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Rwanda’s President Teleconferences with BU Seminar

Stephen Kinzer’s class questions Paul Kagame, in real time


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In the video above, an international relations class holds a teleconference with Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda.

At 7:40 a.m. last Monday, no one in Stephen Kinzer’s seminar was dozing off as he delivered final instructions beneath the sparkling chandeliers of the Metcalf Trustee Ballroom.

“Everyone will have a chance to ask their question,” he assured his students. “They can be sharp and focused as long as they are respectful, as a head of state deserves.”

Minutes later, students in Kinzer’s international relations seminar on Rwanda took turns engaging the African country’s president, Paul Kagame, via teleconference. Topics ranged from women’s rights to trade relations, rural development to nuclear energy.

Kinzer (CAS’73), a College of Arts & Sciences visiting professor of international relations, says the three-hour seminar often features a guest speaker with deep knowledge of Rwanda, but having Kagame participate was a major coup.

“I tried to do this in early autumn, when the president was at the United Nations, but it didn’t work out and I thought that was the end of it,” Kinzer says. “But I kept writing e-mails and eventually got back a note saying he was willing to do it.”

The longtime New York Times correspondent, who has reported from around the globe, established a connection with Kagame after interviewing him for A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It (Wiley, 2008).

Kagame, 51, is widely credited with bringing security and stability to Rwanda in the years following the 1994 genocide.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.


5 Comments on Rwanda’s President Teleconferences with BU Seminar

  • Anonymous on 11.23.2009 at 8:52 am

    Very Well Done!

    Excellent video and what a rich and wonderful experience!

  • Maja on 11.23.2009 at 11:04 am

    Please post the entire broadcast of this class! I would be very interested in seeing both the questions and the answers given by President Kagame.

  • Anonymous on 11.23.2009 at 3:20 pm


    Great job Kinzer! – Hopefully American students will get to know and learn that not all African presidents are hopeless and lack direction or vision. Maybe for once we an begin a new era of leaders that will turn that continent around back to the direction that it should have been going many years ago before colonization and the deadly consequences that came from it – believe it or not.

  • Concerned citizen on 11.25.2009 at 9:10 pm

    Interested in what questions were asked in regard to Congo

    A colleague of ours sent us the link to the Rwandan President teleconference with Boston University students. I wonder if any of the students raised questions about Rwanda’s invasions of Congo (1996 & 1998) that has lead to an estimated 6 million dead or his support of proxy rebel groups in Congo which prompted Sweden and Netherlands to withdraw aid from Rwanda. Also, did they question the Rwandan “economic miracle” and how it is built on the looting of Congo’s resources, which lead former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs to state in the New York Times on Dec. 2008 “having controlled the Kivu provinces (Eastern Congo) for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16cohen.html

    Were any questions raised about the indictment issued by the Spanish Courts (The same court that indicted Pinochet of Chile) for 40 of Rwanda’s top government officials for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Rwanda and Congo? http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2008/02/spain-judge-indicts-40-rwanda-military.php

    Did the students ask how it is in a so-called Democratic elections one candidate can win 95% of the votes as Kagame did in the 2003 Rwandan “elections?”

    We would be intrigued to know if at an institution of higher learning such as Boston University, if the students asked any such critical questions about issues that have been dealt with widely by the Economist Magazine. New York Times editorial board, Several United Nations Reports, Spanish and French Courts, BBC News and of late even CNN. Consolidating all the sources I just mentioned, it would behoove any upcoming student-scholar to look at New York Times Journalist Howard French’s latest piece in the New York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23054

    The above are questions asked in the spirit of open and liberal intellectual inquiry into two of the greatest human tragedies of our time.

  • Anonymous on 11.20.2010 at 7:30 pm

    Get facts from the source

    Great initiative. Technology is such a powerful tool. Rather than rely on secondary sources, in the form of so-called “Africa experts” that would like the US public to look at entire regions and countries through their distorted lenses, (shining example in the previous post) it is increasingly possible for everyone to get facts from the source. Several surveys have demonstrated that despite the constant negative press on Rwanda, Rwandans are overwhelmingly confident in Kagame’s ability to improve their lives. Anyone who has been to Rwanda y realizes that Kagame has simply done for his people much more than any other African leader. Bitter, self-righteous commentators like French and Prunier can not change the facts on the ground.

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