Rwanda ratifies its ruler

Kagame: Insurgent general was already running the tragic, divided country

April 21, 2000

ELECTION of Paul Kagame as president of Rwanda by his cabinet and parliament merely gives the title to the strong man who has ruled the little country since 1994. It rubs in the fact that the small Tutsi minority governs the large Hutu majority.

The faade of intercommunal government fell away last month when the titular president, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned in frustrated conflict with the Rwandan Patriotic Front leadership.

Other Hutus in government have quit.

Mr. Kagame is an impressive military and political leader. The genocide of a half-million Tutsis in 1994 ended the former Hutu government's legitimacy and justified Mr. Kagame's seizure of power.

Nonetheless, he should be held to his word that this is a transitional regime and that Rwanda should be governed with the consent of its citizens, all being equal.

Five years ago, Mr. Kagame was hailed as a new breed of African leader. Now he looks like a new generation of the old breed.

The challenge facing him is to make Rwanda truly one country. Mr. Kagame cannot unify the people and create a true nation overnight. He will be judged on whether he does it at all.

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