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The Kagame Dilemma

Author: Charles Landow, Director, Education Content
September 8, 2010
International Herald Tribune


No one is quite sure what to make of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. Since his re-election this month with 93 percent of the vote, the United States has reacted warily. The White House cited “a series of disturbing events” in a statement that pointedly congratulated “the people of Rwanda,” not Kagame himself. “Democracy is about more than holding elections,” the statement said.

This is a step in the right direction. The United States and others must continue supporting Rwandans without directly boosting Kagame.

Why is this uncertain embrace necessary? After all, Kagame has made his country one of Africa's development stars. The economy is growing, the streets are clean and secure, corruption is under control, and women enjoy a prominent role. Between 2000, when Kagame took office, and 2008, Rwanda's total economic output and per capita income more than doubled. The primary school completion rate rose from just over one-fifth to just over half. Life expectancy increased from 43 years to 50.

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