Review of British journalist Michela Wrong’s remarkable new book Do Not Disturb:The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad replete with a survey of some of the more notable reviews and the notorious reviewers who reviewed it.
Do Not Disturb is a book out some six months now that has catapulted author Michela Wrong to a new low of infamy in the eyes of Paul Kagame, the President-for-Life in Rwanda, and those who applaud him.
Those who applaud Paul Kagame are generally of the cult-worshipping variety and have no real grasp on the historiography of Rwanda, its current events, or the politics of genocide and human rights there, or—more often—they are willing agents in the disinformation and fake news wars where, sadly, they have so disfigured the truth that they actually believe the stories that they tell.
The title Do Not Disturb refers to the sign found dangling from the gilded latch to Room 905 of the Michelangelo Towers Hotel, Johannesburg, where it worked its magic to shroud the crime inside. The dead man on the bed was Rwanda’s exiled Col. Patrick Karegeya, the ex-spy chief who once ran Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s tenebrous External Security Organization and who also, some say, played a role in Kagame’s foreign assassinations program. A smooth operator, Karegeya was for years tasked with handling outsiders, everyone from foreign ambassadors, defense attachés and intelligence operatives, to journalists and celebrities and academics.
Patrick Karegeya’s role as a ‘handler’ of outsiders was not unusual: anyone who visits Rwanda will be watched, their contacts vetted, their relationships ‘handled’ by agents of the criminal Rwandan regime. Anyone, and everyone. Most visitors are unaware of the nature and scope of surveillance practiced by Rwanda’s state security apparatus. (Further, they are directed to select genocide survivors—including Tutsis who were not even in Rwanda at the time—and they are shown a pile of skulls and skeletons and, well, their minds are lost forever.) Patrick Karegeya was tasked with handling the high profile visitors and those deemed potentially problematic—like journalists and fellow spies.
Patrick Karegeya was also the jester darling of donor-nation’s purse-string pullers: the cool Patrick Karegeya did his part to keep the money from foreign countries coming in. And it did. No matter the crimes committed by the shadow gang operating behind the faux front government in Rwanda, “no major donor moved to sever aid or impose sanctions, or considered exposing Kigali’s plots to public view.”
It is no small feat to kill a spook with the kind of friends found in Colonel Karegeya’s cell-phone contacts. A seasoned apostle in the Cult of Intelligence—no doubt cozy with MOSSAD, CIA, BOSS, MI-6, Canadian operatives—his friends in high places also included prominent foreign correspondents and diplomats.
Do Not Disturb is an apt title for another reason: There are a lot of people whose careers and reputations rest on the falsification of consciousness constructed like a sarcophagus to entomb the dirty secrets and ugly truths that the piles of skeletons at Rwanda’s and Uganda’s genocide memorials can’t point to and the skulls can’t speak to. It’s easy to pile up bleached bones and put a sign on them, declare them victims of the desired demographics, and that’s what Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) did. They did it first in the Luwero Triangle of Uganda, later in Kigali and Ruhengeri and Gisenyi in Rwanda; in Congo they dumped the bones in mass graves — and in the Congo river and its massive tributaries — but they went back later and disappeared even these. In Rwanda the RPA also had their crematoriums, churning thousands of bodies to ash and smoke, disappearing all trace of their victims.
“Unless you’re a pathologist, a corpse cannot tell its story.” Author Michela Wrong reminds us that dead men tell no tales. “By the mere dint of dying, it seems, [the victims] picked a side.” Another page, she writes: “Patrick [Karegeya] certainly knew where all the skeletons were buried.”
Offering us a unique and deeply penetrating look at the internal workings of the “Grinding Machine” — that’s what Hotel Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina called the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame — that has churned innocent men, women and children to dust on the hills of Rwanda and the steamy equatorial forests of Congo, a disturbingly unique dictatorship that also eats its own. Michela Wrong simultaneously offers us an incisive and comprehensive peek into a mind that is arguably the world’s most disturbed, the King behind the Cult of Personality, Kagame, and with that she exposes the mystery that lies at the heart of human evil. Hers is not a historical revisioning. It is a masterful storytelling of a story whose time to be heard has perhaps finally come.
Michela Wrong is a seasoned former foreign correspondent for Reuters, the BBC and Financial Times. If Do Not Disturb really is The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad it is much more than that. It is also the herstory of a middle class British lady who slogged the doldrums of beat reportage—”covering boxing matches, cycling races, gas explosions and rewriting stringer copy” for years —all the way to Paris and to Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and to Kinshasa, from where she booked her story of the downfall of a dictator and the deluge that followed, and who would, one day, far into the unseen future, gain the confidence of a handful of media savvy guerrillas from whom she quickly bought their faux Marxist liberation story and sold it to the world on a currency of moral righteousness of the Good Guys v. Bad Guys Hotel Rwanda kind, only to find that she’d been hoodwinked and the glue didn’t stick and the victorious Tutsi left to tell the story, ever whining about their victimhood, weren’t quite the saintly Disciplined-Tutsi-Rebels-Who-Stopped-the-Genocide-and-Won-the-War-and-Rebuilt-Rwanda-in-His-Utopian-and-Egalitarian-Image saviors that their manipulative propaganda—bludgeoned into peoples’ heads through bullying and fear and constant repetition and guilt, especially the guilt—made them out to be, and who, even in the dawning awareness of their treachery and deceit and the creeping cognizance that she too was walking-the-thin-bloody-line between filing Dispatches and being Dispatched—off with her head!—kept on poking holes in the officially authorized but ever unfolding Untold Story with a persistent dedication to telling it.
Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda more like a ruthless Tutsi King from the pre-colonial era than like your typical 20th century democra-despot. I mean, the world has seen some choice head-choppers — Augusto Pinochet (Chile), Henry VIII (England), Paul Biya (Cameroon), Suharto (Indonesia), General Gnassingbe Eyadema (Togo), Charlemagne (France), but the dictate Off with their heads! takes on a special new meaning for all those Rwandan masses living in fear amidst the secrets and subterfuge of the thousand hills of Rwanda’s rebirth and the man who dreamed It.
Some reviewers of Do Not Disturb produced simplistic reviews emulating the essentialized fiction of the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda: to them Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Army are saintly. Some reviewers mount veiled attacks against the author and the camp they presume her to belong to; other critics engage in mental masturbation. Many of them regurgitate abandoned theories that always strained credulity. Reviews are launched like volleys across some epistemological battlefield, clear testimonials to the reviewer jockeying for ascendance in the ever shape-shifting Intellectual and Propaganda War being waged between privileged whites, (and a few people of color from the comprador class) to be heard about all things Heart of Darkness and the shadowy kingdoms and fiefdoms orbiting its periphery.
Welcome to the Cult of Elitist Camps of High-Minded-Moral-Judgers-in-Chief of Events and History in Central Afrika (sic). Not even a machete will help readers cut through the fictions to expose the facts given the competing narratives and personalities and hubris and vitriol surrounding the politics of genocide in Central Afrika. The New York Times Magazine’s fictional hit-piece on Paul Rusesabagina by Joshua Hammer last March (2021) is a stellar example: “He Was the Hero of ‘Hotel Rwanda’: Now He’s Accused of Terrorism.”
