The chief architect of General Paul Kagame’s once-mighty bromance was former US President Bill Clinton. He championed Kagame as a new breed African leader committed to democracy and free markets. Thereafter, Rwanda became Africa’s largest aid recipient largely funded by the US and US-funded institutions such as the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).
Things fell apart when President Joe Biden took office in 2021. Kagame stood for the extreme opposite of Biden’s agenda of supporting democratic reformers. Subsequently, the US slashed its aid to Rwanda by nearly 50 percent, while IDA cut its aid to Rwanda by 33.5 percent. Kagame’s once-mighty bromance with American elites is officially dead.
President Joe Biden’s 2021 Summit for Democracy signalled the beginning of the end of the Kagame-US bromance.
To begin with, Kagame was not invited to the Summit for Democracy because the Summit was about fighting tyrannical rulers like him. As President Biden stated in his opening remarks, “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, and renew it.”
The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, skipped Rwanda in his visit to African countries to discuss a renewed partnership. Then, the USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, singled out Rwanda as an authoritarian state in which governance, rule of law, democracy, and human rights are non-existent. As she put it, Rwanda does not have “an environment on the ground that allows criticism, or that there’s pluralistic party development or the criteria that you would have in any textbook for a liberal democracy.”
In May 2023, Power added her voice to senior US government officials calling upon the Kagame regime to withdraw its troops from DR Congo. “It is imperative that the Government of Rwanda cease its support to M23 and withdraw its troops from the DRC,” stated power.
Things fall apart – there is no one left to champion Kagame in the corridors of power in Washington, DC
Things fell apart in 2023
The World Bank’s IDA, Rwanda’s top multilateral donor gutted its aid to Rwanda. IDA’s assistance to Rwanda fell from US$707 million in 2022 to US$470 million in 2023, a plunge of US$237 million or 33.52%. The US is by far the largest IDA funder with total cumulative resources of US$56.2 billion, and no doubt played a key role in the deep cut. Meanwhile, between 2019 to 2023, the US government, Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor, slashed its aid to Rwanda by US$108 million or nearly 50 percent.
The US’s U-turn on the America–Kagame bromance is largely due to the exit of former President Bill Clinton and his associates. The bromance was born when Clinton waxed lyrical about “the new breed” of African leaders supposedly committed to democracy and free markets.
Clinton further proclaimed Kagame a model for Africa and the rest of the world by leading Rwanda “through an unparalleled transformation.” Among the influential heavyweights who jumped on Kagame’s bandwagon were Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Susan Rice, and US Senator Jim Inhofe.
Clinton and Inhofe are retired. Susan Rice left her position as domestic policy adviser to President Joe Biden. There is no one left to champion the Rwandan Ironman in the corridors of power in Washington, DC.