Gourevitch is writing a new book about Rwanda and how it has been put back together after the genocide, and it remains to be seen how he chooses to depict Kagame in the light of recent events. But in our conversation he hinted at a change. “There is this idea that Kagame is either the messiah or the devil, and this simplistic polarization is not helpful,” he says. “There is a lot of truth in the idea that he saved Rwanda from total annihilation, but there is a huge price that has been paid along the way for stability and order.”
Gourevitch, like French, says the foreign press “has a hard time” reporting the complexity of African politics in general and Kagame’s domestic accomplishments, his human rights record, and his behavior in the Congo, in particular.
“Even at its most defiantly promising, Rwanda’s story has never stopped being deeply troubling,” Gourevitch continues. “Kagame’s been its chief author for sixteen years now, and he’s got seven more as president under the constitution. That’s a long time—most Rwandans are too young to remember the time before he came to power, and nobody knows how he will leave and what happens then. So, frankly, the verdict is out.”
Gourevitch’s influential reporting played a key role in revealing the horrors of the genocide, but controversy over his portrayal of post-genocide Rwanda mean that, for Gourevitch’s writing, too, the verdict must still be out.
Note: Philip Gourevitch responds to this article, and the author replies, here.