The difficulty in writing a dissertation is that you have to read an awful lot of stuff, of which most is largely irrelevant to what you want to find out. After all, the point is that you are doing original research, so the answer aren’t going to be laid out in black and white in a book in front of you.
As a consequence you find that time to read other things becomes more limited, which means that the stuff you do read tends to stick with you. Just like this article, which appeared in the Telegraph a few weeks ago. It is really quite an interesting insight into the redevelopment of Rwanda after all the horrors which the country suffered from in the past tewnty years.
As I read the article I was equally impressed and appalled, which, judging from the article’s title, I suppose was sort of the point. I don’t know what to think of Kagame. I don’t know whether to be impressed with all that has happened to Rwanda since the genocide, or whether to be concerned about the continuing role of an educated dictator in a war-torn environment. I don’t know whether to like Kagame for all that has been achieved under his rule, or fearful that when he departs, the country may collapse around itself once more.
I remember watching Kagame on Top Gear a while ago. In fact, I think I may even have blogged about him then. It was a confusing issue then, and remains so. Are we supposed to like this man, this leader who has dragged Rwanda from civil war into the twenty-first centruy almost single handedly? Or are we meant to criticise him for being another of the world’s dictators, controlling a country through a regime of fear masked by democracy?
Or perhaps that is not the point. Perhaps the point is that we are just meant to watch, like the world did in the 90′s. Perhaps Rwanda doesn’t need or want the help of the MEDC’s. Perhaps we are meant to accept the role of Kagame in Rwandan history, take him for all his merits and problems.
Perhaps though the point of the article was not even that deep. Perhaps we are just meant to remember. To remember all the things which happened in Rwanda, to not forget that an incomparable genocide happened in this country not so very long ago, and its redevelopment in such a short space of time is remarkable. Perhaps we are meant to simply remember that there is an African country which should be held up as a beacon for the continent.
Of course, the timing of the publication of the article was significant. Whilst the eyes of the world were on South Africa for a month or more, it is easy to forget that the rest of the continent continutes to suffer under various ailments. It is easy, and convenient to forget Darfur. It is easy, and convenient to forget Zimbabwe and Mugabe. It is easy and convenient to forget HIV, drug smuggling, illegal gangs, blood diamonds, the gun trade.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the article was there to remind us of the two sides of Africa, so ably epitomised by Kagame. On the one hand there is a man, country and continent moving forward, developing at a pretty impressive rate. But on the other there is darkness, there is militia, there are guns, violence and death. There is the undercurrent of fear and forceful control of the people. There are continuing medical issues.
And perhaps that is the point, Kagame is not the finished product. It is likely to be almost impossible to change the mindset of a country in such a short period of time. His dictatorial control is perhaps necessary to resurrect the country, to drag it away from its past. Perhaps, in some cases, democracy can only be built upon the strength of a few. The past was horrific, the future is intriguing.