BAD NEWS | BY ANJAN SUNDARAM
Bad News is so stomach-wrenchingly distressing that I couldn’t wait to get to the end of its less-than-200 pages. Don’t let that put you off, though: this is a very important book. An account of the period in which Anjan Sundaram ran a programme to train independent- minded journalists in Kigali, it exposes the psychopathic tyranny of President Paul Kagame – who has ruled Rwanda since the aftermath of the country’s
1994 genocide in which Hutus murdered
nearly 1-million Tutsis.
We learn of Kagame’s methods to stiﬂe dissent, crush free thought and stymie the
ﬂow of information. And how brutal those methods are: threats, abduction, torture and murder. As the months pass, Sundaram’s students are forced into exile; some are lured into cushy progovernment jobs; while the stubborn truth-mongers are persecuted – and in some cases, killed.
With blunt, unshowy, sometimes inelegant prose, Sundaram rips away the shiny, tranquil façade of this “Switzerland of Africa” that so beguiles Western donors and aid agencies. He exposes a regime more interested in the appearance of development than in its actual implementation.
The most heartrending example of this is a little-reported policy of rural villagers being forced to pull down their grass roofs because Kagame deemed these “primitive” – leaving people to sleep out in the open, at risk of contracting malaria and other maladies. Sundaram shows how the European
Union and the West have turned a blind eye to Kagame’s excesses, all the while supplying him with billions in barelystrings-attached aid. And that perhaps is the ultimate betrayal – Rwanda’s people yet again suffer as a result of outsiders’ indifference to brutality.