|Milken, Gates, Kagame, Blair, and, lastly, Villaraigosa|
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: September 4, 2013
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, agreed to meet me at 11 a.m. on a recent Saturday. Kagame’s office is on top of a hill near the center of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, and I took a taxi there, driven by a man in a suit and tie. Whenever I’m in Kigali, I am always impressed by how spotless it is, how the city hums with efficiency, which is all the more remarkable considering that Rwanda remains one of the poorest nations in the world. Even on a Saturday morning, platoons of women in white gloves rhythmically swept the streets, softly singing to themselves. I passed the Union Trade Center mall in the middle of town, where traffic circulates smoothly around a giant fountain. There was no garbage in the streets and none of the black plastic bags that get tangled up in the fences and trees of so many other African cities — Kagame’s government has banned them.
There were no homeless youth sleeping on the sidewalks or huffing glue to kill their hunger. In Rwanda, vagrants and petty criminals have been scooped up by the police and sent to a youth “rehabilitation center” on an island in the middle of Lake Kivu that some Rwandan officials jokingly call their Hawaii — because it is so lush and beautiful — though people in Kigali whisper about it as if it were Alcatraz. There aren’t even large slums in Kigali, because the government simply doesn’t allow them.
The night before, I strolled back to my hotel from a restaurant well past midnight — a stupid idea in just about any other African capital. But Rwanda is one of the safest places I’ve been, this side of Zurich, which is hard to reconcile with the fact that less than 20 years ago more civilians were murdered here in a three-month spree of madness than during just about any other three-month period in human history, including the Holocaust. During Rwanda’s genocide, the majority Hutus turned on the minority Tutsis, slaughtering an estimated one million men, women and children, most dispatched by machetes or crude clubs. Rwandans say it is difficult for any outsider to appreciate how horrifying it was. Nowadays, it’s hard to find even a jaywalker.
|Clinton, ?, Usher?, Alicia Keyes?,|
Quincy Jones, and Kagame in back
No country in Africa, if not the world, has so thoroughly turned itself around in so short a time, and Kagame has shrewdly directed the transformation. Measured against many of his colleagues, like the megalomaniac Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who ran a beautiful, prosperous nation straight into the ground, or the Democratic Republic of Congo’s amiable but feckless Joseph Kabila, who is said to play video games while his country falls apart, Kagame seems like a godsend. Spartan, stoic, analytical and austere, he routinely stays up to 2 or 3 a.m. to thumb through back issues of The Economist ...
The story goes on to offer a number of interesting vignettes, like Kagame beating with a stick subordinates who spent too much on drapes for the office. And it has some good insights, such as that Rwandans have been fairly well organized since Burton and Speke visited them in the in 1860s.
But, it's kind of lacking in the bigger picture of the endemic struggle between Nilotics and Bantus, in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda (where Kagame was once a right hand man to the current dictator) and the Congo, where Kagame has been plundering for decades.
I briefly wrote about it in 2008. Back in 1995, Barack Obama Jr., who is half-Luo, noted the distinction in Kenya between "tall, ink-black Luos and short, brown Kikuyus." His Luo relatives assured him, "The Luo are intelligent but lazy."
The Bantus, by weight of numbers, tended to get the upper hand in decolonization's one-man-one-vote-once era, but the Nilotics have been making an impressive comeback, with Raila Odinga (the son of Barack Obama Sr.'s political hero) just losing the Presidency of Kenya to Uhuru Kenyatta (the descendant of Barack Sr.'s enemy) in the recent election.
Most remarkably, even in the United States, where the African-American population is overwhelmingly Bantu, the Nilotics are doing well in World War N. The American President is half Nilotic and not at all Bantu.