A Pop Survey of Reviews
Even the most hostile of the Western book reviews that populate our most prestigious journals and papers-of-record can’t rival those cranked out by the Keepers of the Royal Word in Kigali. Hence, at one extreme, we have Rwanda’s abacurabwenge—the specialists at King Kagame’s court. Just like in olden times, these are subjects of Kagame’s Kingdom authorized to defend the latest Toothpick King at all costs, and they do so by any means necessary: lies, distortions, slanders, ad hominem attacks. People like Tom Ndahiro, one of King Kagame’s perpetual propaganda peddlers who pops up in academia and the press and wherever the need arises to murder some everyday truth to enshrine some establishment lie.,
By the way: the ‘toothpick’ descriptor is herein used as an adjective, not a noun, to describe the tall skinny aristocratic Tutsi Kings and, Rwanda’s President—he is no king, no more than he is a freely elected President—Paul Kagame, at 6 foot 2 inches, is the stuff of which Tutsi Kings were made. The former Tutsi monarchs were all tall and very skinny: King Mutara III Rudahagwa was 6 foot 8 inches and his successor King Kigeli V was 7 foot 2 inches. “There’s a disconcertingly otherworldly appearance to these etiolated, Giacometti-slim monarchs,” writes Michela Wrong, “with their high foreheads, protruding teeth, and endless legs…”
And it seems that the toothpick phenotype is not all King Kagame has inherited: there is also the pre-colonial legacy of violence—the Royal ruthlessness, suspicion, spying, subterfuge, abuse, intrigue, cunning of the King’s Court—where, Michela Wrong reminds us, “[t]he palace compound was a vipers’ nest of scheming gossip, two-faced informers, incestuous couplings, and deadly familial plots.”
King Kagame adapted his precursor’s templates of violence to his contemporary panopticon. Battalions of the toothpick King Rwabugiri had a propensity to wiping out every man, woman and child at the King’s whim. King Kagame has carried the aristocratic Tutsi ruthlessness and supremacy of his forbears—attitudes, prejudices and behaviors premised in absolute superiority, including the license to extort, enslave, mutilate and murder—into a present where total control begins with the control of people’s thoughts, and this is done by manipulating the mass media, spinning the narrative, wagging the dog.
The Scribes of the Kagame Court, you see, must take care not to disappoint the regime—which is really about pleasing the President King—else they might uncertainly suffer the fate of the not-so-few-fallen-out-of-favor who were routinely abused, slapped, slandered, kicked, raped, killed or silently disappeared on the King’s orders. Of course, for the lucky survivors, the abuse has not stopped. Kagame—the toothpick King—routinely abuses his subjects. Do Not Disturb shares shocking tales told by repentant RPA rogues now out of favor with the King.
“They learned the importance of punctuality.” Michela Wrong is here speaking of civilians who suffered the President King’s petulance. “When a cabinet meeting was called, Kagame would often wait behind the door, and anyone who dared arrive late would receive a kick to the buttocks sending them sprawling.”
It’s comical to imagine. This is one of the world’s most decorated leaders. In Do Not Disturb, King Kagame’s former comrades paint a portrait that evokes images of an animated toothpick cartoon character obsessed with springing out of the shadows to waylay his workers. Comical, but sanguinary, pathetic, disturbed. How many prestigious colleges and universities have honored Kagame as a speaker or conferred Honorary degrees on him?
Mass murder is a messy business, and it hasn’t always gone the King’s way. Look at Kibeho: thousands of Hutu refugees systematically mowed down on the orders of King Kagame. What a pickle! You’d think. Right? In the north, in the south, in the middle of Rwanda, in the Congo, the atrocity business is a big job. Massacres were mismanaged. Villagers escaped, arms dangling, brains spilling out. Reports were filed, then unfiled, then buried, then denied. Shit happens. “Like the cyborg running down its assigned victim, this vengeful Terminator never stops,” Michela Wrong reminds us, “even when the pursuit comes across as bizarrely self-defeating.”
The King, it seems, is perpetually disturbed. His punishment for soldiers was worse. Another day and his hoe-happy killers have slipped up. Made a mess of things. Let those phantasmagorical Hutu holdouts from Congo hop over the frontier, infiltrate northwestern Rwanda. His Hateful Highness ordered some 1500 of his Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) soldiers and gendarmes to assemble at barracks. The defense minister arrived followed by a Tata lorry under escort of his military police—his homegrown manifestation of the East German Stasi. “It was loaded with whips. As the troops watched in stunned silence, Kagame systematically whipped his senior commanders, while his military police meted out the same punishment to his junior officers.”
Reminiscent of the utter brutality of King Kigeli V Rwabugiri (1840-1895), the bloodiest of the feudal Tutsi Mwamis that preceded Kagame by a hundred years—and one that Kagame claims his lineage to—some fifty to sixty commanders were whipped. It took—Michela Wrong reports—the entire afternoon.
Q: And generals?
A: And generals.
Even General James Kabarebe—the legendary RPA kingpin who so loyally served Kagame and comrades during their genocidal adventures in the ‘rebellions’ and coups d’etat and ongoing interventions waged from Uganda to Rwanda to Congo and back—has frequently suffered outrageous humiliations born of the sick soul soup of temper tantrum and paranoia and narcissism that make Paul Kagame the unique and bona fide psychopath that he is.
Do Not Disturb chronicles such phenomena seen from the eyes of the secretive clique of those closest to King Kagame, and Michela Wrong gets it right enough. For that the Royal Scribes declared her a Genocide Denier, and one who set out a priori to smear the government (sic) of Rwanda.
Oh, please. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We can imagine King Kagame’s reception of the book. Delivered by some functionary, the King makes the messenger wait: she stands before him, head bowed, wringing her hands. Heir Hitler, sitting on his throne, quietly inspects the book. He turns it in his hands, reads the Jacket Blurbs praising the book and its author. “Refreshingly free of jargon” says Rene Lemarchand. “Profoundly criminal regime” says Filip Reyntjens. “Ruthless dictator,” says Adam Hocshchild Insults to the King, all of them. The toothpick King tightens. He flips open the jacket cover. More insults. The King snorts. Murmurs to himself. Turns pages. Suddenly (by page 9) he snaps. Throws the book down. Bolts out of his plush leather chair (studded with Congo’s diamonds?). Stomps feet, bangs fists on desk, shakes with rage. Screams and yells, in Kinyarwanda. Foams at the mouth, searches for scapegoats (having already shot the messenger).
If you think any of the above is overstatement you are wrong, and none of this is past tense (excepting the lives already lost). And unless you count yourself as an acolyte of the Cult of High-Minded Moral Judgers & etc. shouting to drown out all competing camps—which is pretty much the scene out there in the nebulous stratospherean Public Realm—you probably don’t understand exactly what makes James Kabarebe so legendary, but I do, and I’m doing my best to elaborate such details in a spirit of tolerance and expansionist understanding that “combines rigor and humility, i.e. passionate conviction plus sedulous respect for the convictions of others,” i.e. a Democratic Spirit.
The actual wars and war crimes on the ground in the Great Lakes of Afrika can’t hold a spear to the brutal Propaganda Wars waged with Sycophantic Acclaim and Ruthless Derision between the academics and the journalists and the human rights advocates and the editors and all the others in the Cult of High-Minded-you-know-whats.
At the heart of this tale is the rise and demise of Colonel Patrick Karegeya, a man whose charm mesmerized many a journalist and bureaucrat and ambassador— all of whom helped whitewash the blood from his hands. “To pick up a foreign magazine or newspaper and know he’d helped bring about the glowing portrayal of Rwanda’s new administration printed therein gave him a thrill of quiet satisfaction. He was helping to coax a story of heroic resurrection into being, a saga so poignant and uplifting it would entrance the world.”
And the world remains entranced.
The Elephant in the Room
Exemplifying one of the better reviews on the scale of lousy to lousier, consider “The Dark Underside of Rwanda’s Model Public Image,” penned for the New York Times by their erstwhile former East Afrika Bureau Chief and Central Afrika expert Howard W. French. A reasonable, though abbreviated and essentialized overview of some of the relevant history mixed up with a disparate grouping of facts, the review is more about the reviewer’s experience in the blood-drenched forests of Equatoria than it is about the book.
