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Open letter to Carnegie Mellon University: Don’t host Kagame!

September 16, 2011

To: President Jared L. Cohon, President, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Penn.

From: The African Great Lakes Coalition

Re: Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s visit and relations with Carnegie Mellon University

Dear President Jared L. Cohon,

As a coalition of Africa-focused human rights and peace organizations representing a broad range of individuals, including Rwandans, Ugandans and Congolese people, we write to express our dismay at your university’s decision to welcome and inaugurate a partnership with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) on Sept. 16, 2011.

Marching through the streets of Paris Sept. 12, 1,300 Rwandans and Congolese protested his visit there, chanting “Genocidaire!” the term President Kagame uses to vilify and prosecute his critics.
CMU’s announcements about President Kagame’s visit represent his story as one of triumph. The institution credits Kagame heavily for the country’s recovery and growth: “Under President Kagame’s leadership, Rwanda has become one of the world’s most compelling stories of economic development.” ((http://www.cmu.edu/homepage/images/extras/emails/2011events/rwanda_invite.html)) He is lauded as a man receiving “recognition for his leadership in peace building and reconciliation, development, good governance, promotion of human rights and women’s empowerment, and advancement of education and ICT.” ((http://www.cmu.edu/event/rwanda/)) Given this perspective, it is clear why you would be excited to deliver “an important announcement regarding the collaborative role that Carnegie Mellon will play in helping Rwanda to realize its vision.” ((http://www.cmu.edu/piper/briefs/2011/september/september-8/rwanda-president.html))

We regret to inform you that your characterization is dangerously skewed and that, in its haste to collaborate with President Kagame, your institution may become a collaborator in the pejorative sense by supporting an unjust, oppressive regime and an official version of Rwandan history that silences opposition and gives power to a leader who abuses it. In 2010 a Human Rights Watch article insisted that, if “leaders continue to ignore the darker side of Kagame’s story, they will only compound the problem. Burying the truth about horrific crimes is a very effective way to sow the seeds for future grievances and more violence.” ((http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/09/21/rwanda-president-crisis)) If CMU wishes to act as an agent of progress for Rwanda, it must take this darker side of Kagame’s story into account.

Your institution may become a collaborator in the pejorative sense by supporting an unjust, oppressive regime and an official version of Rwandan history that silences opposition and gives power to a leader who abuses it.

Consider these recent charges and reports on Kagame’s militarily aggressive activities in Congo and politically oppressive activities within Rwanda:

• In 2008, The Spanish National Court, The Audiencia National (which charged disgraced Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet), indicted 40 Rwandan military officers for terrorism, mass killings, and several counts of genocide against Rwandans, Congolese and Spanish citizens, following the 1994 genocide. ((http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/02/06/spain.indictments.rwanda/index.html)) Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu has said he has evidence implicating Rwanda’s current President Paul Kagame, who has immunity from prosecution as a head of state.

• Following the August 2010 election where Paul Kagame won with 93 percent of the votes, many observers have called it fraudulent and noted that it was marred with political violence, incarceration and intimidation and repression of press freedom. The White House issued a statement raising concerns that “[n]o one should underestimate the enormous challenges born of the genocide in 1994. Rwanda’s progress in the face of these challenges has been remarkable, and is a testament to the people of Rwanda. Rwanda’s stability and growing prosperity, however, will be difficult to sustain in the absence of broad political debate and open political participation.” ((http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/13/statement-national-elections-rwanda))

• On Oct. 1, 2010, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) published “The United Nations Mapping Exercise Report,” which documents crimes committed in the Congo from 1993 to 2003. It singled out the crimes committed by the Rwanda army by noting that “the apparent systematic and widespread attacks described in this report reveal a number of inculpatory elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be characterized as crimes of genocide.” ((http://www.ohchr.org/en/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/RDCProjetMapping.aspx))

• In May 2011, British news sources reported of attempted assassinations carried out by Rwandan government personnel against Rwandan refugees and exiles. ((http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/05/20/uk-police-rwandan-government-threatens-exiles/, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq9hNWB7tbA))

• The June 3, 2011, report from Amnesty International condemns Kagame’s government, saying “The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), in power since the 1994 genocide, tightly controls political space, civil society and the media, contending that this is necessary to prevent renewed violence. Human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents cannot openly and publicly criticize the authorities. People who do speak out risk prosecution and imprisonment.” ((http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR47/002/2011/en))

Many are beginning to exercise greater caution in cultivating relations with Kagame. Locally, the Pittsburgh City Council adopted Proclamation 1011-1897 on July 12, 2011, identifying the Rwandan government as a major destabilizing force in Congo and scolding the federal government for continuing to fund the Rwandan government in the face of its many human rights abuses. Giving resources and power to Kagame means underwriting what he does with them. As a prestigious university you will extend many resources to President Kagame, making CMU an underwriter for his vision of development and the manner in which achieves it.

