About four hours ago, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, recently in the news for staying at a $16,000-per-night presidential suite for the U.N. General Assembly, apologized on Twitter for his spate of silence on the microblogging service (indeed, he had not tweeted in ten days). Since then, Kagame has issued over 30 ellipses- and abbreviation-heavy tweets in rapid succession on democracy, Western hypocrisy, African empowerment, and British phone hacking (sample comment on term limits: "Being in powr, fr ever is not good,without even a break!? In Israel ldrs go and come back n they are democratic!"). The barrage of messages has prompted murmurs on Twitter. "Whoah. Rwandan President @PaulKagame is on a
#Twitter roll (perhaps I should say rant)," Princeton's Anne-Marie Slaughter writes."Fascinating stream of consciousness." Al Jazeera's Mick Hodgkin even coins a term for the phenomenon: "Rwandan twolcano." Kagame "is erupting after being dormant for a while," he observes. Others are skeptical. Ian Birrell of Africa Express wonders whether someone is "cyber-squatting" on Kagame's account.
But, as Birrell should well know, a Twitter rampage like this one isn't out of the ordinary for Kagame. Back in May, Kagame and Birrell engaged in a Twitter brawl after Birrell called the Rwandan ruler "despotic & deluded" and criticized the country's human rights and free press abuses, moving Kagame to shock the British journalist by fighting back. "Ask Rwandans they will tell u I am not what u call me and I am sure they r not what you think they are...!" Kagame wrote at the time, sending 13 more salvos at Birrell that same day. "It is admirable to see a leader engaging so personally with new means of communication--although it is telling there is no one he thinks worth following," Birrell wrote in The Guardian in the wake of the spat, referring to the fact that Kagame doesn't follow anyone on Twitter. Kagame appears to be taunting Birrell again today. He asks his followers if they "rembr the debate and name-calling by a guy(jrnalist) from London..." and adds, cryptically, "I waited fr this guy to comment as he does on matters African but in vain...confirmed many things!"
In general, Kagame is a bit of a binge tweeter, oscillating between silence and active commenting and back-and-forth with followers on Rwandan and African current affairs. On July 4, Rwanda's National Liberation Day, Kagame sent out 30 tweets thanking people for their well wishes. He's also demonstrated a broader affinity for social media, accepting a Kenyan blogger's invitation to visit children at a tennis court in Rwanda through Twitter and launching his own social networking platform to promote his reelection campaign last year. Kagame's site, which highlights his presence on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and Twitter, notes that the Rwandan leader discussed how his country could "harness social media to enhance development" while in New York this week. Perhaps Kagame is trying to lead by example?