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No, Rwandan president Kagame hasn’t lashed out at World Health Organization

Rwandan president Paul Kagame has publicly attacked the World Health Organization, claim Facebook posts and website articles circulating online since mid-May 2020.

They include claims that Kagame warned the WHO to “be careful and watch out”, and said: “No one from foreign countries will ever rule or control Africa!”

They also say Kagame has endorsed Covid-Organics, the herbal tonic Madagascar’s president Andry Rajoelina claimed was a cure for Covid-19

Has Kagame, who chaired the African Union (AU) in 2018, lashed out at the World Health Organization?

Covid-Organics controversy

Rajoelina launched Covid-Organics in April, claiming it has already cured two Covid-19 patients. Africa Check found there was no evidence the drink cures Covid-19.

On 4 May the WHO released a statement that traditional medicines such as the tonic’s main ingredient were being considered as possible treatments for Covid-19. But, it added, “establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical”.

Rajoelina has suggested that the product has been dismissed because it was developed by a poor African country. He said: “What if this remedy had been discovered by a European country, instead of Madagascar? Would people doubt it so much? I don't think so.”

Another false claim Africa Check has debunked was that certain African leaders had endorsed the tonic. Kagame was claimed to be among them, but Africa Check found no evidence of this.

The AU said on 4 May that it was waiting to “review the scientific data gathered so far on the safety and efficacy” of Covid-Organics.

Statements not in Kagame’s published speeches

The posts and articles are vague about when Kagame made these statements. They don’t give a date, or say whether they were made in a particular address or official statement. This is a red flag for disinformation, and makes the details difficult to verify.

Kagame posts his public speeches on his personal website, but the attack on the WHO is not there.

One of the most recent statements on his website is from a 26 April press conference in which Kagame supported the WHO. He said: “Rwandans do everything that is possible based on what is in place around the world, on what science tells us, based on the World Health Organization.”

In a recent address to the AU posted on his SoundCloud account, Kagame highlighted “the importance” of AU members “working together”. He did not endorse Rajoelina’s Covid-Organics in the speech.

If Kagame had publicly criticised the global health agency, it would have made world news. It hasn’t. 

On 19 May the Associated Press reported on Kagame’s pardon of 50 women imprisoned on abortion-related charges, as did the UK’s Independent. Neither publication mentioned that Kagame had attacked the WHO.

Claims that Kagame has endorsed Covid-Organics and attacked the WHO have also been debunked by fact-checking organisation ZimFact. – Keegan Leech


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