How Rwanda’s president won praise from despite militia group links


Luxury life of ‘despot’ blamed for human rights abuses: How Rwanda’s president won praise from Tony Blair and David Cameron despite record of militia group links

  • The president of Rwanda is facing questions about human rights in his country
  • Tony Blair and David Cameron have previously praised the African leader
  • Paul Kagame, 64, revitalised the economy of Rwanda after the 1994 genocide
  • But the economic growth has hidden authoritarian tendencies, critics say
  • Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration behind the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, in what his family called a show trial

The president of Rwanda has won plaudits from former prime ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron despite being branded a ‘despot’ and blamed for human rights abuses.

Paul Kagame, 64, has sold Rwanda as a success story in the developing world over three decades.

He has courted foreign leaders and royalty – including a 2020 meeting with Prince William at Buckingham Palace – to win praise as a dynamic and progressive president.

His government has also spent millions of pounds brushing up Rwanda’s image by sponsoring Premier League team Arsenal.

But critics claim he is guilty of murderous authoritarianism which has enabled him to remain in power for 28 years.

Rwanda President Paul Kagame has been applauded by successive British prime ministers, but critics claim his regime is guilty of human rights abuses

He led the militia groups who ended the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which saw more than 500,000 people massacred.

Then US President Bill Clinton said Kagame was ‘one of the greatest leaders of our time’, Lord Blair called him a ‘visionary’, and Mr Cameron said his regime was a ‘role model for development’.

But in recent years negative stories have over-shadowed his country’s economic success.

Last December, Paul Rusesabagina – the inspiration for the hero character in Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda – was sentenced to 25 years in prison for allegedly founding a terrorist group. His family branded it a show trial.

The former hotel boss-turned-opposition leader had been praised for shielding thousands of potential genocide victims in 1994.

But he criticised Rwanda’s human rights abuses after Kagame came to power.

Kagame’s intelligence services have also been suspected of killing critics abroad, but none of the allegations has been proven.

When arch-critic Colonel Patrick Karegeya was murdered in a hotel in South Africa in 2014, Kagame said: ‘When you choose to live like a dog, you die like a dog.’

A recent book claimed the Metropolitan Police provided protection for Rwandan opposition figures threatened in London.

Kagame is known for his luxurious lifestyle and travels in a £50million executive jet and an armour-plated Range Rover worth an estimated £300,000.

His son Ivan sits on the board of Rwanda’s investment agency and lives in a £5million Beverly Hills mansion.

Rwanda president Paul Kagame poses with Arsenal legend Tony Adams in 2014. He has been trying to brush up the country’s international image by investing in the football club

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