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50 people that matter 2010 | 49. Paul Kagame

Rwanda wonder.

When he swept through Rwanda in 1994 at the head of a guerrilla force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Paul Kagame was the hero who liberated his country and brought the horrific genocide to an end.

As president, he has achieved great progress - Rwanda has the second-highest growth rates in Africa, averaging 10 per cent from 1994 to 2000, and 6 per cent since then. Poverty has also decreased, from 70 per cent in 1994 to 57 per cent in 2007.

Kagame has been critical of the United Nations and has advocated new approaches to development in Africa.

But his popularity is declining in the west, as reports of human rights abuses - such as the murder of journalists and political activists - and his interventions in the Congo increase.

In the 2010 presidential elections, all credible opposition candidates were disqualified, resulting in his re-election with 93 per cent of the vote.


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This article first appeared in the 27 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The 50 people who matter

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.