Is there such a thing as a benign dictator? Can a ruthless but rigorous autocrat offer the best medicine for a country rebuilding after a catastrophe? How does one weigh human rights abuses against the record of a seemingly well-run economy in a troubled region? And, most of all, how forgiving should we be of an authoritarian government if it took office after a genocide it helped to end?

For nearly 30 years Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, the puritanical former rebel leader who seized power after the 1994 genocide, has faced these questions. In the intervening years, not only has his image broadly survived, but he has been at the centre of a global personality cult. US administrations and UK governments have lavished attention and aid on his regime. He has been lauded as a new model leader. His Rwanda has been depicted as an African Singapore or even a Switzerland...

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