“There is a taut, cinematic quality to Wrong’s account of Karegeya’s killing, and a mournful, hurt tone as well.” Howard W. French nonetheless shares a poignant insight. “[M]ournful because Karegeya, a skilled, seductive handler of Western reporters, had been a key source for [Michela] Wrong while he was in government. The hurt that infuses her story is more subtle, but ultimately more important.”
Ah, the subtleties of the ‘Rwanda Story.’ Oh, oh, oh so much intrigue, disinformation, outright lies, ethnocentrism, sordid rogues, conspiracy theories, and bona fide conspiracies—a thousand hills of opinion teetering on the edge of a great rift; so many people blinded by the propaganda groping in the darkness and clinging to the disjointed parts of the elephant in the room—obtusely pretending to misunderstand the nature of the beast.
What is the elephant in the room? It is the involvement of the Western interests behind and beside the Rwandan Patriotic Army/Front that so many ‘experts’ expertly ignore or, worse, deny. The military intelligence apparatus, the multinational corporations, the Western diplomats, the shady covert operators, the foreign mining magnates—where are they? Oh, right, this is Africa (sic).
The elephantine question here is why Mr. French perpetually propagates the ‘mystery’ myth of the double presidential assassinations of 6 April 1994? The “mysterious 1994 downing of an aircraft carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi— both Hutu,” he wrote. And again: “The plane, shot down by unidentified attackers as it approached Kigali…” Mr. French, no doubt, is unwilling to stick his neck out. (Off with his head!)
On several key controversial issues, Michela Wrong weighs the igneous evidence and slippery theories and the dumb deliberations about, e.g., Hutu hardliners and their diabolical conspiracies. There are plenty of these and Michela Wrong disembowels some of them. Ridiculous unfounded claims, e.g., that Agathe Habyarimana, Juvenal Habyarimana’s wife, was in cahoots with the ‘Hutu hardliners’ and that is who and how her husband came to be killed. Do Not Disturb pretty much resolves Mr. French’s ‘mystery’ about who shot down the plane. Of course, his review doesn’t discuss any of that (which makes you wonder if he read her book or just skimmed it or merely gleaned a few facts to fabricate a convincing review). At the heart of Michela Wrong’s plane-crash-by-missiles treatment, of course, is the tidy denouement delivered by the indefatigable Filip — “The RPF did it.”
Howard W. French reviews his-story as much as her-story, and his imperfect review is more honest than most. Still, one wonders why a Columbia School of Journalism prof who has walked in the footsteps of Mr. Kurtz and criticized the follies of the King in Kigali keeps slipping on the same banana peel and falling flat? It’s a mystery, indeed. I mean, Mr. French speaks six languages, has authored a slew of books, and he mildly protested the slaughter of a few hundred thousand Hutu refugees in Congo, a criticism which was heresy at the time and practically still is, and both his observations and his criticisms (sic) are now forever booked in A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope for Africa—replete with clear unequivocal evidence of the perverse and hostile prejudices that he harbored against the Hutu refugees and which absolutely contributed to their extermination. Mr. French is very accomplished, and he’s very smart, and he really gets around. So what’s all this mystery nonsense about?
Another problem with Mr. French’s framing is his regurgitation of the Cattle-Herding-Tutsis-as-Victims-of-Hoe-Happy-Hutu-Killers narrative, a cud-chewing exercise that so many arm-chair Central Afrika sailors have salivated over, and the very same narrative that Kagame et al defend by Royal Fiat of the Genocide-Ideology-and-Denialism-Hunt-Them-Down-and-Silence-Them-Forever kind.
“As Hutu swept to power in Rwanda’s 1961 elections, scattered Hutu pogroms against the Tutsi broke out.” The ‘Hutu swept to power,’ he writes, and Belgium had their backs, and the Tutsi—ever threatened and marginalized and persecuted—poured out of Rwanda. That is standard establishment fare. With a couple half-truth sentences like the one above (turning the facts on their heads) Mr. French obliterates a decade of the elite Tutsi aristocracy’s temper-tantrum terrorism. He is not alone in that. And then, next para, he skips to 1972 where he (properly) situates the Hutu genocide in Burundi as a portent of the bloodshed to befall Rwanda (1994). “Little heed was paid to it at the time,” he understates, “and Wrong mentions it only in passing…”
Huh? Mr. French never parses the ‘Tutsi’ demographic into the coexistent but counter-veiling factions of (1) the petulant Tutsi patricians who ran the show and (2) the ‘petit’ Tutsi paupers who suffered for it. This is important: for centuries the latter peasants had their backs broke toiling soil and toppling trees for the former, the toothpick Tutsi nobility who treated them like Hutu squat. To ignore the distinction is like dismissing Devlinism in any reasonable discussion about Joseph Desire Mobutu which, of course, is exactly what you get if you read Howard W. French’s book A Continent for the Taking which pretty much eschews any real hard truths in favor of a vague His-torical expeditionary memoir of the Howard W. French in Africa (spelled with a ‘c’) variety. For Mr. French to name drop Michela for such a peripheral offense is, well, just wrong.
“But the coup in Burundi turned into one of the worst ethnic killing sprees of the 20th century,” Mr. French concludes. “Hundreds of thousands of Hutu were slaughtered by a Tutsi army, and thousands of others streamed into Rwanda, where tales of their persecution further radicalized the Hutu majority.”
Indeed. Got that right.
The Nail that Sticks out Gets Hammered Down
One of the latest victims to be ensnared in King Kagame’s lurid lair is Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero of the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, abducted from Dubai. The details of his kidnapping and capture have been revealed, but the truth about Paul R. has been clouded and distorted and—like the man—tortured. Held hostage since August 2020, Paul R. was then tried for terrorism by the courts of King Kagame.
Over the years since Paul Rusesabagina himself went into exile there were also attempts on his life. The story of one Paul’s heroism, his rise to fame, his abduction, his trial, and so many sordid or unsorted details would make a great read. Michela Wrong managed to squeeze in several paragraphs pointing to Paul R.’s plight, and the greater story she tells provides an appropriate context to view and understand Paul R.s’ kidnapping and his captors. Now Paul R. is in prison, the trial concluded. As the trial of Paul R. proceeded, the behavior of the court’s courtiers and clerks and counsels became curiouser and curiouser. Here is an ordinary man, an extraordinary story, but they sentenced the wrong Paul.
Weighing in on King Kagame’s side we have the NYT Magazine hit-piece of March 2021. Joshua Hammer assaults the truth in his 7000-worder hammered together with all the duplicitous doublespeak that King Kagame’s Royal Scribes have ever edicted. You know, all the usual stuff the King burps up about Tutsi-hating Hutu hold-outs hunkered in hapless Congo prepped to rain apocalypse down on poor little Rwanda at the first sign of some splinter in the indurate fortress of Kagame’s toothpick Kingdom.
Joshua Hammer is one of those worldly journos who reported from the ‘safe zone’ in 1994, the Sleeping-with-the-RPA kind described by Michela Wrong in Do Not Disturb. He traveled around the killing fields in a sporty Isuzu Trooper with an RPA escort and an AK-47-clutching [RPA] bodyguard and, obviously, routinely rubbed the blood off his boots with the lies of the RPA High Command, then pimped his fiction to Newsweek, which is ever ready to regurgitate the party line. In 1994, in the arms of the RPA, he toured “the half of Rwanda overrun by Tutsi rebels since the slaughter began” and this is the genesis of his long litany of lies. Joshua Hammer never disclosed his cozy RPA relationship to the readers of the NYT Magazine.
Joshua Hammer’s post-publication pride in his cunningly-crafted-and-oh-so-deceptively-savvy character assassination of Paul Rusesabagina and his systematic dismantling of the standard interpretation of Paul R.’s plight is hammered sharp as nails in one obscure post-publication Facebook comment in response to a starry-eyed follower: “I’m hoping that my views, such as they are, come across in the piece. That Rusesabagina’s downfall is far more complex than the standard interpretation: that he is a human rights hero who was ‘kidnapped’ by a ruthless dictator determined to silence all criticism (emphasis added). At some point [Paul Rusesabagina] did seem to go over to the dark side, swept away by naiveté, ambition, and who-knows-what-else.”
