Wrong knows the risks. She has been there — for the BBC, Reuters and the Financial Times. In 1994, she registered ‘the bloody handprints left on the walls of classrooms and church buildings by Tutsi men, women and children scrabbling to escape their executioners’. Months later, outside a hilltop church in Kibuye, she spotted, poking from a bank of earth, a naked foot — one of 11,000 slaughtered with a hoe or machete by neighbours from the same God-fearing community, perhaps even from the same pew. ‘No one will ever be able adequately to explain... the intimacy of that slaughter.’
All too mortifyingly, Wrong knows how easy it is to be duped about what happened, as it is to be eliminated for challenging Kagame’s seductive official version. She is ‘grimly aware’ that the charge of ‘revisionism’ — carrying a ten-year prison sentence — might be raised against her. ‘To prevent cyber-snooping, I kept the laptop on which I wrote this manuscript permanently offline, hiding it at the end of each working day under the dirty clothes in a laundry basket.’ In her obsessive project to expose Rwanda’s filthy linen, she has befriended the key players, visited their farms, dined with them in exile — including the charming and ebullient figure who for many years was Kagame’s immediate confidante: his former classmate and intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya (called ‘Patrick’ throughout the book — as he was generally known in Rwanda).
Few possessed Patrick’s intimate knowledge of where the bodies were buried and who had ordered the digging — not least because he was a joint architect of Kagame’s murderous government policy. Sickened eventually by the slaughter, he escaped to South Africa, only for the vindictive Kagame to despatch a team of assassins. On 1 January 2014, Patrick’s body was discovered strangled in a hotel room in Johannesburg. Wrong takes her title from the sign that his killers hung outside the door. Patrick had known them well.
Do Not Disturb reads as if written to avenge and broadcast the murders not only of Patrick but of Rwanda’s progressive Hutu interior minister Seth Sendashonga, machine-gunned to death in 1998, as well as other high-profile assassinations, including that of the DRC leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila in 2001 (‘We did it!’ Patrick admitted). It is also a personal act of atonement — for Wrong to expiate ‘a job badly done’ in having allowed herself to regurgitate, despite her own ‘queasy suspicions’, an utterly false narrative about contemporary Rwanda that professionally she never should have swallowed in the first place.
Rwanda is one of Africa’s most beautiful countries — ‘so beautiful, they say, it is where God retires to sleep at night’. Yet when it dawned on Patrick how monstrously Kagame had befouled their nation, he quipped: ‘If God exists, he can’t locate Rwanda on a map.’ As for Kagame, the Mean One never spoke truer than when he told an obsequious interviewer: ‘God created me in a very strange way.’
For Wrong, two deadly questions squat ‘like poisonous toads’ at the base of Rwanda’s modern history. Who triggered the 1994 genocide by firing a Soviet missile into the jet bringing back from promising peace talks Rwanda’s Hutu president and his Burundi counterpart? Once again, Patrick was unequivocal in implicating Kagame: ‘I was part of the team that brought down the plane.’ Second, how did the charismatic commander of the RPF, Fred Rwigyema, meet his end in 1990 — a stray bullet from a French commando or a targeted attack by a jealous internal faction? Wrong speculates that had the humane and inclusive Fred survived, millions might still be alive. Instead, into his luminous place stepped Fred’s grey, unprepossessing, twitchy and insecure shadow, Paul Kagame.
Wrong quotes Primo Levi to illuminate the horror that ensued: ‘Perhaps one cannot — what is more, one must not — understand what happened, because to understand is almost to justify.’ No longer deflected by charm or laughter, she picks her way through the ‘deafening clashes of storylines’ and a history ‘drenched in pain’. She knows how ‘hair-tearingly difficult’ it is to interest even her own newspaper in Rwanda: ‘There’s no space for Africa in tomorrow’s edition,’ says her editor.
Yet in the teeth of complete indifference, she has produced a classic, her own journalistic complicity in the hollowness at the heart of power to rival Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart and Gitta Sereny’s Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. Meanwhile, even as Commonwealth leaders prepare to meet ‘Africa’s Lee Kuan Yew’, another of Kagame’s former pillars — his hugely popular ex-army chief General Kayumba — is massing rebel forces on a high plateau near Uvira in the eastern DRC.