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Will Paul Kagame be the Lee Kuan Yew or Vladimir Putin of Africa?

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In 2008 as part of the SEVEN Fund Essay Competition, I wrote an Open Letter to Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, Regarding Virtual Onshoring.  I’m unsure if he ever got or read my letter, as I didn’t win the scholarship (I will write more about this soon). But, of the many countries in Africa, Rwanda may still have the best chance of being able to quickly become a developed and prosperous nation, similar to the transformation in Singapore following Yew’s model.   But it also has the possibility of having the same downward spiral of dictatorship that Putin has wrought onto Russia.

Reading an article in the New York Times about Kagame, it reminded me quite a bit of William Gibson’s classic article in one of the first Wired magazines, title Disneyland with the Death Penalty, where Singapore is shown to be clean well-run city that is mandated by the authoritarian government.  And thus it didn’t surprise me when I recently read in The Economist that Kagame is an acolyte of Yew, and looks to model Rwanda on Singapore’s success. Yet, The Economist also had an article in the same issue warning of the possibility of King Paul, and it seems that much of what Kagame is saying and doing is reminiscent of Putin’s tactics of staying in power within Russia, even when he was behind the scenes.

As a U.S. citizen, I naturally bristle with the thought of a government censoring my speech and having harsh rules to keep peace in line, which is what I view as a loss of my rights.  Yet, I also see how republicanism (and direct democracy) often does not lead to happiness for the population.  The populous has the psychological tendency to put their head in the sand, like on global warming.  And politicians in a republic tend to be two-faced liars, as that is the only manner that seems to get things done. This worries me about the politics of the United States at this point in time.

So while most authoritarian governments are worse, because they tend to be inept, filled with nepotism and corruption, there are the rare example like Singapore (and possibly China), where there is a legitimate question about whether the people are better off because of the authoritarian government led by a strong man (or woman) than they would have been if a representative democracy was in charge.  And a strong man can always bequeath their country back to a government by the people, as Atatürk did…  But one only needs to see how Turkey has slipped back to religious rule to see the potential failings of this.

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Written by Jacob Walker

March 29th, 2015 at 11:30 am

Posted in Political Science

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  1. […] I wrote a tad about my Open Letter to Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, Regarding Virtual Onshoring.  I […]

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