A colossal mistake

I was shocked to learn from my former student, Kayla Oliver LAW ’18, now an editor of the Yale Law Journal, that Yale invited President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the most murderous dictator in all Africa, to speak about democracy. That was a colossal mistake.

During my first weeks serving as U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, the twin-country neighbor of Rwanda, I joined the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda to meet then-Col. Paul Kagame. He was dressed in camouflage uniform and stood in a shattered warehouse amid the rubble in the capital city, Kigali. Open warfare in the most disastrous genocide in decades had ended only a few weeks before. But revenge had not.

I told Kagame that the UN Refugee Camp, four miles inside the Burundi-Rwanda border, was still receiving 1,000 new Rwandan refugees daily. In my visit to the camp — which housed almost 100,000 — I interviewed camp refugees, asking when they would return to their home country. Their reply was always the same: “When Kagame’s forces stop killing us.”

Kagame’s response to me was insufficient. He told me that occasionally some of his troops might engage in personal retribution, but that revenge was not his policy. This was not the case: genocidal killing and intimidation have, in fact, been his consistent policy for all his 22 years in power.

Human Rights Watch, among others, has documented some his continuing civil rights violations. The United Kingdom, Spain and several European nations no longer grant this head of state entry into their countries.

My wife’s and my book “From Bloodshed to Hope in Burundi,” endorsed by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and by Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of “Hotel Rwanda” and a U.S. Medal of Freedom recipient, has a chapter on Kagame and the consequences of his murderous actions on Burundi.

Why has the USA not censured Kagame?

Probably because Kagame himself and some of his troops were trained at a US military base in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, in the 1990s. The Pentagon has held banquets honoring this horrific dictator.

Several years ago I phoned a Danish missionary, Knut Hansen, who had lived 32 years along the Rwandan border in ministering, educating and caring for the people of Burundi and Rwanda. When asked for his current assessment of Kagame, he replied “Bob, Kagame is the worst dictator in all of Africa; there is blood all over his hands.”

It is well-known and widely published that Kagame’s secret police murdered on the streets in South Africa a former member of Kagame’s administration who had abandoned Kagame and gone into hiding. This killing is well documented and legendary.

He claims to now have democratic elections with numerous political parties having names on the ballot. But Kagame’s people count the votes and give him over 90 percent of those cast. Citizens, knowing they have no secret ballot, either do not vote, or for their own safety, cast their votes for Kagame. It is as if Hitler or Stalin were holding the elections. These elections are not secret or trust worthy; the populous votes as Kagame wants for fear of retribution.

Yet Yale has honored him. Those at Yale who invited Kagame should remember the famous admonition of a 19th-century head of Magdalene College, Oxford: “You will find it a good idea, sir, always to verify your references.”

Senator Robert Krueger is a former US Ambassador to Burundi, US Ambassador-at-Large to Mexico, US Ambassador to Botswana, US Congressman (D.-Texas), US Senator (D.-Texas), US Special Representative to the Southern African Development Community, retired. Currently, professor in the Practice, Political Science Department, Texas Tech University

  • Austin Gashugi

    ‘….The United Kingdom, Spain and several European nations no longer grant this head of state entry into their countries…..’ Purely Hogwash..Have these countries said anywhere that President Kagame is not welcome or have they declined him entry..How can a whole Senator, former Ambassador and Professor be so intellectually bankrupt!!!

    • maxlubatore

      You are backing a dictator and you know it. The worst part is that you are probably a paid troll to spread propaganda. Good luck with that. Milk the system while it still exists. Only a matter of time before Kagame becomes the international pariah that he deserves to be. Civilized world cannot tolerate such senseless destruction of human life.

  • Austin Gashugi

    It is very naive for Senator Robert Krueger to ask why the US has not censured President Kagame?? Why should they have the mandate to do so?? President Kagame is evaluated by Rwandans and they are the only people with the mandate and legal right to censure him..By trying to advocate for censure, Sen. Krueger still lives in the world of colonialism..

  • Gary K. Busch

    Why don’t you ask his lady friend, Susan Rice?

  • Stephen

    Senator Robert Krueger hatred against Rwanda and in particular against President Kagame is public information, but the good news is that he is not a registered voter in Rwanda. It is a pity that he has been in bed with genocidaires and genocide deniers. Why cant he mind his own business and leave Rwandans alone. The 12 million Rwandans support President Kagame and this expired Senator/ politician want us to believe him. Is that democracy he wants us to believe? should we believe in him or 12 million Rwandans?
    To us Rwandans, this could be termed as agasuzuguro( political arrogance)
    Let him try his arrogance elsewhere not in Rwanda.

    • RICHARD

      You mean everything he is saying is a lie? Killing millions is no longer a secret. Wait the time when you start running up and down. This time i don’t know where because neighboring countries have known how treacherous you are. You cant be trusted at all.

  • maxlubatore

    This is really an important piece coming from the senator. Hopefully, it will push Yale to issue a statement on why they invited this mass murderer.

  • Joe Kimpa

    Let it be known that Paul Kagame attended the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS.in the ’90s, but was NEVER A GRADUATE. This fact justifies his crudeness behavior and non respect of human rights.

  • Edouard Kayihura

    I am a survivor of the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda of 1994. It is well known that Senator Krueger has been advocate and apologist for those who committed that genocide. He has been promoting and is an advisor to Paul Rusesabagina, the so-called hero of the historically inaccurate Hollywood movie, “Hotel Rwanda,” who is running for the office of President of Rwanda. As someone who lived out the genocide from within the walls of that infamous hotel, I can assure you that Paul Rusesabagina is not a hero nor did he save a single one of us. He is a war profiteer and a genocide denier who actively defends the leaders of that horrible chapter in world history, testifying on their behalf in courtrooms around the world. Along with my fellow hotel refugees, I even wrote a well-received book on that terrible experience: “Inside the Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story and Why It Matters Today.”
    Senator Krueger claims that he met Paul Kagame and talked about revenge killings by some soldiers, and Kagame told him it was not his policy—and it certainly was not. What the Senator neglects to say is that once in office, Kagame made it his official policy to make revenge killings illegal and completely unacceptable in the rebuilding of our tattered nation. Krueger also conveniently forgets that Kagame remains the only person alive who ever ended a genocide.
    To be Ambassador in Burundi, which is ensconced in its own genocide at this very moment, does not give Krueger expertise on Rwanda. Since 1994, Senator Krueger has never stepped foot in Rwanda and he does not know how Rwanda has changed. Today Rwandans are living together peacefully despite the wounds of a genocide just over two decades old, a place with less violent crime than the United States, according to the US Center for Disease Control. Under President Kagame’s stewardship, we have had a two-thirds drop in child mortality and have attained near-universal primary school enrolment. The poverty rate dropped from 59% in 2001 to 45% in 2011. Rwanda has also made big strides towards gender equality – almost 64% of parliamentarians are women, compared to just 22% worldwide, which has enabled women in our country to make incredible economic advances.
    Today, Rwanda is a shining beacon of African self-rule. It is our desire to continue to forge our own bright future without the poisonous interference of the same colonialists who helped tear our nation apart in the oh-so-recent past. I would urge Senator Krueger and others of his ilk: Less talking and more listening. Rwanda is far better without you.

    Edouard Kayihura
    Columbus, OH, USA