Unmasking Kagame's Rwanda: Challenging the African Narrative

Unmasking Kagame’s Rwanda: Challenging the African Narrative


Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame plans to run for re-election in the August 2024 presidential election, aiming to win an unprecedented fourth term in office. Kagame has developed an effective blueprint for winning elections with universal public approval, winning the 2010 and 2017 elections with 93% and 98.6 percent of the votes, respectively. The 2015 constitutional amendments allow Kagame to seek a third seven-year term next year and two additional five-year terms, allowing him to remain in power until 2034.

Rwanda has made significant socioeconomic strides since the 1994 genocide, but Kagame is a ruthless despot and a major obstacle to true democratic progress. Elections in Rwanda have been marred by extensive government crackdowns on free speech, independent media, and political opposition since the very beginning. Under this democratic facade, Kagame is ruling Rwanda like his personal fiefdom, ruling like an undisputedly authoritarian, anti-democratic regime. A study published by Afrobarometer in January 2023 revealed that most Africans, including 77% of Guineans, support democracy and would like to see stronger democratic institutions in their countries.

Africans love democracy and want it to work, but democracy is not a perfect governance model. Most Africans have never experienced the true and expansive fabric of democracy, as African leaders have mostly refused to fully embrace or implement it. Kagame’s Rwanda is not an “African success story” or the “African reference” for successful governance, but a guidebook for newly empowered despots across the continent on how to create an illusion of democracy.