Rwanda deserves to be condemned as much as Russia

Published by The Times (14th March, 2018)

After a hard week working as a mental health nurse manager, Noble Marara was relaxing at home with his family when they were visited by two police officers. They warned that he was in grave danger because a foreign government posed an “imminent threat” to his life, and urged him to increase security.

This visit took place as Britain reeled from an assassination attempt involving a Russian-made nerve agent in an English city. Evidence points towards the Kremlin, and there is tough talk of sanctions and sporting boycotts in response.

Yet there is silence over another nation that uses similar sinister tactics to eliminate its enemies. This murder threat was against a man living in Kent, a father and spouse of British citizens. And it was not the first such threat: in 2011, Scotland Yard warned two other men that the same thuggish government had sent a hit squad to kill them.

Like Russia, Rwanda gets away with murder. Literally. It hunts down dissidents wherever they live, killing some, kidnapping and threatening others. It prompted Africa’s worst blood-letting this century in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and still stirs trouble in its neighbours.

Yet its president, Paul Kagame, is seen as our friend. Marara spent nine years as a bodyguard and driver for the Rwandan leader, standing by his side as the east African country started to recover from the trauma of genocide. Like others, he saw this aloof character as the heroic saviour of his land. Now the man he once protected wants him dead.

Is it a coincidence that days before the police warning it was disclosed that Marara’s insights into the ruthless Kagame were to be offered in downloadable book form in the Kinyarwanda language? Regardless, the threat raises again the question of what a despot has to do to stop Britain pumping aid into his pocket. This is, after all, an ultra-repressive one-party state in which the ruling party runs everything down to the most minute level. But we pour in millions each year.

For many years, Kagame fooled the world. He posed as protector of his nation and duped naive democratic leaders, who felt guilty over their failure to stop genocide, into believing that a nasty ethnic dictatorship was an inspirational role model for aid and Africa. The likes of Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and David Cameron heard smooth words and saw clean streets, but they missed the blood dripping from the ruler’s hands.

Decent nations do not order hits on their foes in foreign lands. Yes, Britain should stop washing dirty Russian cash from Putin’s pals. By the same token, we should cut off all support for Kagame.

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