Joshua Hammer’s biases don’t stop with his dismissal of the crime of an international abduction. He also nurtures delusions of a shared trajectory of victimization between ‘his tribe’ and the ‘Tutsi tribe’—the old Jews of Africa theme that was annealed to the Rwanda genocide narrative with the golden goose of Gourevitchism.
Dr. Brian Endless is professor of Political Science and Director of African Studies at Loyola University Chicago, and he’s spent years working with Paul R. and his Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation. When the fact checkers of the NYT Mag unloaded the quotes that Joshua Hammer had attributed to him, they didn’t check. Asking around, Dr. Endless learned that his were not the only mis-quotes chambered for publication, so he emailed the editors seeking to retool the Hammer story.
“I have never even considered going over a reporter’s head to talk to their editor,” Dr. Endless wrote. “Time after time those of us who spoke with Josh [Hammer] presented him with facts and he is not looking at them… He should not be allowed to write this story and a more objective journalist should be substituted.”
“Sadly but as expected, the final article by Joshua Hammer is a stereotypical example of ‘hack journalism’ at its worst.” Brian Endless again emailed the editors after the story ran. “I do not use ‘hack journalism’ here lightly, but I believe the dictionary definition applies. Joshua interviewed me and many other people affiliated with Paul Rusesabagina, plus a number of journalists and academic experts. He clearly ignored all of our input, and instead told the story that has been put out since shortly after the terrible 1994 genocide by the propaganda machine of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.”
“The problem is, most of Hammer’s pro-Kagame/anti-Rusesabagina sources are close to Kagame’s regime.” Canadian journalist Judi Rever pokes at Joshua Hammer’s inflated ego. “Hammer does interview several individuals who are critical of Kagame or close to Rusesabagina, but their comments are stripped of their context, and come off jarring and misleading.”
Joshua Hammer never informs his readers that King Kagame’s British propagandist Andrew Mitchell is a British MP and former UK Development Minister who earns US$ 55,802 annually—paid by Rwanda. The US Ambassador for War Crimes in 2003, Pierre Prosper “negotiated a deal in which the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda handed over jurisdiction for prosecuting RPF crimes to Kagame’s own government—allowing the criminals to investigate themselves, and granting Kagame de-facto immunity for war crimes. Pierre Prosper also happens to be Kagame’s personal lawyer. Why didn’t Hammer mention this?”
My attention to Joshua Hammer’s hit-piece against Paul Rusesabagina is no diversion from the book under review. It rather hits the nail on its head.
The operation to kidnap Paul R. “succeeded in one key regard,” wrote Michela Wrong in Do Not Disturb: “[i]t sent a cold chill down the back of every government critic based abroad, hammering home the “You can run but you can’t hide” message Kagame voiced at [a] prayer breakfast after Patrick’s [Karegeya’s] murder.”
Joshua Hammer continues to peddle the perfidious proofs and twisted truths produced by the Kagame killing machine. Unlike Howard French, Joshua Hammer has never equivocated over the double presidential assassinations of 6 April 1994. “The assassination—blamed by Hutu hardliners on the Tutsi rebels—set the plot to exterminate the Tutsi minority in motion.” In a GQ article packed with Hutu hate and all the racist distortions born of his early Rwanda sojourns in RPA la-la land, Joshua Hammer peddles the elite Tutsi lie that Hutu extremists killed their own. “(A U.S. State Department intelligence report would blame Hutu extremists—members of Habyarimana’s elite presidential guard—for shooting down the jet.)”
And, Voila! The pesky problem of who killed the two dead presidents is duly dispatched.
In September 2021 Joshua Hammer appeared on an AfricaNews.com blog legitimizing King Kagame’s kangaroo courts and the pre-ordained verdict against Paul Rusesabagina. AfricaNews.com is an elite pro-business venue, affiliated with the establishment press and partnered with EuroNews (which earned $138 million from the European Commission 2014-2018), that whitewashes the plunder of Africa and its plunderers under the slogan “made by Africans for a growing Africa.”
Joshua Hammer obviously dismissed Michela Wrong’s book. He didn’t read Judi Rever’s important book In Praise of Blood and he didn’t read your humble correspondent’s latest garrison series on Rwanda and he knew about all of these because he contacted all of us and we all responded, sincerely, politely, honestly, in good faith. When Judi Rever told him how the RPF mobile killing squads operated to routinely hunt, murder, incinerate and disappear thousands of Hutu people, Mr. Hammer would have none of it.
“These brazen, or gullible, revisions of history found an eager audience amongst groups of Hutu extremists in exile who were looking for ways to damage Kagame’s credibility,” he wrote, in his attack on Paul Rusesabagina, “to minimize Hutu culpability and, for some, to justify attempts to retake Rwanda by force.”
Look out ! Here come those Tutsi-hating Hutu hold-outs hunkered in hapless Congo again!
The nasty graphic that accompanied Joshua Hammer’s hit-piece against Rwandan Hutu businessman Felicien Kabuga: “The Epic Hunt for One of the World’s Most Wanted Men GQ, January 19, 2021.
Alas, Joshua Hammer wrote what he wanted, and the NYT fact-checkers who called us (his sources) didn’t care that they (we) disputed the quotes attributed to us, or the context, or both. We were the chosen ones, the contrarian ‘sources’ selected to create the illusion of balance, and Joshua fit the battle of propaganda to malign us as conspiracy theorists: his goal from the get-go.
He calls us the Big Lie Propagators.
“There is a kind of outcry and a claim that there was a miscarriage of justice,” Joshua Hammer chirped, “that this was a foregone conclusion, that the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was determined to silence one of his main political enemies. While there may be some validity to that, the larger truth is that all the evidence shows that Rusesabagina is guilty.”
Fact is, Joshua Hammer slept with the RPA at ground zero and has pimped for them ever since.
Indeed, the larger truth is that all the evidence shows that Joshua Hammer is an unabashed apologist for mass murder, he has actively promulgated anti-Hutu sentiment and anti-Hutu disinformation in support of the genocide against Hutu people, and that he appears to be an operative for the CIA or MOSSAD (or both).
As smart as he is, Joshua Hammer didn’t think for himself—off with his head!—he merely reconstituted the RPA’s tired warped enduring brilliant narrative, with no lie left disinterred by his ego, his self-interest, his prejudices or his wrong historiography—a DO NOT DISTURB sign dangling from the doors of his imperception. Here was another machete-job where the author’s projections and his interests and his pandering for popularity disfigured the subject being writ—and his editors put the New York Times brand on it.
Not so with Michela Wrong: no branding here. No matter the faults of the book, its author launches into the fray with a humble and painful public admission. “As examples of the RPF human rights abuses and unaccountability accumulated, I was not the only previously supportive journalist who winced, frowned, and was quietly grateful to be writing about other things. My career had taken me elsewhere, Rwanda was no longer my beat. Still, it was painful to accept that I might have unwittingly misled my readers.”
This is the hurt flagged by Howard French (in his review). It is also “a little silvery salamander of shame that flips over inside me” now and again, she wrote.
Q: “So, how do you write Rwanda’s contemporary history,” she asks, “when so many key sources now readily admit they lied at the time?”
A: Read the book.
The Roots of Rwanda’s Genocide
One of the most accurate and yet simultaneously scathing reviews appeared in the New York Review of Books. In “The Roots of Rwanda’s Genocide”, the reviewers criticized Michela Wrong for, they said, glossing over atrocities committed against Hutu people in northern Rwanda by RPA soldiers, pre-1994, under the command of Paul Kagame, and for glossing over the Rwandan (RPA) and Ugandan (UPDF) slaughter of Hutu refugees—mostly unarmed, non-combatant men, women and children—in the Congo (Zaire) 1996-1997. The reviewers had other complaints too.
