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Heated Twitter exchange between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and British journalist Ian Birrell

Rwandan President General Paul Kagame had a heated exchange on Twitter with British Journalist Ian Birrell on Twitter on 14 May 2011 after the journalist labelled the President “despotic and deluded”. Half way, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs & Cooperation, joined in the discussion.

Here is a copy of the tweets exchanged:

Exchange between Ian Birrell and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame

Ian Birrell (IB): No-one in media, UN or human rights groups has the moral right to criticise me, says despotic & deluded�@PaulKagame�

IB: Kagame refused to even answer if he is a religious believer. When asked, he replied ‘Yes and no.’

Paul Kagame (PK): @ianbirrell. Not you either…no moral right! You give yourslf the right to abuse pple and judge them like you r the one to decide …

PK: @ianbirrell….and determine universally what s right or wrong and what shd be believed or not!!! Wrong u r …u have no such right ..

IB: @PaulKagame�Fail to see why you think I have no moral right to offer criticism and opinions. Pls explain further

IB: @PaulKagame Although aware of what happens with regard to press freedom and those who criticise you in Rwanda

IB: @PaulKagame�And once more, pls explain how and why I ‘just pretend’

PK: @ianbirrell. Ask Rwandans they will tell u I am not what u call me and I am sure they r not what you think they are…!

PK: @ianbirrell. 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!

IB: @PaulKagame�Plenty of evidence – & your statement that no-one in media, UN or human rights groups can criticise you underlines the point

IB:�@PaulKagame�Presume this is why you dislike human rights groups�

PK:�@ianbirrell. Africa-Rw- will need Africans to work in the lead n in concert with others globaLly who r genuine to put things right….

PK:�@ianbirrell. ….not the likes of you who just pretend ….!

IB:�@PaulKagame�You clearly stated no media, human rights group or the UN had moral right to criticise you…this is despotic and delusional

PK:�@ianbirrell. You did not offer any explanation yourslf why you would refer to me as despotic n deluted…did u just want pple to believe it?

PK:�@ianbirrell. You were actually just insulting …..!

IB:�@PaulKagame�You are avoiding the point. Pls answer why you think media, UN and human rights groups have no right to criticise you

PK:�@ianbirrell. Why did u think I didnt have a right to my argument with the journalist of FT with whom I outlined that arg.???

PK:�@ianbirrell. Is that all u kno about Rw? No need to explain to u anythg? Ask your own govt/leaders to explain to u those same things…

IB:: @PaulKagame�How is there accountability when you shut down papers and prevent rivals from standing in elections?

PK:�@ianbirrell�In Rw.we hold ourselves and each accountable indeed to a high level and even deal with criticism honestly,openly and fairly..!

IB:�@PaulKagame�And you still have not answered why you think media, UN and human rights groups have no right to criticise you. Pls answer

IB:�@PaulKagame�Also I know of people living in fear of their lives for daring to criticise you. And with good reason….

PK:�@ianbirrell. No, the point underlined is that while some in UN,Human rights grps n media criticise,they r not without serious flaws..!

IB:�@PaulKagame�Sorry, you clearly stated media, human rights groups & Un have no moral right to criticise you. Not first time you’ve said it

IB:�@PaulKagame�So if media can criticse why do you clamp down on press freedom in your country?

PK:�@ianbirrell….that have to be questioned more often that not ..and dont seem to like it! Probably you dont…yourslf!

PK:�@ianbirrell. It was those that were being referred to…!

IB:�It is great�@PaulKagame�engaging with a critic like me on Twitter. Just shame he doesn’t allow such debate in Rwanda with his own people

Exchange between Ian Birrell and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo

Louise Mushikiwabo (LM): @ianbirrell: how wish the simple logic of “despots cannot produce content, hopeful, n upbeat ppl” would prevail on Ian. Guess 2 wishful!

IB: Now @LMushikiwabo (foreign minister) joining in!!

LM: @PaulKagame�@ianbirell�wld u care 2 know what 11.000.000 Rwandans think of Paul Kagame b4 u spread ur formed opinion? 2 big a challenge 4 u?

