By Jennifer Fierberg
Rwanda Day 2014 is underway in Atlanta, Georgia under the praise of Andrew Young, an American politician, diplomat, activist and pastor from Georgia and former member of Congress. Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of the controversial President, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and advocates for him on Capitol Hill. Anyone who follows Rwandan news and her supporters know who Paul Kagame rubs shoulders with; Rick Warren, Former President Bill Clinton, Andrew Young, Bill Gates and many more very rich and very famous social figures. Yet, a newcomer has arrived publically to ride this wave of getting close to African Dictators in order to build their careers.
Meet John Hope Bryant. He has an extensive career in finance and has served under two US presidents on selective committees including President Obama currently. Mr. Bryant has been the recipient of numerous recognitions and awards that are listed on his Wikipedia page. He appears to be a self-made man with books, consulting agencies, community work and a commitment to assisting the poor to reach for higher ground. Among the many qualities, this man possesses and has been praised for in so many publications but one cannot say that humility is one of them.
Now, self-confidence is a wonderful trait to develop but when it crosses the line into a self-inflated ego one seeks only to serve themselves and not those around them. Mr. Bryant has an ego the size of his empire and is quick to threaten when challenged regarding his affiliation with President Paul Kagame. Mr. Bryant appears to hold no higher education degrees with the exception on an honorary doctorate from Paul Quinn College much the same as President Kagame.
This writer contacted Mr. Bryant via his twitter account to ask about his affiliation with Rwanda and Paul Kagame. He replied that he had visited Rwanda, spent time there and understood “the story.” Mr. Bryant appears to have a long-standing relationship with President Kagame and even promotes the movie “Rwanda Rising” throughout the country. Once reference states that, “The film is a first in a series of films produced by Ambassador Andrew Young, in collaboration with Operation Hope, Inc.” Operation Hope, Inc. is a company owned and operated by Mr. Bryant. Mr. Bryant replied only twice to this writer on twitter before he blocked any further questions but not before he stated, “just fyi. I grew up in Compton, Ca. Best friend murdered @ age 10. Homeless @ 18. I don’t respond well 2 bullying.” He made this threat to me in reaction to my tweet about him: “Meet @johnhopebryant author and #Kagame supporter. Speaker at #RwandaDayATL …thoughts?” Does that appear to be bullying? His reference to growing up in Compton does not leave much room to speculate what this man meant by this comment. As Wikipedia clearly states, “The city of Compton as well as southern Los Angeles County in general is notorious for its heavy concentration of gangs and gang violence, such as the Bloods, the Crips, and Sureños, which all originated in the Los Angeles area.”
In 2006, Mr. Bryant wrote about President Kagame by stating, “Just look to the model of Rwanda, where “an honest President,” His Excellency Paul Kagame, has helped to introduce a Constitution that is one of the most progressive in the world today. A Constitution where 49% of the seats in government, by law, are held by women. A Constitution that respects the rights of people and protects individual property rights. A Constitution where no one political side can “win,” because no party can hold more than 50% of the power of government. No absolute winners, but no absolute losers either. A Constitution that provides for free education for all children to the 10th grade; absolutely groundbreaking for a developing country. A Constitution so strong and rooted in justice, and not “just us,” that even criminals sent to prison for the genocide will get their real property protected too. I am even told of stories where prison inmates receive rent payments from the homes they no longer occupy, yet still own. This is revolutionary…in Africa. And dignity too.”
Mr. Bryant has clearly taken the “head in the sand” approach to understanding Paul Kagame and the constitution that is written on shifting sand. This is where Mr. Bryant exposes his “sincere ignorance.”
Clearly, the relationship between Mr. Bryant and President Kagame is deep and long. What Mr. Bryant fails to see is that he has become part of a bigger group of individuals who seize the opportunity to tie themselves to a “poor African country” in order to build their brand. Their relationship appears to be a “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours,” situation.
Sadly, this scenario has played out repeatedly for “friends” of Paul Kagame; very few survive, literally, this relationship let alone thrive in it.