How many neighbours do you have who say this, in all seriousness: “I can’t go anywhere in Africa – it’s too dangerous. They could kidnap me.” Economic development consultant David Himbara is referring to the outcome of his tempestuous split with Rwanda’s mercurial leader, Paul Kagame. The clash led him to move himself and his family back to Canada, which he credits for keeping him alive more than once.
Rwanda-born Himbara, who has a PhD from Queen’s University, worked with Kagame in two stints in the 2000s, helping to greatly increase the once-war-torn East African country’s standard of living. But in 2009, says Himbara, Kagame asked him to falsify statistics; Himbara refused. A violent confrontation ensued, Himbara and his family fled to South Africa, and Himbara became an outspoken Kagame critic. Consulting in Kenya, he was nearly arrested and sent to Rwanda, but he credits Canadian officials for helping to keep him safe. When he finally decided life on the same continent with Kagame was too dangerous, the Himbaras moved to Scarborough and got more government support, including from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and Scarborough-Guildwood MP John McKay.
“I have become a super-Canadian,” says Himbara. “On July 1st I was right at the front marching with John McKay.”
He is now finishing a two-year stint as a scholar in residence at Scarborough’s Centennial College, during which he completed two books, and will continue teaching international development courses. He has also testified before U.S. Congressional committees on Africa. His placement at Centennial was arranged with the help of a New York-based organization called Scholars at Risk – an apt description of Himbara’s plight.