No, Rwandan President Paul Kagame did not appoint a 19-year-old minister
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A series of posts claiming that the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, appointed a 19-year-old as a minister went viral on social media over the past weeks. But the story was completely fabricated and the boy in the accompanying photo is actually a young British boy.
"Because of his proficiency in the sector, a 19-year-old was named Minister of New Technologies and Development in Rwanda,” read several posts that have been widely circulated on Facebook and WhatsApp in the days since October 5. The posts claim the young minister is called Patrick Nkuriza.
Most of the posts include a photo of a smiling, very young-looking young man, allegedly the new minister in question.
One example of a post claiming Rwandan president Paul Kagame appointed this young man as a minister.
Why it’s false
Our team ran the photo through a reverse image search (click here to find out how) and quickly discovered that that the boy in the photo was not someone named Patrick Nkuriza. His name is Ramarni Wilfred, and he made headlines in the United Kingdom in 2014 because he scored extremely high on an IQ test at the age of 11. British media outlets reported that Ramarni’s IQ surpassed the IQs of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
The BBC also reported on this young man, who is now 17.
Ramarni Wilfred’s photo appears in an article about him in Signaturepost, published in March 2020.
The story seems to have been invented by Opera News, an Ivorian media outlet known for publishing spoof articles. The photo of the young man appeared in an article published on September 4 by Opera News entitled, "Fiction: Even though he’s a minister, he still lives with his parents.” The article goes on to describe the “incredible destiny” of "Patrick Nkuriza", a made up character.
This screengrab shows the fictional article published in Opera News that sparked the rumour.
As AFP Factuel reported, even the ministry in question was invented -- there is no Ministry of New Technologies and Development in Rwanda. And no new ministers have been appointed in Rwanda since January 2020, according to the official Facebook account of the Rwandan government.
The fake story was based on one small grain of truth. President Kagame has promoted prominent political figures, who are sometimes very young, to high government posts. In 2017, for example, he nominated Jean De Dieu Uwihanganye as Minister of the Environment when he was just 30 years old.
In an article published in October 2019, Al Jazeera reported that 40 was the average age of members of Kagame’s cabinet.