Jun 29, 2010

Where is the line?

Paul Kagame has been a darling of the international community since he took office in Rwanda almost 7 years ago. He and his troops have been credited for putting an end to the brutal killings that marred this little nation during the 100 bloody days in 1994.

As President he has been touted as a progressive through his appointments of women cabinet members (which I’ve personally cheered on this blog), and his efforts to promote Rwanda as a fertile territory for investment. Foreign aid pours in, and the country may well be one of the few African countries to reach the millennium development goals.

However, disturbing information continues to seep out about Kagame’s grip on power. These include the suppression of media, arrests of opposition leaders, and the country’s role in the current conflict(s) in the DRC. There has to be some truth in the allegations, yet very people are willing to talk about it openly let alone criticise Kagame.

So, is restricting the press and opposition parties acceptable, if the country is progressing? Where do we draw line and say, “Sir, you have indeed crossed the line, and we cannot let you continue down that path because you are a threat to our wellbeing”. Also, are these freedoms germane to development? 

4 comments:

Fascinating question, Bwalya. I've had similar wonderings about places like Cuba where a repressive government hinders freedom and there is no freedom of speech but people have good health care and have avoided many of the horrors visited on other countries similar in economic status. Cuba had almost no AIDS crisis while the disease ravaged (and still ravages) Haiti. But to do so, they did forced quarantine and all kinds of other actions that destroyed personal freedom.
I want to like Kagame. And I want to cheer Rwanda's recovery. But the line does exist somewhere and I'm just not sure where it should be...

Perfect example of Craig Murray's seven year rule in action, sadly. "All governments everywhere in the world, even if they started clean, are after seven years deeply mired in sleaze. It applies everywhere."

Marilee, this is something I still grapple with personally. What freedoms would I willingly give up for the promise of security and stability?

I understand that Rwanda remains fragile with the existing ethnic tensions, and it wouldn't take much for the thread to unravel but there has to be a limit on how the government cracks down on its people. Yes, let it be known that hate speech inciting violence is unacceptable but must all speech critical of the government be painted with the same brush?

Adam, I'm inclined to agree with Craig Murray's assessment. The longer political players remain on the scene the more inclined they are to centralise power for themselves and their cronies, and as they grow more powerful that power is more likely to corrupt.

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