Kagame does Brandeis

When Brandeis University withdrew its invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to appear at commencement for an honorary degree, I spoke with a knowledgeable source on campus who told me that Rwandan President Paul Kagame was scheduled to visit campus on April 23. I reported on the information provided by my source in “Brandeis breakdown.”

Many people believe that Kagame has a lot of blood on his hands and he certainly talks like a throat slasher. Earlier this year, Kagame was widely quoted expressing regret that he had not ordered the assassination of Patrick Karegeya, the country’s former spy chief who had been found dead in Johannesburg the previous month.

“Rwanda did not kill this person – and it’s a big no,” Kagame said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “But I add that, I actually wish Rwanda did it. I really wish it.” Kagame refused to rule out that he would in principle order an assassination: “Well, that’s a different issue…I have said what I said.”

Kagame’s comments were reported in newspapers around the world; the Telegraph picked them up here.

With the controversy at Brandeis over Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the scheduled appearance of Kagame on campus became a sensitive matter. Could Brandeis really honor Kagame while dissing an incredibly brave advocate of women’s rights from Africa?

I couldn’t get a straight answer from the school. Looking around online, I found that silence was golden. Not a word was to be heard. If Kagame was coming, it was a secret.

The day after, the silence prevails, with one exception. Kagame has posted numerous photos featuring his big day at Brandeis on Flickr. We can’t be sure of Brandeis’s attitude, but Kagame is proud of what the school has done for him. In the photo below, Kagame yuks it up with Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence (at his left). A good time was apparently had by all.


UPDATE: Jeryl Bier writes to point out that Brandeis has emitted a (hilariously mealymouthed) comment on Kagame’s visit. In the spirit of the affair, it has a double secret quality to it. For the record, here it is:

Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s visit to Brandeis University this week is part of appearances he is making at several Boston-area universities, including Harvard and Tufts. President Kagame engaged in a round-table discussion with invited guests and faculty and students affiliated with the Sustainable International Development program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and the Brandeis University program in Peace, Conflict and Coexistence as well as with Brandeis students originally from Rwanda.

To clarify, this event was not a public speaking engagement and was an invitation-only, academic event.

President Kagame’s visit is consistent with the principles of academic freedom and a longstanding Brandeis tradition of hosting international dignitaries, some controversial, in the interest of scholarly understanding and academic dialogue.

Thank you for your inquiry.

Ellen de Graffenreid, MA, MBA
Senior Vice President for Communications
Brandeis University

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