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Rwanda: Interacting With the Tweeting President

My Twitter timeline boasts of one of Britain’s richest entrepreneurs, Lord Alan Sugar, rapper 50cent and CNN’s Piers Morgan, but receiving a response from a president of a promising African country is just staggering, even to an experienced journalist and blogger like me.

The problem with celebrities like Lord Sugar usually called Shugs by his followers on Twitter, Morgan called Piersy by his army of followers and 50cent with his overly ambitious project to feed one billion Africans (literally the entire population of the continent)  in the next five years, is that they rarely, if ever, respond to tweets.

Paul Kagame: Rwanda's tweeting President. Photo source: Kagame's Twitter account.

A few days ago, just as a joke and coming from a cautionary position of the number of fake and spoof Twitter and other social media accounts of celebrities and famous people, I responded to a tweet which mentioned Rwandan president Paul Kagame to which I did not expect a response from him. If anything, the response I expected was to come from the original poster.

Admittedly, it was a banal exchange on why he carries a whole range of gadgets from an iPod to a Blackberry to an iPad which more or less serve the same purpose.

The exchange went thus:

@RobertAlai:

@paulkagame uses iPad 2, BlackBerry Torch and an iPod. #Mindspeak

I responded:

@RobertAlai: @paulkagame uses iPad 2, BlackBerry Torch and an iPod. #MindspeakI thought an iPad had an iPod provision. Lol.

It is the next few tweets coming from Paul Kagame, whose bio simply states, “President of the Republic of Rwanda, write to: paulkagame@gov.rw” also giving his website as http://www.paulkagame.com, that surprise me. Apparently, he writes in conversational style with one tweet running into the next and so on:

@PaulKagame:

@GNdhlovu. But one was obtained long after the other…and have the freedom to use one as I want even if in some aspects they may serve same

@PaulKagame:

@GNdhlovu …purpose! There are definately some overlaps on all of them….how u use them is your bizness!

@PaulKagame:

@GNdhlovu. And have difrnt convinient uses too…!

I responded before I saw his timeline to show that he has actually been talking about why he uses all these gadgets:

@GNdhlovu:

@PaulKagame: @GNdhlovu. And have difrnt convinient uses too…!” Agreed HE [His Exellency]. The ipod fits in the pocket nicely. Tx for rspnse.

Upon realising that since the topic is on iPods/iPads, I then quickly followed it up with a question on the type of music on his iPod to which, unfortunately, he has not responded–yet.

@GNdhlovu:

@PaulKagame As a matter of interest HE, what type of music is on yr iPod & who r yr most popular musicians on it? Any Rwandan acts on it?

Going through President Kagame’s timeline, it appears that he engages in regular exchange with other netizens on a wide range of subjects. For instance, in the exchange below in what seems to be a question on the Rwandan economy, he elaborated how his government has been going about improving the economy.

@PaulKagame:

@ramaisibo. Both procedure and outcome are important-better to get both right-if one was to turn out not so good it shdnt be the outcome!!

He brought his Minister for Finance into the discussion:

@MinFinanceRw. Tell him more abt how strategy has started bearing fruit as well-bcse export earnings have grown steadily! I would have..

@PaulKagame:

@MinFinanceRw …expected frm @ramaisibo more in terms of ideas (contributing to a solution) than asking the kind of question, tho !

@PaulKagame:

@ramaisibo. I am wondering whether this debate between ppl like u is helpful in this way it being done!!!! If @ramaisibo lacked forum ..

@PaulKagame:

@ramaisibo ..in which to express his ideas-I would understand! I am sure u will only end up going back and forth w/out much else…!!

@PaulKagame:

@ramaisibo …years has been on a v.sound footing! Inflation being also lowest in the region and beyond,if u may not kno! So,really I am ..

@PaulKagame:

@ramaisibo …only advising that there is a better way of contributing to the debate(that has alwz been there all along)!!!

Kagame’s Twitter exchange with netizens is surely innovative and puts him far ahead of his contemporary African leaders who are, at best, unreachable by the majority of citizens and, at worst, they just don’t bother listening to their citizens, let alone netizens regardless of whether or not they are their citizens.

On May 5, 2011, Paul Kagame became the first African leader to be interviewed on YouTube World View. Early this year, a Kenyan blogger based in Rwanda invited Paul Kagame via Twitter to visit children at The Ibirunga Tennis Court in Musanze Town. President Kagame replied to the tweet and ended up visiting them.

Paul Kagame Twitter account displays a “Verified Badge”. Twitter uses verification system to establish the authenticity of identities of Twitter users.

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