Could Rwanda’s Kagame get thrown out of the “smoke filled room”?

The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R. Calif.)  has released a letter yesterday “decrying targeted killings of Rwandan regime critics abroad” in which “the Chairman urged Secretary Kerry to reevaluate U.S. engagement with Rwanda, including future assistance”:

Dear Mr. Secretary: I am writing to express my deep concern over the numerous attempted attacks and killings of Rwandan dissidents living outside that country. Any functioning and responsible democracy allows the voices of opposition to be heard. Yet in Rwanda there is a systematic effort to silence – by any means necessary – the voices of those who question the regime in Kigali.   .  .  .  .

This really strikes me as a potentially major setback for Kagame.  In addition to the support Kagame has had from those who were at the helm in the U.S. executive branch 20 years ago during the 1994 genocide and Kagame’s ascension, he has also had an extra level of support in recent years from some House Republicans and others in the Republican Party.  Part of it is the same type of thing that kept Museveni and the Ethiopian regime of Meles Zenawi in favor with some on the “right” in American politics well after most people who pay attention to Africa got over the notion that this class of rulers represented a “renaissance generation” of semi-democratic leadership.  Kagame has lost a lot of his American support over the last few years over the exposure of his actions in relation to the DRC and his growing authoritarianism, even though continuing to solidify his stature as a “go to” source for troops for the U.S. and Europe in the region and a secure landingpad for global investment endeavors. (h/t Cameron Hudson @cch7c on the Royce letter)

Kagame may have finally gone too far to stomach for both the Republican and Democrat mainstream in Washington.

A next question will be what reaction we see from the global elite, what some might refer to as “the Davos crowd”, including the wealthy investor/philanthropist/celebrity networks which have patronized Kagame.  In fact, the World Economic Forum last year was the venue for Kagame to announce with “homeless billionaire” Nicolas Berggruen, Nigerian investor Tony Elumelu and former U.S. official Jendayi Frazer the launch of the “East African Exchange” in Kigali.

As reported at the time in Africa Mining Intelligence, “Kigali, Future minerals trading platform” : “[A] commodities exchange in East Africa that will deal initially with farm goods and minerals covering the entire Great Lakes region, will be set up in Kigali, capital of Rwanda . . . The inauguration of the East African Exchange (EAX) will be seen to by a consortium whose most prominent figure is Jendayi Frazer who was a U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs under George W. Bush.”

The idea seems to originate with Berggruen, an interesting guy who was profiled in 2011 by Stacy Meichtry in the Wall Street Journal Magazine, “Man Without a Country: Nicolas Berggruen is rich, handsome and homeless.  And he’d like to save the world.”

Publicly elected policy makers no longer have enough breathing room to make effective policy, because they are hemmed in by the pressures of 24-hour news cycles, gyrating financial markets and increasingly populist electorates. The first step to restore sanity, Berggruen believes, is to revive the proverbial smoke-filled room, a place where “eminent” figures can gather behind closed doors and calmly redesign government. (emphasis added) So far, the mogul has already poured tens of millions into a
committee—comprised of former secretaries of state, governors and business leaders—to revive California. A second group of Nobel laureates and former European prime ministers is preparing to weigh in on Europe’s malaise this fall.
. . . Berggruen was drawn to California, which is nearly broke and practically ungovernable but has a ballot initiative system that allows groups to propose legislation directly to voters, bypassing the state assembly. The billionaire also had a big social network to draw upon in the state—he plays host to Hollywood celebrities and other notables at the annual thank-you party for all those who have put him up that he throws the evening before the Oscars at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont.
A year ago, Berggruen convened a conclave of some of the biggest names in his Rolodex, including former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, former governor Gray Davis and the man who ousted him in a recall election, Arnold Schwarzenegger. “You had the recaller and the recalled next to each other and singing the same song,” Berggruen says.
. . . .
Berggruen manages to sway erstwhile opponents because he wields “the carrot and the stick,” explains Gray Davis. “What makes the difference between this and countless other reform efforts is that Nicolas is ready to put up $20 million to begin to go to the ballot.”
Berggruen recently dipped his toe into Africa. In July, he entered talks with the East African Community, a group of countries that stretches from Kenya to Burundi, to establish Africa’s first regional commodities exchange. (emphasis added) Berggruen argues that it would give farmers access to prices set by a large centralized market. Farmers could trade futures contracts, guaranteeing a steady flow of revenue to offset local price swings and natural disasters.

Elsewhere in the EAC:  Burundi: Pillay denounces increasing restrictions on political and civil rights ahead of 2015 elections.

One thought on “Could Rwanda’s Kagame get thrown out of the “smoke filled room”?

  1. Pingback: Uhuru Kenyatta, Jendayi Frazer and Paul Kagame walk into a commodity exchange in Kigali . . . | AfriCommons Blog

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