“Wrong’s decision not to go into these details gives Do Not Disturb a move-along-nothing-to-see-here flavor that deflects scrutiny of [Patrick] Karegeya and [General Kayumba] Nyamwasa, with whom she clearly sympathizes,” wrote Helen Epstein and Claude Gatebuke.
The reviewers complain about what is in the book and what isn’t, and they accuse the author of disrespecting the Hutu people—all because, they say, she was too close and too sympathetic to her sources. “Wrong is hardly the only Africanist who continues to downplay the RPF’s pre-genocide crimes,” they conclude.
Yours truly has a shopping list of criticisms of Do Not Disturb, some very fair, others prolly less so, some might even be downright snotty. . (Please revisit fn. 12, above), but I liked the NYRB review The Roots of Rwanda’s Genocide and I liked it a lot, and I told Michela Wrong that. I liked it because it is unprecedented in the annals of the New York Times or mainstream press to see such truths written about Kagame, the RPF, and Rwanda. I also immediately saw the truth in the reviewers’ criticisms. Helen Epstein et al also hen pick a few of Michela Wrong’s comments, flagging her as a closet racist, at best, but these criticisms tend to wrongly exaggerate, in light of the whole.
“Should I have allotted more attention to the RPF atrocities committed specifically between 1990-1994?” Michela Wrong expresses her frustration. “Probably a few more paragraphs, yes. But there was, as you know, A LOT OF GROUND TO COVER with this story, and my focus was the inner workings of the RPF, the relations between a former band of brothers-turned-enemies” and “[they] accuse me of ignoring context and historical buildup to the genocide, [but] that’s there in my pages—I could quote the page numbers.”
And it is there. And there was a lot of ground to cover. And she does cover a lot of ground. And it is not, per se, a story about bloody atrocities. While there is some truth to the above reviewers’ claims, their review more poignantly pins their place in the Genocide and Propaganda wars.
Their own review has one glaring problem, and that is the author’s statement that “RPF atrocities committed against the mostly Hutu population of northern Rwanda that have barely been recognized by historians, journalists, and even human rights investigators” … “were methodical but they weren’t genocide.”;
Yes, they were. Hutus were enslaved, tortured, raped and killed, en masse, precisely because they were Hutus. It was cold. It was calculated. It was genocide by any reasonable definition of the concept.
“RPF abuses during this period [1990-1994] were largely concealed both by Habyarimana’s totalitarian repression and by the RPF’s nimble propaganda.” Epstein and Gatebuke go on. “Wrong barely mentions them—they merit a single phrase on page 419 of her 488-page book. But they, and the international community’s near-total disregard of them, are what set Rwanda on the path to genocide.”
One of the establishment press articles of 1994-1998 that supported the RPA/UPDF genocide against the Rwandan Hutu people by universally demonizing them as genocidaires. Hundreds of thousands of innocent, non-combattant men, women and children were hunted down and slaughtered by the RPA/UPDF forces under the command of Major General Paul Kagame.
Reviewers attacked Michela Wrong on the most spurious grounds. Indeed, the reviewer for Foreign Affairs was so preoccupied with Michela Wrong’s disclosures about Karegeya’s lurid sexual behavior that it taints his brief review. British academic Phil Clark distorts the book’s message and its conclusion in a sophisticated masturbatory review where he apparently does not even see the circulatory undermining of his own duplicitous arguments. He also resorts to character assassination by sexual innuendo (like Joshua Hammer, he doesn’t grasp the relationship between his own disturbed psyche and what he has written). Male readers will miss it, females less likely to. Phil Clark’s fixation on certain facets of Michela Wrong’s dance with Patrick Karegeya, coupled with his selective tweets of these particular paragraphs, confirm his preoccupation with the notion that Michela Wrong had an affair with Patrick Karegeya. Isn’t that how weak men typically deal with powerful women?
Typical sexualized caricature of white female journalists of the kind routinely published to harass and intimidate Jennifer Fierberg or Ann Garrison. This one appeared in the Rwanda regime’s propaganda venue ‘The Exposer’ run by Tom Ndahiro.
Phil Clark is an academic-in-high-demand paid to testify at U.S. Department of Homeland Security (ICE) removal hearings of Rwandan asylum seekers being hunted by Kagame and his external neutralization and assassinations program. As Kagame’s most ardent ‘expert’ witness, he collects his fees from Kigali for reports that distort the facts and defame the victims being hunted by the regime.
Phil Clark further stretches credibility when he categorizes Michela Wrong as racist by saying that she “extends an unfortunate Orientalist strand that runs through the book.” Phil Clark’s fervent worship and exotic admiration of King Kagame, coupled with his disingenuous defense of the RPA juggernaut suggest that he might want to look in the lavatory mirror on one of his regular airplane flights in and out of Kigali: a survey of his work reveals that one could hardly be more Orientalist and, anyways, he was long ago criticized by academic peers for his complicity with the regime.
It’s not everyone who can come and go so freely from Rwanda: one has to be truly $pecial.
Phil Clark is cozy with King Kagame and remains at liberty to roam the Royal Realm far and wide, and he capitalizes on his collusion with little fear and a lot of favor. Ditto Joshua Hammer, Philip Gourevitch, Howard Buffet, Andrew Young, Ben Affleck, Paul Farmer, Rick Warren, and many others whose spit-and-polish perpetuate the King’s grip on the commons.
Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad is a remarkable work by a main stream foreign correspondent with a pedigree d’emploi that deflects the usual accusations meant to discredit and dismiss. Not only that, but Michela Wrong’s sources are often those you wouldn’t expect to see divulging the kinds of secrets they are. That is the book’s greatest currency.
This book is also an archeology of the discourse on Central Afrika, and it challenges the various ideological camps to expand their conceptions of what happened, who done it, where, when and what for. Given Michela Wrong’s stark details and reasonable treatment of material, and her honest admissions of uncertainty, only the most doctrinaire ideologue or bloodthirsty liar or cult-fanatic (e.g. Tom Ndahiro, Phil Clark, Joshua Hammer) will continue to sling around the usual disinformation and conspiracy theories of, for example, the mysterious-plane-crash for the double presidential assassinations or the Tutsis-are-the-Jews of Africa kind. Michela Wrong coolly dispatches some of the usual shibboleths of the standard pro-RPA narrative with little fanfare.
For those who haven’t read it or those sensitive gun-shy souls wary of skeletons jumping out of the pages, Michela Wrong’s Do Not Disturb could rightly be mistaken for an excavation of some really dark material. I mean, really dark, sanguinary heart-of-darkness horror. However, this is not a book to be confused with Judi Rever’s In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (2018) which digs deep into the massacre of truth to disinter the stark, ugly, Machiavellian machinations of the Grinding Machine in Rwanda (and the ugly, brutish and short half-life of any public criticisms of it).
Do Not Disturb is non-fiction, it is compelling, it is accessible and, demonstrating the author’s vivacious literary flair and superb storytelling, it might entertain you whether or not you are a snoot ((Refer to the term Snoot as the very same one self-abashedly and self-effacingly and proudly adopted by David Foster Wallace as ‘syntax nudnik of our time’. See, e.g., Harper’s, April 2001.)) who spends their life pouring over the literature and dissecting reports and confronting facts re: all things Central Afrika. Indeed, whether you are coryphaeus or pupil of the Cult of Elitist Camps of High-Minded Moral Judgers-in-Chief of Events and History in Central Afrika, or a lay Gourevitchist of the New Yorker-over-breakfast kind of infotainment, Do Not Disturb might either shock your sensibilities awake or yawningly confirm your already petrified prejudices, no matter in which muddy camp you stake your genocide flag.
