Thursday, August 5, 2010

Paul Kagame, an African Park Chung Hee or just your average Mobutu?

Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, has been getting a lot of press over the past couple years for turning Rwanda's economy and government around after the ultimate low of the 1994 genocide in which nearly a 1 million people perished. Corruption is down, industry is up, and investment is pouring in, construction booming, and aid critics are fawning over the progress and development they see across the country.

But it is election time in Rwanda and Mr. Kagame is being accused of authoritarianism. People are afraid all Kagame's success may be going to his head. Newspapers have been shut down, reporters killed and dissenting voices imprisoned.

Park Chung Hee, the military dictator under which South Korea experienced its largest and most dramatic economic and industrial gains during the 1960s and 1970s was also quite the authoritarian. He was also assasinated by his own CIA chief. But today most Koreans look back on that era as, at least in economic terms, a golden age and measure every current president's performance in terms of steering the economy against Park's record. Park produced results and Koreans today by and large are grateful to him for doing what needed to be done to put Korea on the map of modern developed nations. They were also wise enough to know when his usefullness had reached its limit.

I can only hope this might be Kagame's fate. In fifty years time to be remembered as a brutal authoritarian who nonetheless helped his people to realize their economic dreams.
But then Kagame probably isn't too fond of assasinations.


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