN expert Robert Gersony’s conclusion that around 30,000 people were killed by the RPF in the months after the genocide.
Rwanda invades DR Congo
In 1996 Rwanda invaded DRC – then known as Zaire – ostensibly to pursue those responsible for the genocide who had fled there.
But the UN would also accuse Kagame’s men of killing thousands of Hutu civilians, including women and children. UN experts also accused the Rwandans of remaining several years in eastern DRC to plunder the country’s natural resources.
So why has the West, which failed to intervene during the genocide, been so lenient with Kagame all of these years? For Wrong, “there was the amorphous sense of guilt felt by white liberals toward the entire history of colonial oppression: (...) shame-faced feelings that stretched back through the generations and were associated with any community that had been victimized or gone ignored as the pampered West turned its stony face away”.
Rwanda is regularly denounced today by organisations like Human Rights Watch for repressing opposition and the lack of individual freedoms. Wrong believes that by choosing to ignore Kagame’s true nature, Western powers are effectively abandoning Rwandans a second time.
“Rwanda’s is a private grief,” she writes. - Nicolas GERMAIN, France 24
NAIROBI, KENYA — Catholic bishops in Uganda are mourning Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, who was found dead in his room April 3.
His death shocked the East African nation, where the archbishop had come to be known as a defender of the rights of the poor and the downtrodden. The cause of death was not released immediately.
The 68-year-old archbishop will be buried April 8 at St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart Cathedral Rubaga in Kampala.
Bishop Joseph Antony Zziwa, chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, expressed the bishops' deep regret at the death of the archbishop.
On April 2, the country had watched the archbishop join other Christian leaders in a Way of the Cross procession in St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral. The activity had been organized by the Uganda Joint Christian Council, an ecumenical grouping of Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Churches.
From time to time, Lwanga attracted the ire of government officials after he castigated injustices and government excesses. In 2018, he charged that the government had recruited priests and nuns to spy on him. The archbishop said a caller had told him that the government thought he wanted to overthrow it.
Recently, he had been condemning corruption, abductions, disappearances and killings related to January elections.
In his last message at the Good Friday gathering, Lwanga said the disappearance of people — especially young people — was brewing anger, divisions and anxiety among the citizens and contravened human rights frameworks.
"We are troubled that the disregard of God-given rights and freedoms will weaken our social fiber of harmony, social cohesion and responsive leadership," the archbishop said.
Religious, political and social leaders have continued to eulogize Lwanga. Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu said Lwanga's death left a huge gap in the Ugandan Catholic Church.
On April 3, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in a Twitter message: "With profound grief, I have learnt of the death of Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga. I join the Catholic Church, all religious faithful and the country in mourning Archbishop Lwanga. He died in faith."
Lwanga was born in Kyabakadde in the Buganda region of Uganda. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Kampala in 1978. He was named bishop of the new Diocese of Kasana-Luweero in 1996. In 2006, he became the archbishop of Kampala after the retirement of Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala. - Fredrick Nzwili, Catholic News Service/National Catholic Reporter
The CDC previously warned against unnecessary travel even for vaccinated people.Kevin Mohatt/Reuters
If you’ve had your shots, you can pack your bags. Americans who are fully vaccinated can travel domestically and internationally at “a low risk” to themselves as long as they mask up and avoid crowds, federal health officials said Friday.
US residents who have had their shots don’t need to quarantine or be tested for the coronavirus before or after traveling within the US, according to updated guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaccinated Americans don’t need to get a COVID-19 test before boarding an international flight — unless the country requires it — but should get one before returning to the US, according to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
“The new guidance today speaks to travel. We state that fully vaccinated people can resume travel at low risk to themselves,” Walensky said at a White House press briefing Friday.
“For example, fully vaccinated grandparents can fly [domestically] to visit their healthy grandchildren without getting a COVID-19 test or self-quarantining.”
“However, fully vaccinated people should get tested and have a negative test result before they board an international flight back into the United States,” she said.
Travelers flying to other countries should still be tested three to five days after arrival in the US, she said.
But she warned that now is not a good time to travel due to a recent surge in infections.
“While we believe fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases,” she said.
The agency previously warned against unnecessary travel even for vaccinated people, but said it would update its guidelines as more people got the jabs.
“Every day you get more data, and you change your guidance based on the existing data,” said Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska’s College of Public Health.
The Government announced on Friday that Kenya, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh would all be added to the red list – effectively banning entry to the UK for nationals of those countries.
Kenya’s ministry of foreign affairs branded the decision “discriminatory” in a response posted to Twitter, warning there was a risk of a “vaccine apartheid” between nations who are “hoarding” jabs and the rest of the world.
The ministry also said there had been no communication from UK counterparts ahead of the change of rules for travellers made on Friday.
The statement said: “Kenya continues to see, with deep regret, that vaccine producing countries around the world have begun practicing a form of vaccine nationalism, possessiveness and discrimination – coupled with a vaccine hoarding attitude that can only be described as a form of ‘vaccine apartheid’.
“During a global pandemic such as the world is witnessing, it is difficult to imagine what could inform such behaviour by nations.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said on Friday that the decision to add Kenya to the red list came in response to concerns over a number of new variants of Covid-19.
The restrictions mean travellers who have been in Kenya and other red list countries in the previous ten days will be barred from entering the UK, though British and Irish citizens, as well as those with residence rights in Britain, will be allowed to enter subject to a strict isolation period.
In response to the Government’s move, Kenya introduced its own restrictions on travel from the UK, imposing similar measures to those faced by travellers going the other way.
Kenya recently introduced new lockdown restrictions in five counties due to a third wave of coronavirus.
The country, which is heavily reliant on tourism, began Covid-19 vaccinations on 5 March, with the Government saying it hoped the campaign would mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
But three weeks later its president Uhuru Kenyatta described soaring infections and the highest daily death rate since the pandemic began.
Kenya as of Thursday this week had reported 126,170 cases and 2,092 deaths in total. By George Martin, i News
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