Watching you, watching us, watching you.

An open letter to President Paul Kagame

Photo credit © Hatim Kaghat

Dear President Kagame,

For too long now, we have been watching you break long-standing, thoroughly codified and well-understood international conventions for the behaviour of democratic nation states. There are many words that describe those who hold power for over two decades with supposed majorities of over 80%. Democratic is not one of them.

We have watched the extraordinary promise you once showed to run a nation for the benefit, safety and security of all its citizens, a promise that offered hope, safety, prosperity and security for all Rwandans, reduced to a desperate stranglehold on personal power that has caused Rwanda to be regarded as a ‘rogue nation’ in the eyes of much of the international community.

We have watched as you have driven your economy into the ground, dependent on international aid from the very nations whose laws and democracy you criticise, while making ever more outrageous claims for Rwanda’s future prosperity and technological progress. All the while poverty levels, hunger and lack of adequate healthcare become an ever-growing problem within your country.

We have watched as you have suppressed — to the point of near non-existence — any Rwandan press and media outlets that disagree with or criticise you and your methods. In so doing you have prevented your own citizens from knowing the truth of what you are doing and how you are doing it. Your streets may be clean, in Kigali at least, but your record is stained with the misery and blood of those who have stood up to you. Or tried to.

We have watched as you relentlessly pursue a politically driven show trial, brought about by illegal means and based on fallacious accusations, which has presented no hard evidence to support the charges made against the defendants and shown no compliance with the international standards of legal due process that your judiciary claim to uphold. In so doing you have contravened human rights laws and agreements, raised serious questions about the independence of the Rwandan judiciary, and more besides, all to vindictively pursue those who merely stand against you, hold you to account or criticise you and your government.

We have watched as you welcome and shake hands with representatives of the Commonwealth Organisation, in so doing making them complicit in your travesty of the democratic principles that lie at the heart of the Commonwealth raison d’être. That you violate so much of the Commonwealth charter you signed up to, does a great disservice to those member nations that work so hard to uphold its principles and objectives

We have, in short, watched as, through personal ambition, fear and paranoia, you have turned Rwanda into a pariah state.

And then, while all this is happening, we find that you have been watching us, spying on individuals who are critical of you, using Pegasus hacking software, which is known to be extraordinarily expensive and used by a roster of nations judged by the international community to have appalling records of adherence to human rights, democratic principles, freedoms of expression, rule of law and due process.

Photo credit © Hatim Kaghat

What is worse, you have hacked and spied on Carine Kanimba, a single young woman who is doing her utmost to secure the freedom of her father, Paul Rusesabagina. A woman who with few resources has built up impressive international support to ensure that you do not silence her father as you have silenced so many, all the while knowing that your record of ‘disappearing’ or murdering critics makes her father a target for your brutal methods.

Her success in gaining global media attention for how you abducted, renditioned and tortured Mr Rusesabagina may be the only thing preventing you from adding atrocity to the long list of illegality in his case.

President Kagame, all the above are the actions of the desperate, the policies of an abusive power that serves the few at the cost of the majority.

No respected national leader spies on those who merely disagree with them. Remember Nixon?

No president worthy of the title abuses the power of his office so comprehensively without cost. Remember Nicolae Ceausescu, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi?

Compassion is as much a part of the Presidential palette of power as force is.

I therefore implore you to release Paul Rusesabagina on compassionate grounds, knowing that the coverage you will receive for doing so will do much to improve your international standing.

For the world is watching you President Kagame and it does not like what it sees.

#FreeRusesabagina is fighting for the freedom of the international humanitarian activist Paul Rusesabagina.