Giving resources and power to Kagame means underwriting what he does with them. As a prestigious university you will extend many resources to President Kagame, making CMU an underwriter for his vision of development and the manner in which achieves it.

If CMU is genuinely invested in sustainable peace and development in Rwanda, and if it is determined to cultivate a relationship with Kagame, we are insisting on greater caution and responsibility. We urge you to make your partnership with Kagame conditional on improvements in his human rights record and extension of political freedoms. Without these measures, you will open your university to a great deal of warranted criticism, negative media attention, and an almost certain historical stain as one of the institutions that supported the despotic rule of another African strongman. We invite you to partner with our organizations to work towards prioritizing economic progress as well as human rights in the East African community in general, and Rwanda in particular.

Sincerely,

The African Great Lakes Coalition

Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN), Congo Global Action (CGA), Foundation for Freedom and Democracy in Rwanda (FFDR), Foreign Policy in Focus, Friends of the Congo (FOTC), Hope Congo (HC), Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation (HRRF), Mobilization for Justice and Peace in Congo (MJPC), Save the Congo USA

To contact the African Great Lakes Coalition, email Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo, at kambale@friendsofthecongo.org.

How readers can help, wherever you are

Join our protest at CMU campus by calling or emailing today:

• CMU President Jared L. Cohon at (412) 268-2200 or cohon@andrew.cmu.edu

• Associate Vice President for Government Relations Tim McNulty at (412) 268-7778 or tpm@andrew.cmu.edu

• Vice President of Campus Affairs Michael Murphy at (412) 268-2057 or mm1v@andrew.cmu.edu

Sample message: My name is ________________, a concerned U.S./DRC citizen. Although CMU’s objective to educate the Rwandan people is commendable, I am concerned that by rolling out a red carpet for Kagame you have joined the clan of those who support the dictatorial and criminal regimes in Rwanda. Kagame’s crimes in neighboring Congo must not be ignored. The families of his victims would rather see him in court instead of feasting with you. Thank you for your understanding.

 

16 thoughts on “Open letter to Carnegie Mellon University: Don’t host Kagame!

    1. Willis Shalita

      No amount of empty noises and rubbish being thrown at President kagame will stop Rwanda's amazing recovery and progress. On his watch Rwanda has become the shinning example of Africa. There is no stopping us now, and much of what has been achieved is due to president kagame's good governance.

      Reply
  1. Paul Muvunyi

    The pro -interahamwe opposition greatest achievement was the 1994 genocide.President Kagame greatest achievements are universal health care for all Rwandans,reduction of HIV rate, free primary education etc. Demonstrations against Kagame in the europeans streets will not stop him from continuing to lead Rwanda toward great heights. Sorry pro interahamwe, your days are over. The world will never allow you to hold power in Rwanda.

    To the congolese combattants, I wish you could all energy to build your ruined territory instead of fighting the visionary Kagame.

    Reply
  2. Jean Pierre Papin

    Guys and gals, You can bark as much as you want and engage in history distortion, but your noises will never change the facts. President Kagame is not a criminal, he's is the promoter of the people's well being (ie: expending access to clean water, electricity, quality education, paved roads, public health care to all, etc) and also, needless to say, a very strong believer in the nation's security which is a pre-requisite of any development. Carnegie Mellon University is a research based institution, do you really think your simplistic and disingenuous claims against Kagame will hold water in the face of the university officials. You can mislead the United Nations officials, after all, they only work there for personal financial interests, but you cannot mislead a research based higher institution like CMU because they know President Kagame and Rwanda better than you do. A vast majority of developing nations' leaders only strive to empty the coffers of their nations for personal gains, but Kagame is different, he always advocate for the betterment of the people he leads. Case in point, instead of travelling to the States for leisure, he actually comes to America to seek educational opportunity for his people. That's the difference. Peace Out! ALUTA CONTINUA!!

    Reply
  3. seamus

    What?? Paul Kagame has done a great deal to keep the Hutu Power movement from re-implementing Tutsi destruction projects. I can only guess you're reading revisionist histories or something.

    He's kept the place from tearing itself apart since the Habyarimana gov't.

    What are you thinking of??

    Reply
  4. Frank LeFever

    As usual, the Kagame agents are the first to "comment" (some, we know, are being paid up front for their efforts). Rwanda's "economic miracle" is (1) exaggerated (people are impressed by Kigali's new buildings and clean streets, unaware of the destitution of most of Rwanda's citizens — especially the 80% who are "2nd class citizens"), and (2) based on theft (from the Congo) and bribes (from its US and UK masters).

