21 September 2013

Gettleman's Profile of Kagame is too Balanced (and Rwanda is not happy)

Credit: WEF
Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Jeffrey Gettleman finally got the opportunity to sit down with Rwanda’s controversial president Paul Kagame.

The three hour conversation was used in an article published in the New York Magazineprofiling Kagame. The piece caught attention for a less-than-flattering depiction of the Rwandan president and even generated a bizarre response from the Kagame office.

Gettleman’s piece covers the range of views on Kagame. He is the leader who turned around Rwanda in the wake of a horrific genocide that should have sent the country in a tailspin. He is also the autocrat who stifles opponents in Rwanda and is accused of inciting rebellion in the neighboring DR Congo by supporting rebel groups.

Yolande Makolo, the communications director for the Presidency in Rwanda, responded critically to the article in allAfrica. She said that she turned down Gettleman’s previous requests to interview Kagame, but was convinced by a mutual acquaintance to allow for the conversation. When it did happen, Gettleman went well beyond the hour that he was allotted to speak with the president.

The article itself was disappointing to Makolo. She acknowledged that her contacts and colleagues considered the report to be balanced. That was not good news to her ears.

“I am sorry but “balance” hurts Rwandans, and Africans,” she wrote.

“Even when stories reflect more positives than negatives, the positives don’t carry as much weight overall as the negatives, which chip away at the agency we are working to accumulate. Balance thus erodes our reputation and standing in the global pecking order, keeping us on a pedestal that says we are and will perpetually be second class.”

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