Andrew Mwenda of Kampala continues to produce some of the most penetrating analytical journalism anywhere in Africa. He recently published a revealing interview in his Independent weekly with Rwandaâ€™s president Paul Kagame. In the interview, Kagame talks passionately about the importance rural land title for peasant farmers. While on the surface promoting individual property rights, Rwandaâ€™s new land law also, as Kagame explains, promotes â€œland consolidationâ€ through â€œresettlementâ€ of peasants into what he calls â€œimidugudu,â€ or new communities that offer resettled people such services as electricity, water and schools. Kagame denies that the program essentially disposes peasants of property. â€œThe land is liberated,â€ he tells the Independent, â€œbut remains in the possession of the owners,â€ the peasants now living in â€œimidugudu.â€
Kagame seems to have entered an Orwellian zone where the word possesion and liberation assume unusual meanings. While often lionized for his personal rectitude, Kagame is increasingly prone to verbal gymanastics. Witness his government’s recent hair-splitting over what its officials are telling rebels in eastern Congo. Kagame has no patience for talk of a “proxy” war in the country to Rwanda’s west. Yet could Kagame’s refusal to admit Rwanda’s role in Congo’s current conflict be another example of his flair for word play?