Statesmen differ from the rest of us by the level of their discourse and their ability to rise above the narrow, personal or partisan interests to embrace broad concerns of humanity. They operate at the level of broad principles that govern political and social relations between social groups and between nations. They take a definite stand on issues even when that position may be controversial or unpopular.
On the other hand, petty-minded individuals always want to bring public discourse to the level of street squabbles and pub brawls. They fail to distinguish between the narrow and commonplace and that which has wide and exceptional applicability. Bigotry and other forms of bias and intolerance inform their every action. And so because of this they can never raise their level of debate beyond the personal, bad-mannered quarrel.
In the ongoing crisis in Libya President Paul Kagame has been unequivocal in his support of the UN-backed use of force to protect civilians from attack by their own government. This has been a statesman’s position that has brought him admiration and criticism alike. He based open support on two fundamental issues. No government has the right to murder its own citizens. And if that happens, the international community has the obligation to act to protect those citizens.
The “responsibility to protect” doctrine on which the UN Security Council’s action on Libya was based and which President Kagame backs is not his invention. It is the product of lessons the international community has learnt from history. Inaction in Rwanda, the Balkans and elsewhere in the world cost millions of lives. As a result it became necessary to reform the international system to permit the protection of civilians.
In the past the UN was shackled by the principle of respect for the sovereignty of individual states and non-interference in their internal affairs. Brutal governments hid behind this principle to commit atrocities against their people.
In the case of Rwanda there was another aspect of international relations that worked against intervention to stop the genocide. Countries that did not want to see change in Rwanda hid behind bilateral defence pacts to make sure no one else intervened and so protected the murderous regime.
The UN and even the African Union now realise that inaction as happened here cannot be permitted again, and that they have a responsibility to protect people from being killed by rogue governments.
Since President Kagame’s unambiguous stand on the military intervention in Libya, debate on the issue has crystallised around three main arguments.
The first is that represented by President Kagame, and no doubt the majority of Africans, that the intervention is right.
The second, led by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda accepts that the intervention was necessary but laments the lack of a role for the AU. Some people might see in this argument the excuse for inaction.
Thirdly there is the argument that military intervention is wrong and immoral. This is led by the imperialist-bashing Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who makes his case in characteristic colourful language.
Whatever the argument, the debate has remained at the level of broad principles, not narrow interests. Nor has it turned into an attempt to score cheap political points.
And now in this debate of serious issues enters a man, whom one must suspect to be of unsound mind. A certain Theogene Rudasingwa who apparently has no other useful occupation except to think and plan evil (an idle mind is the workshop of the devil) goes ahead to reduce the discussion of important principles to the noisy babble of the alley. In this sense he does what he did not intend – betray that he is ill-bred, ungrateful, psychotic and choking on vindictiveness. That is why he wants to drag respectable people into the alleyways where he is obviously at home.
How else can you explain his allegation that President Kagame’s human rights record is far worse than Col Gaddafi’s? Whatever his imperfections (and he has them; he is only human) it is only a madman who can make this claim. No one in their right mind, even allowing for irrational hatred to inform their opinions, can make this comparison. Luckily, most people are not deranged and will certainly dismiss Rudasingwa’s accusations as the ravings of a madman.
Then he talks about Rwandatel in which Libya has invested as if it was the president’s property. Of course Libya has invested in Rwanda as it has in the countries that are busy raining bombs on Gaddafi’s aeroplanes and tanks. Are those also the personal property of Barrack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, or David Cameron?
This confused mix up of issues does not come as a surprise because he has always sought to merge state property with personal interests. It is a projection of what he would do in power. And indeed he has done so before – taking assets and finances of the Office of the President as his own when he served as Director of Cabinet in that office.
Here is friendly advice to Rudasingwa. Get some useful occupation; earn an honest living. If you need help, medical or otherwise, you only need to say so. Your drivel will not wash away the statements of a statesman.