US President Donald Trump and Rwandan President Paul Kagame are birds of a feather: Both are working actively to undermine the checks on executive power, adherence to civil rights and the rule of law, and free media landscape that democracies need to survive.
Paul Kagame may have just been re-elected president of Rwanda, but he clearly puts little stock in elections. Late last month, the man who has ruled post-genocide Rwanda for two decades rejected “Western democracy” and asserted Africa’s need for its own version of democracy. Coming from a man whose opponents tend to turn up dead or imprisoned, the statement is an ominous one.
While Kagame’s words would once have drawn international ire, he has less to fear these days. In Donald Trump, the United States has a leader who prefers to embolden autocratic leaders with his renunciation of moral foreign policy leadership. For good reason, Kagame and his fellow strongmen feel they have carte blanche from Washington to suppress their people while paying lip service to a concept they despise.
It is true that Rwanda has held elections regularly, but as Americans well know, elections alone are hardly the defining yardstick of democracy or democratic legitimacy. One look at the election that put Trump in the White House is enough to illustrate the inherent flaws of certain voting systems, not to mention the need for strong, independent institutions. Democracies need more than voting to survive: equally important are checks on executive power, adherence to civil rights and the rule of law, and …read more