United Nations v. @PaulKagame
Last month, a blog post by writer Georgianne Nienaber written in defense of Rwandan President Paul Kagame was published on the The Huffington Post. The author -- who went to great lengths in her post to defend the Rwandan government against UN accusations of meddling in the Democratic Republic of Congo, even comparing the charges against Kagame to the Salem witch trials -- went mostly unnoticed despite her efforts, earning a modest number of Facebook "likes" and Tweets.
Unnoticed by most, but not Paul Kagame:
Can't be put better than in huffingtonpost.com by Georgianne : Is Rw.the victim in a modern day Salem witch trial??? So true!— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) December 7, 2012
This wasn't Kagame's first time dabbling in 140-character punditry. In 2011, the Rwandan president took to the platform in order to dispute charges of human rights abuses levied against his government by Guardian columnist Ian Birrell. Taking stock of the candid and unusual exchange, Birrell offered this takeaway at the time:
Several observers criticised Kagame's Twitter tantrum as exhibiting a lack of dignity. I disagree. It is admirable to see a leader engaging so personally with new means of communication – although it is telling there is no one he thinks worth following. And there is something rather splendid about a president so passionate about his country he confronts foreign critics in this manner.
The exchanges underlined the revolutionary nature of what is fast becoming the most important journalistic tool around. On Monday the Sky reporter Mark Stone blogged from Tripoli about his amazing use of Twitter to find a Dutch engineer and prove a bombed Nato target was a military bunker. In this new world, I was able to draw attention to Kagame's original statement, he was able to respond and we could debate in real-time watched by thousands of people worldwide, scores joining in with links, opinions and comments.
Maybe so, but Kagame's own sophisticated use of social media technology only serves to complicate an already complicated regime and region. The Rwandan government has been accused by the UN and other Africa watchers of fueling the bloody rebellion in eastern Congo -- accusations repeatedly denied by Kigali. A signing ceremony intended to end the ongoing unrest, originally scheduled for Monday, was unceremoniously cancelled.
Kagame, once a darling of the West, has come under pressure as of late. His Twitter page has gone silent in recent weeks, but it's probably a safe bet that Kagame will take to the Twittersphere once more to defend his presidency (scheduled, constitutionally anyway, to end in 2017) and regional behavior.