The beauty of it is that you might not need to read any preparatory material to navigate this book or the author’s lines of enquiry—as long as you remember that Michela Wrong isn’t right about everything. She lays some nice groundwork, though, enough to gain a fair, reasonable, accurate portrait of the nastiness and horror of the regime we (sic) keep in power.
The ugly of it is that you probably watched Hotel Rwanda and thought it was true, or you read We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With our Families and thought that was true, and you probably have not read The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness or even heard of its author Dr. Amos Wilson, which all in all translates to: you have a serious Problem (capital ‘P’).
A: See Ellul.
Do Not Disturb is also brimming with intrigue and shocking revelations that might provoke a shiver of shame from those who for years have seen only fashion in the foibles of Kigali’s naked King and polished the image of the King’s Court in exchange for, well, diamonds and gold and columbium-tantalite, and access to presidents and Swiss bank accounts, or merely for a pinprick of power, or for a sprawling villa on Rwanda’s more remote volcano lakes, or for nubile pubescent virgin females. You know, for some or all of the perks that people sell their souls for.
Given the Pandoran-scale plunder of the Great Lakes of Afrika, where all the usual metals comprising whole rows and columns of the Periodic Table are extracted, where Cobalt and Nickel and Uranium oxides (and their actinide derivatives) are distilled out of Congo for an arsenal of western Fat Men and Little Boys ((The uranium-oxide ore (pitchblende) used to build the first atomic bombs (under the top secret Manhattan Project) was mined at the Shinkolobwe uranium mine in what was then known as the Belgian Congo. In 1940, 1,200 tons of ore were shipped to the US by Edgar Sengier’s African Metals Corp., a commercial arm of Belgium’s Union Miniere de Haut Katanga. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Japan) were named Fat Man and Little Boy, respectively, because they were of the two distinct atomic weapon designs developed under those names.)), as are heaps of odd elements for applications that yours truly and most of the hoi polloi have never even heard of, any expectation of sudden moral clarity is dubious at best, the flashy crocodile-tear promotionalizing of Elon Musk and his crystal adventures in Congo notwithstanding.
Now, let’s consider for a moment that Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s stick-figure leader supreme should perhaps have been recruited by some pro-basketball team, where the Cs and Ds on his General Ed Certificate and his oft-chronicled habit of spying on and Ratting Out fellow students and comrades-in-arms were overlooked. Instead we have this tall lanky (a.k.a. toothpicky) guy who ended up in press-ganged new camo fatigues and cold blue metal Ak-47 dribbling blood on the front lines of several coups d’etat and who deftly out-maneuvered both the Court of Public Opinion and the International Court of Justice that indicted 40 of his subordinate officers (including ‘the General’ Nyamwasa of Michela’s Wrong’s chronicle). Heads of state and Toothpick Kings, it seems, automatically get a pass for such trifling misdemeanors as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, but when the top-tier credentialed journalists and human rights defenders are camped out safely behind your lines, you can definitively count on their fealty. That, at least, is what King Kagame did.
This was another coup d’etat for the Toothpick King. We can hold up Joshua Hammer as a shining example (in the Nicholsonian sense of shining).
“Western reporters fresh to Kigali wrote admiring articles so similar they could almost have been photocopied.” Michela Wrong frequently assaults her own naivete and the lackluster due diligence of her particular species—the many foreign correspondents who serve the propaganda establishment. But, I already said this. But, it’s worth hammering home because her revelations are sincere and refreshing. She recounts testimonies declaring “‘[a]pproved’ journalists were taken to the massacre sites like tourists and helped to file their stories. The [Rwandan Patriotic Front] were smarter and better resourced than the journalists they were dealing with. They gave us transport, food, and protection, they told us a story, and we relayed it. In a way, we were public relations officers, not journalists.”
British journo Michela Wrong was on the ground in Afrique Centrale around the same time as the NYT’s Howard French and Newsweek’s Josh Hammer, and they all put out their own unique portraits of the horror, the horror, manufactured by Kagame and Museveni (and their backers). Now, 27 years later, at 488 pages, Michela Wrong’s is one of few accountings that genuinely exalts the nakedness of the King and what she has created is a masterpiece of organization, with plenty of intrigue and a lot of style.
Michela Wrong never bludgeons you, reader, with a barrage of bodies or skeletons like someone of the human-rights-crusader kind where, as she told me, “[r]eading feels like an ordeal, a form of mental torture, about as much fun as a dose of food poisoning… where violence described is so extreme and unrelenting, so apparently gratuitous, that the temptation is simply to close the book and stop reading.”
Alas, in your foreign correspondent’s humble opinion, her book has its faults. Her descriptions and assessment of Ugandan president Milton Obote is lousy, far off the mark, and her treatment of Yoweri Museveni is not much better, but this is due to her overreliance on the Tutsis who animate her story: The former is always the devil and the latter indecisively divine.
While footnoting Milton Obote’s Notes on the Concealment of Genocide, for example, her treatment of the atrocities in Uganda’s Luwero Triangle during Museveni’s ‘Bush war’ is decidedly coated with RPF drool. Appreciating the potential for Obote’s own biases to overwhelm the truth, we can nonetheless find in Notes an accounting of the atrocities committed by Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army, a guerrilla insurgency with its vengeful Tutsi vanguard—the same Paul Kagame and James Kabarebe and ‘the General’ Kayumba Nyamwasa whose long march to infamy terminated uncountable lives—and the tactics they used then as now.
“There has not been a more progressive and least bigoted Administration in Uganda’s history than the first Obote administration.” Professor Amii Amara-Otunnu, a Ugandan, confers. “Congolese, Rwandese and Sudanese were all welcome to Uganda and most of them were afforded citizenship. Of course, we now know that Museveni dictatorship is the worst and most diabolical Administration in Uganda’s history.”
The whole problematic narrative of the ‘liberation’ of Uganda by Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Army (NRA), with the Banyarwanda Tutsis—Paul Kagame and Fred Rwigyema and Patrick Karegeya and Kayumba Nyamwasa—by his side, sets the stage for the whole twisted problematic narrative of the ‘liberation’ of Rwanda by the RPA/F. We hear these guys Karegeya and ‘The General’ espousing their versions of history and the Tutsis are always the victims and its rather insufferable, and the author let them go on.
These elite Tutsis love their vicarious victims’ tales.
No matter. Every now and again they bubble up something truly revealing.
Michela Wrong makes it clear up front that her sources are inveterate liars and blood-thirsty killers. Here again she connects the pre-colonial past of the Tutsi Toothpick Kings and their culture of lying (Ubwenge) to the post-colonial, post-Habyarimana present and King Kagame’s lies of the times.
The Winter of Africa’s Discontent
The book has one major ideological flaw, and although it is not fatal, this flaw must be appreciated, no matter that is it peripheral to the overall achievement, and that is the author’s contribution to the perpetuation of the Tutsi supremacy ideology and the mythology that so many scholars and journalists and human rights activists and other Rwanda ‘experts’ mistakenly, foolishly, callously, ignorantly or blindly adhere to. The ideological roots of this Tutsi supremacy underpin and inform most all scholarship that relies/d on the fabricated and falsified historiography to enable and facilitate the deep-seated RPA/F narrative and, consequently, all their actions. As I previously mentioned, Michela Wrong’s treatment of the historiography of the Banyarwanda (Tutsis, Hutus, refugees, settlers) in Uganda is skewed by her reading, and adoption, of establishment prejudices and mythologies that pervade the literature and distort the entire gestalt re: all things Rwanda.
