14 May 2011

Ian Birrell vs Paul Kagame on Twitter

I am now also including media coverage and blog posts about the exchange at the bottom; please tweet me or comment as more cover the story.

Journalist Ian Birrell got into a spirited exchange with Rwandan President Paul Kagame over twitter today.  In addition, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs & Cooperation, joined in the discussion. Yes, you read that correctly.  The President of a nation engaged with a critic on twitter.  Below I have assembled the exchange between the two.
IB: No-one in media, UN or human rights groups has the moral right to criticise me, says despotic & deluded @PaulKagame http://on.ft.com/kfJyia 
IB: Kagame refused to even answer if he is a religious believer. When asked, he replied 'Yes and no.' 
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 And once more, pls explain how and why I 'just pretend' 
IB: @PaulKagame Although aware of what happens with regard to press freedom and those who criticise you in Rwanda 
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 http://bit.ly/kTG9eD 
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
Birrell and Mushikiwabo
LM: @ianbirrell: how wish the simple logic of "despots cannot produce content, hopeful, n upbeat ppl" would prevail on Ian. Guess 2 wishful! 
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:   Ian what so complicated? can critic but u hav no "moral"(key word)right: PK saved lives, built country n gave hope
IB:   So no media, UN or human rights group has any moral right to criticise? Pls explain why that is...  
IB:   You talk of saved lives. What about all those millions killed in the Congo?  
IB:  The UN report from last year into brutality in DR Congo   
LM:     measure: voter turn out n vote, Gallup poll, watch him w. crowds, talk back Radio Rwa, etc  
IB:     Vote marred by harassment & intimidation of rivals, independent journalists & critics 
LM:   :I kno... Rwaz have dealt w the likes of Ian 4many yrs now: zey keep guess wrong n we keep advance...  
IB:    You have consistently failed to answer my points   
LM:   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:   If so secure no fear of critics why silence rivals & shut down media?  
LM:     papers assoc w crimi nality:no place in Rwa;start by understand what ze print zen we talk  
LM:     polit rivals most welcome, ethnic bigots n genocide ideologues: Rwa no go zone 
LM:   : good Q. no rivals coz not same league.
The post is a tad rough around the edges right now for the sake of timeliness.  I will make additions as they come and any necessary changes for the sake of easier reading and clarification and list them below.

Updates (EST):
2:48 PM - LM responds to IB's request for clarification and IB replies
4:17 PM - More between IB and LM
4:49 PM - LM replies to IB
9:30 AM May 15 - Louise Mushikiwabo has begun to protect her tweets.
4:19 PM May 15 - Ian Birrell writes an article about the exchange in for the Guardian.  In the comments section a user under the name PaulKagame writes:
How dare U cause this mischief by continuing 2 insult me in your newspapers!Wrong U R to abuse my country in this way. U have no foundation for UR accusations about me.
What right to you have 2 judge an African country? U think that U have the right to say wateva kind of lies you want about our GR8 land of Rwanda.
We R a free country and you shud have more respect than 2 spread such lies about us.
Wrong U R to say these things.
The language has me leaning towards this being a mocking comment aimed at Kagame for is use of the phrase "wrong u r" in one of his tweets.  However, there is the chance it was him and I have added it so that you can judge.  Also of note is the fact that this is not the same forum as twitter where constrained characters forced the president into using text-speak. HT Zak
9:00 AM May 18 - LM writes her take on the exchange in Rwanda's New Times
9:00 AM May 18 - Andrew Mwenda has taken to twitter to defend Kagame and those tweeting in opposition with a long series of tweets and conversations.  See all of his tweets curated by Kimberly Curtis for the Foreign Policy Association Blogs

Media and Blog Coverage of Exchange
Channel 4 News Interviews Birrell
Kigali Wire summarizes the exchange
Listed in Sunday Reading by Zungu Zungu
NRC.nl provides a summary in Dutch
TechMtta summarizes the exchange
Rwandan Journalist Eleneus Akanga reflects on the exchange
News 24
Associated Press (published in numerous papers and online sites)
Global Post
IT Web (Zimbabwe)
The Star (Toronto)
ONTD-Political (blog)
...the do things differently (blog)
Swedish Meatballs Confidential (blog)
A Bombastic Element (blog)
dn.se (Swedish)
Kimberly Curitis