Connect to share and comment

Rwandan president, stung by criticism, starts Twitter feud

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, criticized for being intolerant of dissent, starts heated Twitter debate with British journalist who called him “despotic and deluded."

Kagame twitter 05 16 11Enlarge
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has embraced the use of social media. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has taken on a journalist who dared to criticize him on Twitter, in an unprecedented public spat between a head of state and one of his critics on the microblogging service.

A British journalist’s tweet that Kagame was “despotic and deluded” drew a sharp reply from the president himself. Kagame then entered into an extended “online spat” with journalist Ian Birrell, the Associated Press reports.

Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi and former rebel leader, is praised for his role in helping to end the 1994 Rwandan genocide and for bringing stability and economic growth to the country. He has championed social media and IT development in Rwanda, and Kagame's website boasts a Twitter feed, podcasts, and links to Flickr and Facebook.

But Kagame has been criticized for his intolerance of dissent and clampdown on the media. He was re-elected in a landslide last year after opposition parties were harassed and silenced.

Birrell began the exchange by writing that “No-one in media, UN or human rights groups has the moral right to criticize me, says despotic & deluded @PaulKagame,” and linking to a Financial Times story.

Kagame himself then replied with the comment: "Not you moral right! You give yourslf the right to abuse pple and judge them like you r the one to decide ... "

During the exchange, Kagame sent 14 "text speak"-laden tweets to Birrell, including one in which he wrote "Wrong u r."

Rwanda's foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo joined in the debate, telling Birrell in a tweet: "wld u care 2 know what 11.000.000 Rwandans think of Paul Kagame b4 u spread ur formed opinion? 2 big a challenge 4 u?"

Birrell is a former editor at The Independent newspaper and a former speechwriter for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Kagame appears to closely monitor Twitter for any mentions of Rwanda, the AP reports.

(Read the full Twitter exchange here.)