Through the vehicle of Do Not Disturb, what we see in Michela Wrong is an example of the self-reflective, self-directed process of the decolonization of the mind (hers). She admits to her having been duped by the RPA/F and its Rwandan and Ugandan agents. Slow in the uptake, it took some 20 years for the façade to crack and fully expose the nakedness of the Emperor. She described herself as one who “had seen the RPF as implacable, certainly, but a disciplined, highly effective movement with a farsighted leadership and a progressive agenda, felt our certainties begin to tremble. I didn’t want to confront the truth of just how thoroughly I might have got it wrong.”
Having ‘got it wrong’, and no matter her humility and sincerity in admitting the error, on some details Michela Wrong continues to get it wrong, only a skip and a jump off the mainstream establishment path. On page 119, for example, she cites “British journalist Cathy Watson, who wrote one of the best reports on the topic” of the Banyarwanda in Uganda. Who is this Cathy Watson and what is this report and why does it matter?
Published February 1991, only months after the RPA’s invasion of Rwanda from Uganda, Exile from Rwanda: Background to an Invasion is a 20-page ‘Issue Paper’ published under the trademark of the euphemistically named ‘U.S. Committee for Refugees’—a highly specious front organization serving overt and covert U.S. interests—that funded and disseminated Watson’s ‘research’. The paper is copyrighted, however, by the equally nebulous, secretive, nationalist American Council for Nationalities Service.
Roger Winter, the head of the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), was the kingpin behind Washington-backed guerrilla insurgencies in Congo, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. In 1988, Roger Winter organized a conference for Tutsis in the diaspora, held in the U.S. and funded by the USCR, where RPA cadres openly declared their intentions to resume the armed struggle to ‘liberate’ Rwanda (read: to recover the power lost in 1959 and reinstate the Tutsi-supremacist aristocracy and do so by any means necessary). Roger Winter was in the field behind RPA lines during the civil war in Rwanda 1990-1994, and this is the reason he was pinned with several medals by King Kagame.
Roger Winter’s protégés included U.S. National Security operatives Susan Rice, Gayle Smith, Jendayi Frazer, John Prendergast and Ted Gagne, and Roger Winter and USCR constantly trotted out RPA propagandists, including Alison Des Forges and Catherine Watson, and disseminated their work, serving a very partisan and specious interventionist agenda. Another agent in the RPA arsenal was Monique Mujawamariwa, seconded to Roger Winter by RPF high command. She was launched on speaking tours by Roger Winter which culminated into an audience in the White House on April 22, 1994 with Mr. Anthony Lake, National Security Advisor to President William Jefferson Clinton.
Michela Wrong never mentions Roger Winter, or the USCR. In a short discussion of the smooth-talking, self-laudatory comments by Theogene Rudasingwa, another former RPF operative now in exile, she does introduce several of Roger Winter’s protégés through the mouthpiece of another RPF defector. Theogene Rudasingwa brags “with a rueful laugh”—Michela Wrong wrote—about deceiving foreign officials, journalists, intelligence agents and press, and he even claims ownership of the mythology that the RPF had heroically intervened to stop a genocide started by Hutu extremists who had killed their own president. “I was a very effective salesman of that [RPA] narrative. I charmed them all.”
“When the time came to justify breaking up the [mostly Hutu] refugee camps in Zaire, while adamantly denying Rwandan involvement, [Rudasingwa] did that, too, although there was always a nudge-nudge wink-wink quality to those conversations.” Quoting Rudasingwa again: “There was a kind of unspoken understanding among the people I dealt with, like Susan Rice, Gayle Smith, John Prendergast, Ted Dagne, that we all knew what the truth was.”
These are the foreign operatives euphemistically described as ‘policy wonks’ in a mainstream establishment whitewash lauding their interventionist adventurism in Sudan. Michela Wrong’s excavation of the admissions above are really an indictment of Roger Winter and his protégés, their complicity with terrorists, and the entire corrupt enterprise. Her presentation is subtle, indirect, but unmistakably incriminating.
Ugandan expert Remingius Kintu is adamant. “The U.S. Committee for Refugees Inc. (sic),” run by Roger Winter, “became a virtual command post for RPF external operations: logistical management, disinformation propaganda, psychological operations and other political intelligence activities for RPF with almost unlimited funds from dubious sources in the USA.”
There’s so much more. Catherine Watson was married to Yoweri Museveni’s chief hired gun, William Pike, the ‘journalist’ turned editor of the New Vision newspaper, Museveni’s state mouthpiece. Pike’s Combatants: A Memoir of the Bush War and the Press in Uganda ((William Pike, Combatants: A Memoir of the Bush War and the Press in Uganda, self-published, 2019.)) is a propaganda whitewash of the National Resistance Army (NRA) and, later, of RPA crimes. William Pike burst onto the international media scene through big British media with the first boots-on-the-ground accounts ‘from the bush’ portraying Museveni and the NRA as Marxist liberation heroes in a biblical contest with the evil Obote regime. Combatants is really a rather shocking but vacuous self-delusional disinformation memoir, packed with bias(es) and unsubstantiated claims echoing the supremacist Tutsi line, that falsifies and subverts the entire historiography of the NRA insurgency 1980-1985, and of the state-sponsored terrorism in the years that followed, 1986-1995.
President Paul Kagame pins a medal on the chest of U.S. covert operative Roger Winter at a special celebration in Rwanda July 2010. Winter was honored with Rwanda’s URUTI National Liberation Medal and UMURINZI Campaign Against Genocide Medal.
“Working with the National Resistance Movement as a journalist,” wrote William Pike, “gave me a real sense—which I never had in the [British] Labour Party—that I was an active participant in a historic movement that was changing the world for the better.” William Pike was embedded with the NRA and he idolized Yoweri Museveni.
Catherine Watson’s report mirrors the slant and framing of her husband’s Combatants, only she focuses exclusively on the Tutsi ‘refugees’ proclaiming them a “stateless and spiritually homeless” people. It is an essentialized, manipulative, biased account, replete with half-truths and bald-faced lies, that ignores the extremist supremacy of the Tutsi aristocrats-in-exile (an ‘exile’ which many themselves chose, by the way), the extremist Tutsi ideology and the terrorism committed in its name, and the hysterically vengeful intent of Tutsi supremacists to revenge and commit genocide against Hutus and punish the Tutsis who chose to remain in Rwanda after the first years of the independence struggle. It also completely erases NRA responsibility for atrocities in Uganda. As apologists who whitewashed NRA and RPA terrorism—including war crimes and crimes against humanity—Catherine Watson and William Pike (like so many others) helped set the stage for genocide.;
Exile from Rwanda is a racist, anti-Hutu, anti-Obote, pro-RPA propaganda tract, and it is consistent with much pro-Tutsi supremacist scholarship that both preceded and followed it. It gained a lot of currency because, at the time, it was the only publication of its kind, and it still is. Backing the RPA guerrillas, factions of the U.S. and U.K. power elite ate it up and regurgitated it, favorably. Catherine Watson’s association with William Pike, and their mutual insider status with Museveni, the NRA, the RPA and all the Ugandan Tutsi leaders were not disclosed.
You [Roger Winter] also generously provided facilities for members of the RPF
in the United States to meet and disseminate much needed information.
(From: Citations to 2010 Medal Recipients, Rwanda New Times, July 05, 2010)
Michela Wrong’s historiography of the pre-colonial era and references to the Royal vocabulary are mildly problematic, but peripheral to the focus of her book. The rise and shine of the inglorious Intore are appropriately flagged but she renews the frenzy over the Inyenzi. These Kinyarwanda terms bespeak the institutions of hegemony and hegemonic relations that obtained between Tutsi elites, their Twa shock troops, and the Hutu masses. The Toothpick King and his Cockroach Court have restored the Intore for their own nefarious glory, as Michela Wrong aptly notes, but the scampering scurrilous cockroach epithet—the whole nasty Inyenzi thing—has yet to be dragged into the light and unceremoniously squashed.
