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Kagame’s Hidden Operations and Global Image

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Ayize claire

May 30, 2024

Rwanda Classified by Forbidden stories

Rwanda’s International Image and Hidden Operations

Rwanda has been projecting an image of rapid development and social progress on the global stage, often highlighting its clean streets, gender equality, and favorable business environment. However, beneath this polished exterior lies a well-orchestrated effort to manage its international reputation while silencing critics through a network of lobbyists, PR firms, and covert operations.

“Rwanda wants to maintain its image as a developmental powerhouse,” Grady Vaughan, a research associate at the NGO Freedom House, explained. “It’s hard to do that when you have a lot of people who have fled the country because of persecution or other disagreements with the government.”

Lobbying and PR Campaigns

Investigations by Forbidden Stories and its partners revealed that Rwanda has employed at least a dozen PR firms and lobbyists in the US and UK to shape its image positively. These firms work tirelessly to present Rwanda as a model of post-genocide recovery and development. However, this image is carefully curated, often overshadowing the regime's repressive tactics against dissenters.

Beneath Rwanda's polished image is a hidden network targeting critics with trolling, spyware, and intimidation. PR firms, influencers, and agents, reaching Europe and North America, help conceal abuses. Forbidden Stories, with 50 journalists from 17 media organizations, exposed these actors, including over a dozen US PR firms, a UK company, and possibly an Israeli psyops group. “You see a small country – relatively low resource – allegedly go after dissidents and critics abroad with a level of focus and logistical coordination that is pretty remarkable,” said Alexander Dukalskis.

Trolling and Intimidation

A significant part of Rwanda's strategy involves online trolling and intimidation of critics, especially those in Western Europe. The campaign has included the involvement of Team Jorge, an Israeli psy-ops mercenary group known for its sophisticated disinformation tactics. Critics of the Rwandan government, such as investigative journalist Michela Wrong, have faced relentless harassment, both online and offline. These operations aim to discredit and silence voices that challenge the official narrative.

Investigative journalist Michela Wrong, author of “Do Not Disturb,” a critical exposé of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party, has faced relentless attacks from anonymous trolls. “There’s constant harassment coming from Kigali, and it’s not innocent, it’s not ordinary citizens,” Wrong stated. “It’s organized, it’s systematic, and it comes from the regime itself

Use of Surveillance and Spyware

Rwanda has also leveraged advanced surveillance technology to track and intimidate its opponents. The use of Israeli surveillance equipment, as revealed in the 2021 Pegasus Project, highlights the lengths to which the Rwandan government will go to maintain control over its narrative and suppress dissent.

Economic Ties and International Relations

Rwanda's efforts to maintain its global image are supported by strategic economic partnerships. For instance, Germany pledged substantial development aid to Rwanda, and the Rwanda Development Board has formed partnerships with major European entities, including FC Bayern Munich. These alliances are part of a broader strategy to attract investment and bolster Rwanda’s international standing.

Criticism and the Realities of Repression

Despite the positive image promoted by Rwanda, critics argue that the government’s actions reveal a much darker reality. The systematic targeting of dissidents and the use of covert operations to manage Rwanda’s international reputation raise serious ethical and human rights concerns. Critics like Michela Wrong and others have exposed how the Rwandan regime employs intimidation and harassment to stifle dissent, painting a stark contrast to the image of progress and development.

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