    The bribes take the form of official "aid" and unofficial "aid" (channeled through NGO fronts), and include hiring Rwandan troops essentially as mercenaries to do neo-colonialists' dirty work (in Sudan, for example).

    As a retired neuroscientist, having taught in more than one university (albeit most of my career was hospital-based rather than university-based), I know something about research and about what drives the financial wheels of universities — so I have to laugh at this naive (disingenuous?) line: "Carnegie Mellon University is a research based institution, do you really think your simplistic and disingenuous claims against Kagame will hold water in the face of the university officials…"

    You have to be basically stupid to qualify as a Kagame agent, so it may actually be an honest delusion that makes Mr. Papin describe what is really the reverse of financial arrangements for UN staff and financial arrangements for directors of university boards (n.b. not UN high officials, very modestly paid UN staff who produced the Mapping report suppressed by UN high officials for so many years).

    Researchers are one thing, board directors and university presidents are something else. CMU is not promoting research in Rwanda, but seeking to train technicians who will be useful to western corporations (some of whom may be financially linked to CMU).

    Reply
    1. seamus

      I'm not an agent of Kagame. I studied history at uni and I'm an apprentice level historian. You're saying things that you want to be true, but aren't. It's a common affliction.

      U: "You have to be basically stupid to qualify as a Kagame agent…"

      Are you a Hutu-Power agent?
      I'm just a dude from CA. How partisan could I be?

      Reply
  5. Frank LeFever

    As for "revisionist history": there is the history written by the victors, which claims that Kagame "stopped a genocide" and claims "mostly Tutsis (and a few moderate Hutus) were killed (by Hutus)"; but there is also the history which the victors try to suppress, based on research which clearly shows Kagame's criminal gang started genocidal-level killing when it invaded (in 1990), continued long past the "end" of the genocide, in Rwanda and beyond (into the Congo) — and which also gives reason to believe that more Hutus than Tutsis were killed (most of them by Kagame's cut-throats).

    Reply
    1. seamus

      Hello,

      Frank:
      "As for "revisionist history": there is the history written by the victors, which claims that Kagame "stopped a genocide" and claims "mostly Tutsis (and a few moderate Hutus) were killed (by Hutus)";…"

      Historical theory and reason don't work that way.
      History-wise: History is a narrative; however, it is no longer just written by "the victors." All sorts of people write histories and most of the Rwandan history writers I've read are not Tutsi or Rwandan.

      Reason-wise: You cannot discount historical content ONLY by pointing at the source. It's bad methodology think-wise.

      There's no credible evidence of a Kagame led genocide. There is no evidence Kagame or the Tutsi have ever tried to rid Rwanda of Hutu. It just didn't happen. We have seen many Hutu massacres of Tutsi, including the 1994 'final solution.'

      You're avoiding the big picture and emphasizing and hyperbolizing the few scraps available to a Hutu power historian. That is, Hutu committed genocide, so Hutu support says, 'No, you committed genocide.' It's nothing more sophisticated than that.

      Thanks for time.

      Reply
  6. gatsinzi

    Ooooops! Shame on you shameless barking dogs who even dare to
    Point a finger to a true revolutionarist and one of the best
    leaders of our time like Kagame! Who else cam match this great man?
    Who do you think can? Even those great leaders of the 19th Century don’t
    given the conditions in which they worked, PK has greatly improved the
    economy of his country, raised hopes of his citizens to live longer and
    achieve on all fronts of development! He started with security to unity
    and reconciliation, govt institutionalisation, healthcare, infrastructure and ICT,
    good governance and equity, free education, etc Maybe his greatest hurdle like many other african leaders
    Remains poverty but still Girinka, Environment conservation and other crop intensification
    Programs will tackle that and his last to come would be creating employment and industrializing Rwanda!
    Oh great, so you critics, emissaries of the devil what other lies and bad omens do you
    Come up with? Better go home, join PK to rebuild your country or bark off and leave him on
    His right track.

