Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Darling Dictator of the Day

by Marc Sommers

New York Times

May 27, 2012

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame is accustomed to accolades. On May 12, he received yet another honorary degree, this time from William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Celebrating Kagame is in vogue because he is credited with leading a remarkable recovery from war and genocide in the heart of Africa.

There certainly have been achievements in Kagame’s Rwanda. Economic growth has been climbing (G.D.P. growth for 2011 was more than 8 percent) and private investment is a featured component of that growth (Costco and Starbucks now buy about a quarter of Rwanda’s premium coffee crop).

In fact, the World Bank ranks Rwanda as the eighth easiest place to start a new business. The government is renowned for reducing corruption, expanding security, addressing genocidal crimes and increasing women’s rights.

Yet while Kagame is no Idi Amin or Charles G. Taylor, he does not merit his reputation as a visionary modernizer. The reason is simple: his state is all about force.