The extremist Tutsi guerrillas of the 1960s called themselves Inyenzi and there is a deep historiography of elite Tutsi terrorism behind the term Inyenzi that was NOT coined by the Hutu intelligencia or the Habyarimana propaganda system or by ‘Hutu Power’ (another racially distorted terminology used in the arsenal of slanders to dehumanize Hutu leaders and, by default, all Hutu people) as universally and disingenuously claimed by so much of the pro-RPA propaganda and adherents like Joshua Hammer and Phil Clark. ‘Cockroach’ was not the sole Kinyarwanda derivation of Inyenzi that led to its adoption by Tutsi guerillas.
Oh, oh, oh! How the hydra of Tutsi supremacy rears its ugly head again and again! Michela Wrong utilizes sources like the French journalist Gerard Prunier, a close RPA confidant whose first book The Rwanda Crises: History of a Genocide (Columbia, 1995) is a distortion of history and apologia of RPA crimes, even if his position changed somewhat, out of favor with King Kagame, later. There are ideas and whole sections in Do Not Disturb that mirror so many erroneous accounts—like Prunier’s and William Pike’s and, even the most erudite, like Mahmood Mamdani’s that downplay or entirely mischaracterize the violent Tutsi guerrilla terrorism waged against countrymen emerging from colonialism and hundreds of years of aristocratic Tutsi oppression and brutality. William Pike and Mahmood Mamdani were the peels protecting the NRA and RPA bananas; each nurtured the propaganda campaigns and psychological operations that whitewashed the NRM and RPA insurgencies and protected leaders like Yoweri Museveni, Paul Kagame, Fred Rwigyema, Patrick Karegeya, Kayumba Nyamwasa and all the rest. Meanwhile, against the NRM and RPA enemies, these propaganda agents advanced unsupported fabrications, perpetuated claims about false flag operations, and regurgitated other unfounded accusations.
Is Michela Wrong sympathetic to the King’s henchmen? To the generals and spy chiefs? To the body-burners and trigger-pullers and hoe-swingers? The propagandists and whisperers of life-ending rumors? The Colonel Karegeyas and General Nyamwasas and repentant Rudasingwas that made King Kagame what he is and then ran for their lives like every dog who was ever undeservingly kicked by his mean-spirited master?
“To these men who no doubt ended up doing dreadful things? I sure was.” Michela Wrong stakes her flag in the moral high ground of reality. “I’m a firm believer in the notion that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The challenge was to get the reader interested in these characters in the first place, then nuance and qualify that assessment as the story goes on and we learn more about their personal itineraries. No one reads a book in which every single character is a psychotic bastard, from the get-go through to the end, because that’s not the world we know or live in. We live in a world where impish charmers do dreadful things and murderers love their children.”
There are other problems with the book: absurd tributes to fallen RPA ‘heroes’, some slippery analyses here and there, a few sycophantic accolades to real bastards, some genuinely wrong stuff, and some ‘expert’ from the Cult of Elitist Camps of All Things Central Afrika will likely sort these out. And maybe no one ever will.
Take page 302, for example. Here we meet Rick Orth, “who as U.S. defense attaché in Kigali witnessed the General [Kayumba] in action at close hand.” I bet he did. And that’s just it: Michela Wrong offers a few insights into Orth’s deep relationship to the RPA Grinding Machine. Orth’s comment’s are self-incriminating. He was no ordinary bystander to genocide. It will be decades before the classified papers are released, if ever.
Do Not Disturb is not much of a cover-up, though perhaps a little self-censoring whitewash—everyone does that, your humble correspondent included—and maybe even more than a little. Only Michela Wrong can answer to that. What we don’t yet know, on the other hand, we don’t yet know. It’s hard to know what someone knows, and what they don’t, or why they make the choices they make. Assumptions and arrogance go hand in hand. It disappoints me that she repeats so much of the nonsense put out by key ‘sources’ for so many years, ad nauseum, and that she obviously believes what she wrote. There are a few names dropped throughout the text, and even some quotes from some really sly dogs, who are never challenged, but who instead sing out as voices of authority. And that leads to my biggest criticism: where are all the white war collar criminals behind the black Afrikan warlords? What about the nefarious Soldiers of mis-Fortune? The gun-runners and profiteers? The Diamond kingpins? Tony Buckingham and Tim Spicer and all these other Gucci mercenaries?
When it comes to writing about Central Afrika, that is some of the difference between Michela Wrong and Helen Epstein. We know, for example, that Rowland ‘Tiny’ Rowland backed Yoweri Museveni’s war machine in Uganda (even if it’s not clear to everyone when this began): that’s the kind of thing Helen Epstein might tell us (and she does). What about British American Tobacco? Unilever? And where are the oil companies in these accounts?
As any real journalist knows, the ‘protection’ of sources is both blessing and curse. Quoting an unnamed South African security expert about the execution of Patrick Karegeya, she does reveal that “the formative influence on Rwandan intelligence is Mossad and this was standard Israeli MO.” Now, that’s something. Of course, for journalists, there is always this question of access. Who are all these people attached to some 73 citations credited to: “Author’s interview, anonymity requested”?
No matter. The book’s meritorious contents outweigh its deleterious discontents. Sure you might wonder why a line of inquiry is suddenly killed dead, what deeper currents some innuendo swirls, who pulls the strings of the obvious puppets. There’s a lot that isn’t in this book, and that’s more than O.K., it was necessity.
Leave it. The author has done a superb job (my criticisms notwithstanding). She’s been threatened, ridiculed, everything but hunted in the ways the Toothpick King hunts and silences people. I mean, at least they haven’t pulled a Rusesabagina on her—drugged and abducted, hauled to Rwanda, tortured, tried as a terrorist in King Kagame’s kangaroo courts, her kind character and professionalism pilloried by the weasely Joshua Hammer wielding the New York Times brand over the court of public opinion. I suppose there’s still time, but the damage is done. The book is out and it’s perfect.
They have already labeled Michela Wrong a genocide denier and, dealing with King Kagame, this is a badge of achievement. Now she’s the target of sexual taunting—repeated tweets by Rwanda’s Service of Subversion and Shame (pretending to be ordinary tweeters) echoing the claim she was Patrick Karegeya’s lover, you know, five times a day, for months, again and again, and the recent twist, claiming that she is Yoweri Museveni’s whore. We have seen the same lurid childish sexist treatment served on other female journalists who have had the audacity to challenge the Rwanda story. Isn’t that what it always comes down to with intelligent, powerful women and especially for women who stand up to power?
Nothing original about any of these guys. What is original is Michela Wrong’s telling of the untold tale and her documentation of the casual admissions of dreadful deeds of RPA dissidents. Here is a woman who has shown real courage, and she’s given the world a prize and Do Not Disturb is far more deserving than most Pulitzer recipients.
Rwanda is not defined by a geographical space; it is a state of mind.
War is peace. Victims will be killers, and killers will be victims, but the lions have yet to tell the story of the hunt. The RPA won the war. They were backed by the USA, UK, Canada, and Israel. The RPA narrative is the establishment narrative. Michela Wrong offers us the voices of some of the most notorious victors.
Maybe you will suck at your teeth, clench your martini, tear a few pages in the anxiety of turning them, wake your lover out of a dead sleep in the excitement of some twisted or phantasmagorical revelation, and maybe that’s not you, but the story will carry you through even the miscellaneous dulls on the wind of its authors’ humility and derring-do. It’s written fairly well. You will even find sentences that strike at the banal absurdity of it all, like the last one below.
“During these sessions, Patrick [Karegeya] never exposed his hand, teasing his new acquaintances instead with what he could tell them but somehow never did. The chat was gossipy and inconsequential—what was going on in the White House, Clinton’s sexual misdemeanors—seasoned with the kind of gynecological jokes that are a Ugandan specialty.” ;
And you might just laugh out loud.
• First published at Keith Harmon Snow’s website