20 Surprises You Never Knew About President Kagame
If you haven’t read Francois Soudan’s book, “Conversations with the President of Rwanda”, KT Press has sampled a few surprises from the 133-page-biography which you may have not heard about Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Kagame is, as he describes himself, an introspective person. He has a softer life like anyone else. He has ups and downs too. He has principles or particular beliefs. He has memories as well.
Kagame detests instructions or orders. He says he takes his responsibilities very seriously and does not go along with anybody looking over his shoulders. “I will not have my conduct dictated to me, whether it concerns my country or myself.”
Watch out dishonest people
Kagame believes in justice and fair treatment. He says fair-mindedness is his greatest quality. For him, the first quality he looks at is one’s character. He gravely dislikes dishonest people.
Pilot or engineer
Unless one points it out, Kagame finds trouble knowing his weakness, but celebrates that he has professionally succeeded to remain who he is. Despite having changed careers along the way, his dream job was flying planes or being an engineer and live a free life.
Yet to achieve ‘lifetime wish’
Kagame is not very much different from many when it comes to happiness. He enjoys success. Achieving his ambitions pleases him the most. He however hasn’t achieved his lifetime wish; seeing a prosperous Rwanda that is free from others’ generosity.
He wishes to see a stable Rwanda and Africa with a sense of self-worth where citizens have equal living standards to those who take it for granted. Until now, for Kagame, Genocide was and is beyond a misfortune.
We have heard of leaders and rulers who wished to be or emulate Alexander the Great. Revolutionaries have also been inspired by earlier revolutionaries such as the Frenchman Maximilian Robespierre or the Cuban Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
President Kagame has widely read about all these figures – talks about them and explains how he studied their philosophies, but when asked to mention any heroes he would like to emulate, he out rightly answered, “I can’t think of any.”
On a softer part, Kagame seems to have moved on. Not to say he does not have images of the Rwandan tragedy, but because of the level of success Rwanda has registered through solving insurmountable challenges and problems where the world seemed to have no solutions to offer. Asked about his frame of mind. “Serene”, he said.
Food and Alcohol
Kagame once said he is a vegetarian, but in this book, he drops another surprise. Whatever you may serve, Kagame can eat, as long as people he is with can eat too. You do not have to worry about what to serve Kagame if you ever invited him.
And does he like alcohol? A big NO! Wait a minute, whenever the circumstances call for it, he can sample a half-glass of wine than drink it. But he does well with a cup of tea or a glass of water.
The bombshell – which Languages?
Kagame speaks quite a number of languages, especially from the Great Lakes Region; Kiswahili, Luganda, Runyankore, and others. Infact, we have heard him make one or two statements in French, but not on Spanish, right?
Now, never make a mistake talking about him in Spanish, Lo sientomi amigo, he will embarrass you. While in Cuba, his classes were conducted in Spanish, but with English translation.
Like father like son
Wondered why Kagame is a business friendly leader, well, his father was not only a herdsman, but a coffee businessman who promoted coffee growing and farming in Rwanda.
He ran the founded and successful managed first cooperative in Rwanda. Which one? Better read the book!
Kagame admits that he is an introspective character. You would expect him not to mention any family secrets, but in the book he reveals how a Belgian Good Samaritan paid his school fees. How about personal wealth?
President Kagame owns no offshore assets nor keeps money in foreign banks, except a small amount of cash in a ‘special account’. What is with this account; find the book from your nearest bookshop to discover yourself.
Where are his sisters?
You have probably heard a talk of a principled man Kagame. It is reveled in the book – how he settled his bills in the United States before a sudden flight to Uganda after Gen. Fred Rwigema’s death.
But the most interesting part is how he has kept his siblings out of politics. Three of Kagame’s sisters live in Rwanda. None of them is a public servant and receive ZERO favours.
Fred Rwigema and the ‘Rwanda project’
When Kagame visited Rwanda in 1977, Rwandan authorizes thought he was Ugandan. They let him in several times. He discusses his exploration mission.
