Kagame And La Francophonie. How The Rwandan General Punches Above His Weight.

By David Himbara

*This article is revised on October 14, 2018, from the original version published on May 26, 2018.

Give credit where due. General Paul Kagame loves and knows how to acquire power in and outside Rwanda. The final tally in the 2017 presidential elections gave Kagame 98.63% of the vote — North Korea style. Outside Rwanda, Kagame cleverly uses what I call the Donald Kaberuka modelThis is Kagame’s strategy to punch above his weight in his attempt to influence the donor community from which he receives US$1 Billion per year in foreign aid.

General Paul Kagame and Louise Mushikiwabo, after the latter became Secretary General of the Francophonie on October 12, 2018.

Kagame’s strategy is to embed subservient subordinates into key international and continental institutions. Once embedded in external agencies, Kagame’s underlings push his agenda by remote control. The deployment of Louise Mushikiwabo is part and parcel of this strategy. Before I explain the Kaberuka model and how Mushikiwabo fits into it, however, a bit of background is essential.

Kagame’s ministers and military officers end up in three categories

First, Kagame routinely dismisses his ministers and military officers. Once removed from office, they are marginalized and quietly sink into poverty.

Former leaders Patrick Mazimhaka and Jacques Bihozagara died in poverty.

Think of former ministers such as Patrick Mazimhaka and Jacques Bihozagara. Both were prominent and accomplished leaders of the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The two men were dismissed, marginalized, and died in dire poverty.

In the second category are Kagame’s ministers and military officers who flee into exile. Some of them die mysteriously.

Sendashonga (left) killed in Kenya. Karegeya (middle) was strangled to death in South Africa. Nyamwasa survived four assassination attempt in South Africa.

This was the fate of former minister Seth Sendashonga assassinated in Kenya in 1998 and Patrick Karegeya, former chief of intelligence strangled to death in South Africa in 2013. The former army chief of staff, Kayumba Nyamwasa survived four assassination attempts in South Africa.

Kagame’s ”Donald Kaberuka model”

The third category is the Kaberuka model. Kagame uses this category to kill two birds with one stone.

  1. Kagame gets rid of long-serving ministers but retains and redeploys them abroad.
  2. Kagame embeds these types into key and strategic global and African institutions as influencers and power-mongers.

For the Kaberuka model to work, however, Kagame needs a particular type of personality. The individual Kagame chooses for this role must be meekly obedient and passive — he or she must have served Kagame with total loyalty and in silent acquiescence. Kagame is able to use the remote control on these types when deployed outside Rwanda. The likelihood of these types taking independent actions from Kagame’s orders is zero — geographical distances notwithstanding.

In Kaberuka’s case, after obediently serving as finance minister for eight years, his time was up. Kagame wanted to get rid of Kaberuka but still considered him a useful tool. Kagame then ruthlessly campaigned for Kaberuka to become the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Kaberuka never imagined that this was possible. But Kagame, supported by the donor lobby, put Kaberuka into the presidential seat of Africa’s premier institution — AfDB.

Kagame was not primarily motivated by AfDB’s loans and grants. No. He sought to maximize power, influence, and prestige. Via Kaberuka, Kagame acquired a seat at the table of who’s who of global multilateral and bilateral agencies. Upon completion of his tenure at AfDB, Kaberuka went right back to Kagame. Kaberuka is now Kagame’s roving expert, influencer, and spokesman at global gatherings. Kaberuka is also Kagame’s frontman in reforming the African Union.

Enter Kagame’s foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo and La Francophonie

When Kagame proposed his minister of foreign affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, to head La Francophonie, some people were surprised. To those who closely follow Kagame’s maneuvers, however, his actions made sense. Mushikiwabo is the perfect tool for implementing the Kaberuka model at La Francophonie.

First, Mushikiwabo has long past her expiration date. Serving as foreign minister in Kagame’s cabinet for nearly 10 years is a remarkable achievement. But it is time to go. Second, Mushikiwabo cannot be accused of possessing any independent thoughts. If Kagame told Mushikiwabo to jump, all she would ask is how high. Kagame is his own foreign minister. Mushikiwabo is a rubber stamp.

Now that she is heading La Francophonie, Mushikiwabo will do Kagame’s bidding within the European French-speaking world, especially France, that has never warmed up to Kagame. Even more crucially, Kagame needs the African part of La Francophonie. Kagame has built a robust alliance with most of French West Africa in recent years. RwandAir, the national career, has established its regional hub in Cotonou, Benin. From there, RwandAir serves Conakry, Guinea; Bamako, Mali; and Dakar, Senegal. This is in addition to the three destinations, namely, Libreville, Gabon; Brazzaville, Congo; and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Mushikiwabo’s job at La Francophonie will be to watch France and to market RwandAir.

Kagame’s Kaberuka model worked in AfDB. Will the scheme work in La Francophonie?

Mushikiwabo and Kaberuka — Kagame’s gloves for punching above weight.

The English phrase ”punching above one’s weight” refers to a country that is punching above its weight — in other words, a nation that has more influence internationally than its size would suggest. To achieve this, Kagame uses the ”Kaberuka model” whereby Kagame deploys obedient former ministers into key global and African institutions to peddle influence. Kaberuka was the most successful Kagame project. In this case Kagame embedded Kaberuka into AfDB. Similarly, Kagame has deployed Mushikiwabo in La Francophonie. Kagame is ready to punch above his weight in the French-speaking world.

Lastly, Kagame’s nomination of Mushikiwabo reveals a measure of desperation on Kagame’s part

Kagame no longer an American darling. When President Trump hosted African leaders for lunch at the UN in 2017, Kagame was not invited. Rwanda was expelled from AGOA in 2018.

At one time, Kagame had rejected everything French. Overnight, he turned Rwanda into an English-speaking nation. Once in total control, Kagame unapologetically lifted Rwanda from French onto Anglo-American world. Kagame became the darling of the United States. Fast-forward to 2018. Kagame’s friends are no longer in power in Washington. Kagame is definitely not welcome in Donald Trump’s America. Might this change account for Kagame’s sudden affection of La Francophonie?