ONTD Political

Journalist Ian Birrell and Rwandan President Paul Kagame Duke it out on Twitter

1:03 am - 05/17/2011


Rwandan leader launches Twitter tirade against British journalist

Paul Kagame, the Rwandan leader and an avid tweeter, launched into a furious tirade on the social networking site after a British journalist labelled him "despotic and deluded"

The 53-year-old former guerrilla commander spotted the tweet, by Ian Birrell, former deputy editor of The Independent, before responding over 14 posts heavy with exclamation marks which could be viewed by all of this 13,000 followers.

Mr Birrell had posted a link to a Financial Times interview with Mr Kagame, in which the president said that no one had the "moral right" to level accusations against him for human rights violations when the UN withdrew from Rwanda at the height of the 1994 genocide.

Mr Birrell commented that Mr Kagame was "despotic and deluded", and used his Twitter name, increasing the chances of him seeing the post.

Within hours, the Rwandan president had responded, saying: "You give yourslf the right to abuse pple and judge them like you r the one to decide... and determine universally what s right or wrong and what shd be believed or not!!! Wrong u r... u have no such right."

He added: "You have no basis for your comments and you dont kno what you r talking about me or Rw. I will only hold all that in contempt!

"Ask Rwandans they will tell u I am not what u call me and I am sure they r not what you think they are...!

"In Rw.we hold ourselves and each accountable indeed to a high level and even deal with criticism honestly,openly and fairly..!" Mr Birrell responded by asking "why you think media, UN and human rights groups have no right to criticise you?" adding: "I know of people living in fear of their lives for daring to criticise you. And with good reason..."

He later wrote: "It is great (Kagame) engaging with a critic like me on Twitter. Just shame he doesn't allow such debate in Rwanda with his own people."

Mr Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi, came to power at the head of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a force which seized control of Rwanda putting an end to a genocide which killed an estimated 800,000 people.

He was once described by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a "visionary leader and a great friend".

But in recent years he has faced growing accusations about iron-fisted control and the silencing of opposition politicians and media outlets with arrests and attacks in the run up to last August's president election.

In the absence of any opposition, Mr Kagame was re-elected with 93 per cent of the vote. The White House criticised him for suppressing of political activity and made clear that it did not regard Rwanda as democratic.

In October, the United Nations published a 550-page report which detailed the mass rape and torture of Hutu civilians after Mr Kagame's Tutsi army chased Hutus fleeing into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Witnesses to the atrocities claim there were ritual beheadings, while women and children were set alight, bludgeoned with hammers and shot. The UN has said that Kagame may face trial for war crimes.


You can find the entire exchange here. Ian Birrell's thoughts on the conversation are here. Anyone who wants to know more about the current atmosphere in Rwanda can check out HRW's 2011 Report.

cassiguapa 17th-May-2011 09:26 am (UTC)
Haha, yeah I saw this and Ian retweeted my tweet about being on his side, which led to some Kagame stans coming for me and Johann Hari, calling us white imperial racists and that we were fabricating the facts our opinions and tweets were based on.

I suppose it's engaging of some form, but hardly behaviour befitting of a President.

It got all the more absurd when the Foreign Minister joined in the fray.
evilgmbethy 17th-May-2011 09:56 am (UTC)
hahaha. Twitter fight.
supermishelle 17th-May-2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
Lol I love Twitter specifically for these moments. I love watching powerful people make complete asses out of themselves.
fishphile 17th-May-2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
The conversations in the comments at the source were more intriguing to me.
anjak_j 17th-May-2011 06:31 pm (UTC)
From Source:

IB: Kagame refused to even answer if he is a religious believer. When asked, he replied 'Yes and no.'

I always thought "yes and no" was a valid answer to the question asked here. The fact that Birrell used this to reinforce his argument against Kagame seems a bit foolish when the answer given can be valid AND when it's of no consequence to the actual point anyway.

Both sides just made themselves look really bad as far as I can see. And I actually feel very sad that a country's leader would engage in an Internet brawl. You'd think he has better things to do, considering his country's human rights issues.
da_widget 17th-May-2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
I agree. Personally I feel that it demonstrates how politically immature Kagame actually is. He won't give his citizens free press, but he can argue with a journalist on Twitter. It's sad to think that that there are so many leaders with the same sorts of shitty priorities in Africa.
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