Paul Kagame was born on October 23, 1957 to Tutsi parents in the south of Rwanda, which is located in East Africa.
At the age of two, he and his family were driven out of the country by the Rwandan Revolution, along with many other Tutsi families. Young Kagame grew up in Uganda, attended Ntare Secondary school, and ultimately ended up going Yoweri Museveni’s (the current president of Uganda) rebel bush army in the 1980s. He held the position of a senior Ugandan military officer, and was head of military intelligence. However, Paul Kagame was still Rwanda, and he joined the Front Patriotique Rwandais (or Rwandan Patriotic Front) in 1990, becoming its leader. This group aimed to return the many Tutsis living outside of Rwanda back to their own country. The group actually invaded Rwanda and was able to secure peace, as well as the ability for Tutsi refugees to move back.
Unfortunately, although this “invasion” ended peacefully, it and several other events led to a rise in Hutu extremism and ultimately, the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. The Genocide began on April 7, and continued for 100 days, during which the Hutu people group massacred a little over a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. 10,000 people were killed every day, 400 every hour, 7 every minute.
The RPF with Paul Kagame at its head managed to end the genocide with the takeover of the capital, Kigali. As the commander and leader of the RPF as well as the man largely responsible for the end of the horrific genocide, Kagame became a de facto leader in Rwanda. However, he was not president directly after the genocide, but rather was vice president and commander of the Rwandan military under Pasteur Bizimungu.
Paul Kagame became the 6th president of the Republic of Rwanda when he was elected in 2000 after the death of his predecessor. In 2003, Kagame and the Rwandan Parliament rewrote the constitution of Rwanda to eliminate all remaining vestiges of Belgian colonial rule and power. With this change came an election for president with a 7 year term (with two terms being the limit). Kagame was elected in both 2003 and 2010. However, a controversy appeared in 2015 when Parliament and the president made changes to the constitution which would allow Kagame to run for another 7 year term and then two more 5 year terms, which would allow him to remain president until 2034. The United States was especially critical of these changes, and criticized Kagame for being another African leader determined to hold onto his power. The president of Rwanda was quoted as saying,
“It is the population which decides when it’s time for a leader to leave, not foreign powers.” – Paul Kagame
98% of the population of Rwanda voted to approve these changes; after all, he is the people’s hero and they love him, which I witnessed during my time of living in Rwanda. In fact, it is not uncommon to find pictures of His Excellency hanging in private homes as well as restaurants and shops.
Kagame has achieved many things during his time as president, including a very small wage gap between men and women, the world’s highest representation of women in Parliament, and boosting tourism from 62 million US dollars in 2000 to 294 million US dollar in 2013. This increase in tourism was aided by a video commissioned by the Rwandan government in 2012 (here is the longer version currently playing in airports). Kagame has also received investments from Bill Clinton and Howard Schultz, the executive chairman of Starbucks Coffee. The president of Rwanda further puts a high emphasis on the service sector of the country rather than solely subsistence farmer (which is the work of 90% of the population); in 2010, this sector was the largest in the country by economic output, and made up 43.6% of the overall GDP. Perhaps his biggest project, however, is called Vision 2020. This programme’s main aim is to change Rwanda from an impoverished to a middle income country by the year 2020. It require reforms in health, education, the private sector, infrastructure, transportation, and agriculture among other things. This project, as of now, is on track for the most part, but still needs much improvement.
Overall, president Paul Kagame is a well loved and excellently received president, both by his own people and other countries. In fact, Rwandan people love him so much that his picture may be found in the majority of houses and restaurants/public places. He is honoured and respected, and is referred to as ‘His Excellency’.
Works Cited (Pictures):
Works Cited (Information):
“Achievements.” Paul Kagame. Republic of Rwanda, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://www.paulkagame.com/index.php/achievements>.
“Biography.” Paul Kagame. Republic of Rwanda, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://www.paulkagame.com/index.php/bio>.
“Clinton and Kagame.” Edward J Kelly. N.p., 11 Apr. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://tedkelly.info/clinton-and-kagame/>.
Habila, Helon. Waiting for an Angel. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. Print.
“Oppression.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
“Paul Kagame Interview in Jeune Afrique:.” Umuvugizi. N.p., 09 Apr. 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <https://umuvugizi.wordpress.com/2016/04/09/paulkagame-interview-in-jeune-afrique-rwanda-is-a-democracy-not-a-monarchy/>.
“Paul Kagame.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Kagame#Personality_and_public_image>.
Reuters. “Rwandan President Paul Kagame to Run for Third Term in 2017.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 01 Jan. 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/01/rwanda-paul-kagame-third-term-office-constitutional-changes>.
“Rwandan Genocide.” « World Without Genocide –. Mitchell Hamline School of Law, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <http://worldwithoutgenocide.org/genocides-and-conflicts/rwandan-genocide>.
“Rwandan Genocide.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Apr. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_genocide>.
“Rwandan Presidential Election, 2017.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Apr. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_presidential_election,_2017>.