Rwandan President Strikes Back at Journalist Over Twitter

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A British journalist called Paul Kagame “despotic” and “deluded.” Rather than biting his tongue, Kagame fired off 14 angry tweets—and plenty of exclamation points. Some have suggested the feud is the first example of a head of state engaging with a journalist via Twitter.

Kagame laid the groundwork for the spat on May 13, when the Financial Times published comments in which he defended himself against accusations of human rights abuses. “I don’t think anybody out there in the media, UN, human rights organizations, has any moral right whatsoever to level any accusations against me or against Rwanda,” the president said. “Because, when it came to the problems facing Rwanda, and the Congo, they were all useless.”

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That prompted Ian Birrell, the former deputy editor of London’s Independent newspaper, to call Kagame a despot on Twitter. Hoping to get the Rwandan leader’s attention, he addressed it to @PaulKagame. A few hours later Kagame let loose.

“You give yourslf the right to abuse pple and judge them like you r the one to decide… and determine universally what s right or wrong and what shd be believed or not!!! Wrong u r… u have no such right.”

“You have no basis for your comments and you dont kno what you r talking about me or Rw. I will only hold all that in contempt!”

He added: “In Rw.we hold ourselves and each accountable indeed to a high level and even deal with criticism honestly,openly and fairly..!”

Birrell didn’t buy it and responded with this rather sharp message: “why you think media, UN and human rights groups have no right to criticise you?…I know of people living in fear of their lives for daring to criticise you. And with good reason…”

He then contrasted Kagame’s openness on Twitter with the allegations that he harasses anyone who speaks against him at home: “It is great (Kagame) engaging with a critic like me on Twitter. Just shame he doesn’t allow such debate in Rwanda with his own people.” (via The Guardian)

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