Alex Perry Interviews Rwandan President Paul Kagame

by Reihan Salam

I was very impressed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s exchange with Alex Perry of Time. Kagame is a controversial figure, particularly in western human rights circles. Recently, Rwanda has been criticized for its role in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, which Kagame addresses at length in the interview. The following is a brief passage that gives some small insight into Kagame’s worldview:

TIME: I have a theory: the institutions and structures of world opinion and the international community are set up for an Africa of disaster, of famine, of wars. It’s about peacekeeping, it’s about saving babies, it’s about pointing out where governments are failing. And I wonder whether those structures are poorly adjusted to dealing with a country that demands respect and sovereignty and the choice to tell its own story?

Kagame: You are really putting it in the right way. This is the matter. Look at aid. We agree that it is about helping people to stand on their own. But at the same time [it works out that] they actually they fail to stand on their own. They are dependent.

So you have two tracks. [The international community] talk about self-determination. Human Rights Watch says we are all on the same page. But at the same time it is very clear that you are also creating a situation that undermines all of that. That is what Rwanda is facing. Should Rwanda accept it and say this is the way the international community works and we remain where we are? We say: “No. We have a respect for the international system. But we also have our own self-respect.

Time has already shown the results. You know this place. You know where we have come from. We are making good progress. Even the poorest of the poor will tell you we are in a different place than we were yesterday. From $1 a day we are now $3 or 4 or 5 or 6. And this has happened under this kind of pressure, this jostling between self-determination versus the international system, which says: “There are some people who should stay where they are and we are the only ones who can determine how and why they get out of this.” It’s a struggle every day.

I recommend taking a look. 

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.