Meanwhile, his friend Fred had suddenly disappeared from school for about three years. And everyone thought he might have died. When he returned, the two talked. “I understood…why he had disappeared,” Kagame says.
Kagame explains how joining the military was not a career move, but to gain experience for the “return to Rwanda project” he had discussed with Rwigema long time ago.
His views on attempts by other colleagues to return to Rwanda are interesting. You will find out why he declined playing an active role in RANU activities. Kagame was skeptical and held reservations.
And Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni?
Kagame is widely known to have been an intelligence officer under President Museveni right from the bush to government. NOTE REALLY! “I was just an ordinary fighter.”
And the stories of how fierce and feared he was? “…I just did my job, that’s all,” he says. You have probably not heard his word regarding Museveni. “There was a lot to admire him for and good reasons to associate with him,” says Kagame.
The BEEF and facing the enemy he knew
While at a military training in the USA in 1989, Kagame was with Belgian and French colonels. Coincidentally, the French colonel was the commander of the infamous Opération Turquoise which provided a cordon for genocide militia in western and Southern Rwanda for them to flee to then Zaire.
The French arrest
In 1992, Kagame was arrested by French security and interrogated. He has never raised it with any French government, be it under Jacques Chirac or Nicolas Zarkozy. And remember, Sarkozy was in Rwanda on state visit in 2010.
Kagame was also in Paris earlier. The fact that Kagame now reveals that he has never raised his arrest with the French establishment, is telling in itself.
Any apology? None!
President Kagame has been very straight about habouring resentment for France and Belgium’s role in the genocide, but a little specific about the mistreatment in France in 1992 during talks to resolve the crisis in Rwanda.
He may have one or two people he holds grudge for, like any normal human being, but in this book, Kagame tells Soudan about a man he will never forget in his life – Paul Dijoud.
Dijoud was director of African Affairs in the foreigner affairs ministry. He told Kagame that if he did not stop fighting, and seizing the country, he would find his people massacred by the time he took over Kigali.
“I have never forgotten his name,” Kagame says. In the book, he mentions several names of people he was with during that fateful trip in Paris – two of them will surprise you!
Mobutu and the Kabillas
Kagame speaks of two reasons why Rwanda ended up in Congo. First, Rwanda was defending itself against Mobutu’s continued project to attack Rwanda, having earlier attacked Rwanda to as far as Gabiro.
Secondly, it is not entirely true that Rwanda supported Laurent Desire Kabila to overthrow Mobutu, who would later be an ally in the fight against the genocidal militia threatening to attack Rwanda.
In fact, Kagame says, “I have never in the least trusted that man and I had even less to do with putting him in power, we helped him though, that much is true.”
But why Kabila of all the Congolese? “Yes, he was a controversial personality, but the only alternative and a lesser evil.” What about his son and current president Joseph Kabila? “…they could have chosen Kabila’s wife or uncle-for there were many uncles in their government at the time…they (Congolese) chose his son, which is neither our concern nor our responsibility.”
Wearing Bizimungu’s jacket
When Kagame was both Vice President and Defense Minister, many reports suggested that power was literally in his hands.
Bizimungu was thus a briefcase president. What does Kagame say about it? Well, “Not by design, however, more by default.”
Is Kagame a feminist?
For those who say Kagame is making Rwanda a matriarchy nation, with the 30% system and a majority in parliament. There are many more of such policies which support women emancipation.
In parliament last, some voices were complaining that men would start to feel discriminated. Kagame has a simple message for anybody who views his women-leaning policies; “Let them keep that to themselves.”
Money, coup d’état and presidential job seekers
While Kagame insists he owns no assets or money offshore, he says money is not an end to whatever he aspires to do, but a means to the end.
Kagame is well aware of people who want his job badly. And is convinced sooner or later, someone will take over, BUT NOT BY A GUN. Find out why he thinks so. Interesting indeed!
International Criminal Court (ICC)
Kagame swears he will never sign the ICC statutes. He has reasons, including not trusting the court.
Well, that’s not all about President Kagame in the book, KT Press recommends you read it and learn more about the man some have described as CEO of Rwanda Inc.