Posted on March 5, 2008

Emma Thompson’s ‘Adopted’ Rwandan Son Moans About Britain’s ‘Pathetic Celebrity Culture’

Richard Simpson, Daily Mail (London), March 5, 2008

Five years ago he left a life of unimaginable hardship as a child soldier in war-torn Rwanda to join one of the most successful families in Britain.

Tindyebwa Agaba, the 20-year-old “adopted” son of Emma Thompson, has lived at the actress’s Hampstead home and had his university education paid for by her.

Yet revealing for the first time his thoughts about Britain, it seems that Tindy—as the 48-year-old Oscar winner calls him—is not entirely happy with every aspect of his new life.

His most stinging criticism is for the celebrity culture, complaining of the “complete death of politically and socially stimulating activism which has been replaced by the pathetic celebrity culture and living a pretentious life”.

In an essay for a racism monitoring group where he works as a volunteer in his university town, Exeter, he also attacks apathy among fellow students, racist “nerds” and expresses his anger that he is the only African on his politics course.

He says he chose Exeter because his surrogate family had told him of “the stunning beauty there, where they shot Sense And Sensibility”—the 1995 film on which Miss Thompson met her husband, actor Greg Wise, 41.

Mr Wise has recently appeared in BBC1’s hit drama Cranford while Miss Thompson, who won Oscars for Sense And Sensibility and Howards End, has played Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter films.

In his essay, Mr Agaba makes a specific attack on Exeter University, saying that it made too little effort to attract students from ethnic minorities and adding: “I find it incredible that I am the only African in the entire politics department.”

He complains about the “incredible apathy” shown by other students, “excruciating debates” they have and “fantastically boring tutorials”.

“Total shock would be a fitting description of my first term at university here in Devon,” he writes.

He complains about the subject matter of his courses and how in Britain students are wrongly taught that the developing world is “diseased, war-ravaged and squalor-ridden”.

He also chronicles two incidents when he was the victim of racist abuse in Devon—the first by a bunch of “nerds” with nothing else to do and the second by “three or four tattooed and macho-looking bouncers at a club”.

The refugee—who has managed to gain an unquestioned stay of leave in this country as an immigrant—also reveals that his surrogate parents are not his only high-profile associates.

“I used to hold fortnightly chats about domestic and international issues with one of my political mentors, who happens to be a Cabinet secretary here in the UK,” he says.

“I vividly remember how I used to whine a lot to him about the unimaginable widespread apathy among London students in my college.

“It is going to be the same old story when I talk to him this summer holiday.”

It was reported at the weekend that Mr Agaba faced being deported to Rwanda.

On that point, Mr Wise told the Daily Mail: “We are not commenting.”

A source at the Home Office said: “He has not been removed and is not due to be removed.”

Mr Agaba is now on a social and political degree course in Cambridge following his time at Exeter.

He was unofficially adopted by Miss Thompson in 2003 after she met him at a Christmas party in London held by the Refugee Council.

He had been sleeping rough in Trafalgar Square and she invited him to spend Christmas Day with her and Mr Wise.