IB: @LMushikiwabo�Had to gauge opinions of Rwandans when govt clamps down on media, closes papers and silences opponents

LM: @PaulKagame�@ianbirrell: how wish the simple logic of “despots cannot produce content, hopful, n upbeat ppl” wd prevail on Ian. 2 wishful!

IB: @LMushikiwabo�@PaulKagame�Don’t understand last tweet but notice you not engaging with arguments like your boss

LM:�@ianbirrell�@paulkagame�Ian what so complicated? can critic but u hav no “moral”(key word)right: PK saved lives, built country n gave hope

Some other tweets posted on subject during the twitter exchange with ‘despot’ Kagame:

MrNorthice – Steve Wins: Just yearning for @PaulKagame to tell @IanBirrell to ‘come over here & say that’, thus declaring satire dead. #goiango

ianbirrell: For more reading on Rwanda and @PaulKagame …

ianbirrell: Here are a couple of my previous pieces on the subject under discussion

ianbirrell:@benc4 has pointed out @paulkagame doesn’t follow anyone on Twitter. Perhaps we cd offer him some suggestions such as Human Rights Watch?

johannhari101 Johann Hari: by ianbirrell: @PaulKagame While you are responding to questions – do you have any regrets about triggering the death of 5 million people in the Congo?

ianbirrell: MI5 warned Rwanda last month over harassment of dissidents in UK

ianbirrell: @lilianemukazi I am not disrespecting you or any other Rwandan. I am questioning your president after he contacted me. Big difference

ianbirrell: @josephpowell Of course I accept there has been some progress and unique context, but no excuse for repression & despotism

ianbirrell: @pkuiper Not necessarily, but it is fair to expect civil rights rather than repression

TomPaineLegend Thomas Paine’s Voice: by ianbirrell : @PaulKagame”allows less political space and press freedom at home than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe” -The Economist.

IB:�@LMushikiwabo�@paulkagame�So no media, UN or human rights group has any moral right to criticise? Pls explain why that is…

IB: @LMushikiwabo�@paulkagame�You talk of saved lives. What about all those millions killed in the Congo?

IB:�@LMushikiwabo�The UN report from last year into brutality in DR Congo�

LM:�@dcGisenyi�@PaulKagame�@sonjasugira�@ianbirrell�measure: voter turn out n vote, Gallup poll, watch him w. crowds, talk back Radio Rwa, etc

IB:�@LMushikiwabo�@dcGisenyi�@PaulKagame�@sonjasugira�Vote marred by harassment & intimidation of rivals, independent journalists & critics

LM:�@lilianemukazi�@paulkagame�@ianbirrell:I kno… Rwaz have dealt w the likes of Ian 4many yrs now: zey keep guess wrong n we keep advance…

IB:�@LMushikiwabo�@lilianemukazi�@paulkagame�You have consistently failed to answer my points

LM:�@ianbirrell�@PaulKagame�Ian have u ever heard of Rwa National Dialogue? R u fam w Rwa prez monthly press conf?PK 2 secure 2fear crtics@home

IB:�@LMushikiwabo�@PaulKagame�If so secure no fear of critics why silence rivals & shut down media?

LM:�@TLHAGOANE�@KevinMcCallum�@ianbirrell�@PaulKagame�papers assoc w crimi nality:no place in Rwa;start by understand what ze print zen we talk

LM:�@TLHAGOANE�@KevinMcCallum�@ianbirrell�@PaulKagame�polit rivals most welcome, ethnic bigots n genocide ideologues: Rwa no go zone

LM:�@MortonAlex�@ianbirrell�@PaulKagame: good Q. no rivals coz not same league.


1 Rwandan President self-exposure is revelatory | Rwandinfo_ENG { 05.18.11 at 5:58 am }

[...] of text abbreviations used by teenagers (such as “Wrong u r …”). Even stranger, we then traded tweets over human rights and repression in his central African nation, his foreign minister even joining [...]

2 Dusabe j claude { 05.18.11 at 11:57 am }

some western including Ian cannot accept political space unless they are watching querels and deads. why do u want us to fight when u are not fighting?

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