    Reply
  7. candyguard

    There is a time I used to think that as the world changes with
    advancement of technology and the rate of ignorance diminishing,
    the world would march together in the race of literacy and development.
    But I have come to learn that as we advance, there are other negative
    issues coming up to hamper progress! This had not come to reality until
    I visited Rwanda, one of the small African economies whose president
    Paul Kagame is being talked about in these articles above. This young
    visionary president is unique and hard to find in Africa!
    I was lucky to be on the list of those many invitees of this highly marketed
    Broadband conference which took place ‘the heart of Africa’ capital city Kigali
    in August 2011. Opened by this IT promoter and expert president Kagame,
    attended by big names including a business mogul Carlos and other hitech
    investors of the world, I discovered a lot about this versatile and development oriented
    President! His country, clean and its people very organised and highly disciplined, welcoming
    and warm hearts, rarely seen anywhere else! If there is anyone who has even been to this country
    I am sure you will agree with me that even Singapore wouldn’t be developing at this rate! Therefore
    Without talking a lot, I congratulate President Kagame and Rwandans on the right choices they have
    Opted and ignore those discouraging them as they are wasting time. They better emulate this great leader
    Who loves his people and is hard working.

    Reply
  8. marie

    Yes a lot of Hutu's died, but Tutsi's were being slaughtered for decades. The RPF stopped the genocide, lets face it, nobody else did a thing. The perpertrators fled along with innocent Hutu's and hid amongst them like cowards. Whilst Kagames means were not perfect, look at the situation which was so chaotic and lawless. Rwanda's role in the DR Congo's woes is a worry and i do have questions as to the motives there. It's all good to enrich the country you lead but not at the expense of innocent lives, although the waters there are so murky and everyone seems to have a hand in that terrible situation. I respect that Kagame seems to have the best interest of the country Rwanda at heart and not his own personal agenda to fill his own pockets with riches, which is very rare throughout Africa. Whilst Kagame's rule hasn't been faultless we just need to look at the broken country he took over and considering that, he has done a marvelous job, and whilst not perfect i can't imagine any one else doing better with what he had to work with.

    Reply
  9. Jean Pierre Papin

    @ Frank Lefever, you can hurl insults as much as you can, after all, that's the only weapon left to people like you because facts aren't on your side. You're entitled to your own opinion, but you definitely not entitled to your own facts. All you can do is labeling anyone whose views are different than yours as a "kagame agent". Well, let me tell you something, i don't know who you are and you obviously don't know who i am, but if you happen to be congolese, i'll be frank, candid, and blunt with you. I've never seen people as lacking accountability collectively as you are. You just a bunch of whiners. Belgium raped you in every conceivable sense during colonization, you never lifted a finger. If, and it's a big if, Kagame is developing Rwanda with congo's mineral wealth, why can't you then do the same and build your country with your so-called inexhaustible riches. My friend, it all starts with a national character and mentality, all you know is singing but you'll never master the art of developing your own country. Blame Kagame for everything that ails Congo, however, the fact of the matter is you wish, dream, and need a leader like Kagame. Unfortunately, you Congolese will never get one. KAGAME VOUS BAISERA JUSQU'A CE QUE VOUS ETES CAPABLE DE DEMONTRER QUE VOUS ETES DE VRAIS HOMMES DIGNE DE RESPET.

    Reply
  10. Jean Pierre Papin

    "very modestly paid UN staff" ?
    @ Frank Lefever, if you really know how to conduct a research as you indicated in your aforementioned comment, you must know by now that the UN staff is not modestly paid. Well, maybe the way you define the word "modest" is different than the official definition in any dictionary. You may want to start your research on MONUC's staff salaries who are doing nothing but raping your women and dealing in illegal mines exploitation in eastern Congo. My friend, your blind hatred for Kagame prevents you from seeing the real Congo molesters. Tant que les congolais demeurent stupides, kagame les baisera jusqu'a ce que ils deviennent mature. ALUTA CONTINUA!!

    Reply
  11. bebe

    C'mon people. I am just a simple teenager who have been living in refugee camps and I have seen my friends and people killed for who they are. All people who caused and participated in genocide faced justice. Why not Kagame after the genocide he did in Congo? I understand he cant be tried coz he is a president. How I wish his term was over!!! Let everyone face justice

    Reply
  12. Jean Pierre Papin

    @ Bebe,
    “I am just a simple teenager who have been living in refugee camps and I have seen my friends and people killed for who they are”.

    Bebe, nobody can fault you on your comment because you’re still a kid (read teenager) and probably don’t know better. But i want to tell you this: If your friends were killed in a refugee camp, that does NOT automatically qualify as a genocide. It’s a shame you lost your friends that way, but if your friends were killed because of who they were, then why close to 2 million people were repatriated to Rwanda instead of being killed by RDF? A genocide occurs when people are being killed for who they are. But that’s not what happened in OCT-NOV 1996 in eastern congo, what happened was a concerted effort on the part of the rwanda government to repatriate its citizens, and in the process, the interahamwe militias militarily tried to stop the repartriation from happening which ensued in a war. ALUTA CONTINUA!!!

    Reply

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