“Is Rwannda worth the visit”? is an article by Joseph Gilbert, he wrote; With so much to praise and appreciate, Rwanda has become a “talk of the town” as Africa’s newest bride with President Paul Kagame as “groom”, if you like. The country’s lush mountain landscapes offer unparalleled views in every direction, the country’s economic growth is another headliner, too. According to reports, its Capital City, Kigali, is charming and clean and overflowing with quirky art galleries and interesting restraints, while the Kigali genocide Museum has also found a very sensitive monument to one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.
In view of these and many more, Rwanda has gone a step more to enjoy the benefits of a sophisticated Public Relations campaign. In the year 2018, the Rwanda Development Board inked a deal with the famous English Football club, Arsenal ahead of the 2018/19 Premier League season. It was such a bumper deal that cost the country USD$39 million to last for 3 years. Matter-of-factly, the critics of that transaction, which will have all of Arsenal players don the slogan “Visit Rwanda” on their glorified White sleeves have described the move as “The poor sponsoring the rich”. The initiative was also nothing short of the fact that Paul Kagame is known to be a committed Arsenal fan.
However, beyond the 200 sq. Centimetre ad “Visit Rwanda”, there are major basics masked within that the savour of money has wrapped in Arsenal’s kit. For instance, once a person is in the country, whatever he/she does, such a person must not criticize the President. Having being on the saddle for 18 years and counting, Kagame is said to be notoriously intolerant when it comes to people who disagree with him. Dozens of journalists have been banned from the country or arrested for reporting on issues that the government would prefer un-reported, and at least, 17 have been killed, according to the committee to protect journalists. Another thing to avoid is questions like: where are all the beggars and homeless people in this part of Africa? The quick answer is: Many have been exiled to a “rehabilitation island” in the middle of Rwanda’s lake Kivu! For preferring to holiday in Rwanda, if one finds themselves on the wrong side of the authorities, for whatever reason, they should not end up in one of the military’s infamous detention camps (whose existence is constantly being denied by the government).Claims in major quarters hold that Rwanda’s military has frequently detained and tortured people, beating them and staging mock executions cum asphyxiating them.
As far as human rights are concerned, “We continue to receive information about new abuses”, the Human Rights watch say. As trivial as it may sound, no one dares steal a stuff in Rwanda, no matter how minute or irrelevant the item! This, of course is true anywhere in the world, but in Rwanda, the consequences can be totally disproportionate to such a crime. Human Rights watch reports that in Western Rwanda, 27 petty criminals were executed in less than one year, including the case of a victim who allegedly stole a bunch of bananas. While a just conscience may ask, why should such a deal get an endorsement by a football club that parades itself as one with values, remember also that in PR, there is no good or bad person, and it is not good image to a bad person either.
As it stands, Rwanda may be having so much going for it. A booming economy meteoric infrastructural rise, shooting socio-economic indicators, attractive tourist sites and lots more. But before norturing the taste of or considering a visit to Rwanda, do tourist currencies risk legitimizing the human rights abuses of a supposedly unashamedly authoritarian regime? It is the kind of question that perhaps , Arsenal’s executives should have pondered more upon before slamming Rwanda’s slogan on its iconic kit.