|“||There are some who are afraid for the construction and unity of a country based on ideas.||„|
|~ Paul Kagame|
Paul Kagame (Gitarama, October 23, 1957) is a Rwandan politician and current President of Rwanda since 2000. He is the longest-tenured president in Rwandan history, as well as the first and only Tutsi to have held the post.
Though Kagame has received praise for making reforms to Rwanda's economy, education system, and healthcare, as well as turning Rwanda into one of the safest countries in Africa, he has also received widespread criticism for political repression, as well as forced disappearances and assassinations regarding his political opponents. He is widely regarded as a benevolent dictator and has often been compared to Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore.
Kagame was born in the city of Gitarama, in the central region of the country, and emigrated with his family to Uganda, taking refuge from the attacks suffered by the Tutsis, his ethnic group, perpetrated by Hutus. At the age of 22 Kagame joined Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA), armed guerrillas fighting for the overthrow of the Ugandan president Milton Obote. Having succeeded, Kagame founded the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1986, along with other Tutsi refugees, with the aim of seizing power in Rwanda.
With the attack that killed Rwandan Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana in 1994, a civil war broke out, a conflict that opposed the Hutu and Tutsi. During the crisis resulting from Rwandan Genocide, the RPF took advantage of the situation to invade the country and ended the conflict by supplanting rival forces. A coalition government was formed, under the presidency of the moderate Hutu Pasteur Bizimungu, with Paul Kagame as vice president. Kagame was designated as the country's strongman, who was involved in that period in the First and Second War of the Congo, motivated by ethnic tensions and access to lucrative mineral resources.
In 2000, after disagreements, Bizimungu resigned, and Kagame provisionally assumed power, backed by Parliament. His government is accused of preventing freedom of the press and expression. Kagame was elected in 2003 by universal suffrage, although the election was very controversial.
- Infamously, during the First Congo War, Kagame allowed troops of the Rwanda-backed Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo to murder Hutu civilians in retaliation for the Rwandan Genocide, with the "official" reason for doing so being to eradicate any Interahamwe fugitives; however, many of those targeted in these attacks were not Interahamwe members at all.
- Most notably, assaults on Hutu refugee camps (with the 1995 Kibeho Massacre probably being the best example) and the slaughter of Hutus fleeing the assaults, which were committed with permission from Kagame, were deemed an act of genocide. This could also be considered collective punishment of Hutus.
- As part of the invasion, Kagame sponsored two controversial rebel wars in Zaire. The Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebels won the first war (1996–97), installing Laurent-Désiré Kabila as president in place of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and renaming the country as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The second war was launched in 1998 against Kabila, and later his son Joseph, following the DRC government's expulsion of Rwandan and Ugandan military forces from the country.
- Although Kagame's primary reason for the two wars in the Congo was Rwanda's security, he was alleged to gain economic benefit by exploiting the mineral wealth of the eastern Congo. The 2001 United Nations Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo alleged that Kagame, along with Ugandan President Museveni, were "on the verge of becoming the godfathers of the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo".
- Former Rwandan officials have alleged that President Kagame has ordered the murder and disappearance of political opponents. In a 2014 report titled "Repression Across Borders", Human Rights Watch documented at least 10 cases involving attacks or threats against critics outside Rwanda since the late 1990s. The organization asserts the victims were likely targeted due to criticisms of the Rwandan government, the RPF or President Paul Kagame.
- An eight-year investigation by the French government also concluded that Kagame had ordered the assassination of President Habyarimana. This result was subsequently disputed, and the United Nations refrained from issuing a definitive finding. Mark Doyle noted in 2006 that the identities of the assassins "could turn out to be one of the great mysteries of the late 20th Century"
- He has been accused of corruption and voter fraud.
- He is allied with Tanzanian president John Magufuli.
- He has censored the media. Any government criticism is equated with genocide denial.
- After his election, Kagame ordered the arrest and imprisonment of Pasteur Bizimungu on false charges of treason.
- He is alleged to have supported the March 23 Movement, a terrorist group that operated in the Eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- In recent years, illegal smuggling of minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become prominent in Rwanda, with Kagame himself allegedly having a hand in these activities, selling the minerals to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, and China, among others.
- He is believed to have ordered the abduction and unlawful arrest of Paul Rusesabagina in August 2020, accusing him of being involved with various terrorist organizations, including the FDLR. Rusesabagina's lawyers have stated that he had been threatened with torture and that his flight was diverted to Rwanda.
- Kagame and Rusesabagina had a public feud for a number of years due to Rusesabagina's criticism of Kagame's government; he has accused Kagame of placing Tutsi interests above the good of Rwanda and has also brought attention to the war crimes committed by the RPF during the civil war. However, in 2014, Rusesabagina decided to publicly forgive Kagame for the sake of moving past the genocide.
- After Rusesabagina’s arrest, numerous media sources in Rwanda have accused him of being a genocide denier despite his role in sheltering victims.