Celebrity culture is pathetic, says Rwandan adopted by Thompson

Click to follow
The Independent Online

As a former child soldier whose mother and sisters were raped and then disappeared during Rwanda's genocide, Tindyewba Agaba has survived unthinkable horror to be where he is today.

Known as Tindy to friends, he is studying for a degree in Britain and calls the Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson "Mum".

And the 21-year-old undergraduate, who is taking politics at the University of Exeter, found himself in the headlines yesterday for reasons beyond having a famous adoptive mother after he spoke out against what he said was the university's "lack of effort" in attracting ethnic minority students. He also criticised Britain's "pathetic celebrity culture" and the "soft racism" of Western attitudes towards Africa.

Mr Agaba was informally adopted five years ago by Ms Thompson, 48, and her husband, the actor Greg Wise, after they met at a Christmas party being held by the Refugee Council in London. At the time, Tindy was having to spend some nights sleeping rough around Trafalgar Square after arriving penniless in Britain as an asylum-seeker with little English.

The couple invited the 15-year-old orphan to spend Christmas Day with them and he has since become part of their family. He chose Exeter on the recommendation of Ms Thompson and Mr Wise, 41.

But in an article written last year for an anti-racist group in Devon, where he works as a volunteer, Mr Agaba talks of racist abuse he has suffered and makes plain his views about the shortcomings of British academia and society.

The student says he counts a cabinet minister as a "political mentor" and expects to discuss his experiences at Exeter with the unnamed politician. He wrote: "I will be whining to him about how fantastically boring the tutorials are, whose topics are conducted in the manner that 'the West is great', how the situation is not helped at all by the lack of effort from the university in attracting students from ethnic minorities – I find it incredible I am the only African in the politics department."

Tindy then berates "the pathetic celebrity culture and living a pretentious life". He also lambasts "the 'soft racism' I constantly draw out of lectures which portray the developing world as diseased, war-ravaged, squalor-ridden feckless Africans or Latin Americans who are so grateful to the West."

It emerged last week that Ms Thompson is fighting an attempt to deport Tindy before he completes his studies. It is understood any deportation order has now been suspended.

The one-time fighter describes himself as a "lucky person" and also speaks of his love of Britain and Devon, despite twice being verbally abused – once by a group of "uneducated nerds" and a second time by four bouncers outside a nightclub. He added: "Apart from those isolated incidents, Devon's attractions are legion – its scenery mighty, its overwhelming panoramic views that remind me of those Rwandan hills."

Exeter University expressed surprise at Mr Agaba's criticisms, pointing out it has been voted university of the year by students and academics. A spokesman said: "We welcome students from any ethnic background and have over 1,300 international students. Our politics lecturers take great care to present a balanced view of the Third World."