Wrong tells the story of the murder of Patrick Karegeya, once Rwanda's head of external intelligence and a quicksilver operator of supple charm, to paint the portrait of a modern African dictatorship created in the chilling likeness of Paul Kagame, the president who sanctioned his former friend's assassination.
This superb book tells their entwined story, an epic tale of blood, bitterness and betrayal. On the human level, it is an absorbing Shakespearean saga in which this duo shape the history of their continent before their falling out, which led to a squalid death in a South African hotel room in the final hours of 2013. Michela Wrong, among the sharpest western writers on Africa, uses the murder of Rwanda’s affable spy chief Patrick Karegeya as a device to dissect the ugly reign of Paul Kagame, the geeky gangster president accused of being behind his former schoolmate’s death ... It is a gripping tale, centred on two contrasting characters, that starts in Uganda among Rwanda’s exiles ... Yet this interwoven story of two fascinating men is much more than a smart device to tell the tale of another African rebel leader who festered in power, even if it is a riveting account of raw power turned rancid. Wrong, the author of fine books on Eritrea, Kenya and the Congo, challenges the tatty conventional narrative on the 1994 genocide, with its simplistic notion of triumphant Tutsi good guys led by the heroic national saviour returning from exile. She exposes a more complex and tawdry story, showing the savagery that lies below the smooth surface of a regime hailed by many Western admirers.
[This book] stands out as perhaps the most ambitious attempt yet to tell the dark story of Rwanda and the region’s deeply intertwined tragedies for a general audience. Wrong’s account unfolds on two separate planes. The first is an efficient history of the region. Most readers know little about East Central Africa’s past other than the Rwandan genocide, whose intensity and scale, Wrong notes, rank it among the greatest horrors of the 20th century. But as she makes abundantly clear, that tragedy was but one piece in an interlocking puzzle of ethnic atrocities and military gambits in the region ... The second strand of Do Not Disturb is a mixture of Wrong’s highly personal remembrance of the former Rwanda spy chief, Patrick Karegeya, and her dogged investigative reporting on a variety of apparently Rwandan state-sponsored hit jobs, foremost among them Karegeya’s murder in South Africa, where he was first drugged and then garroted ... There is a taut, cinematic quality to Wrong’s account of Karegeya’s killing, and a mournful, hurt tone as well — mournful because Karegeya, a skilled, seductive handler of Western reporters, had been a key source for Wrong while he was in government. The hurt that infuses her story is more subtle, but ultimately more important. It derives from her acknowledgment that she and so many other reporters who covered East Central Africa after the 1994 genocide allowed themselves to be manipulated too easily and too long by their Rwandan sources.
In her explosive and devastatingly convincing new book, Michela Wrong contends that this is a result of the original sin coming home to roost once more. Western journalists and governments have selected their good guy in dictator Paul Kagame while ignoring his appalling human rights abuses, targeted assassinations, exported violence, and offenses against the rule of law that would be condemned anyplace else ... Wrong’s myth-busting book does three things. It provides a lucid readout of one of the swampiest geopolitical stories on the African continent: Rwanda’s political realignment after an invading Tutsi army took over the country from a genocidal Hutu junta in 1994 amid a high stack of innocent victims killed by both sides. It’s also a murder mystery — except it is no mystery — about the state-sponsored killing of Rwanda’s former spy chief in a South African luxury hotel in 2014. And it is the first clear-eyed biography of the enigmatic man at the center of both: Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who comes across in these pages not as the investor-friendly savior of his country but as a cold-blooded authoritarian with a fatal streak of insecurity, willing to take any measure to stay in power ... [Wong's] opinions and literary temperament are the opposite of hotheaded; her considered demeanor lends weight to her devastating verdict on the Rwanda myth. This volume was four years in the making, and she seems to have talked to just about anyone available, in and out of East Africa, to unearth details of Kagame’s formative years never told in more hagiographic accounts ... One of Wrong’s major points in the book is that a peculiar kind of racism may be in play when the West looks at Kagame. He stopped the murders and created a humming economy, went the reasoning. The low expectations made the human rights abuses a trifling afterthought ... Wrong’s book is an eloquent and entirely convincing plea for that same glaze not to come over the world’s eyes when uncomfortable truths are told.