The first round of campaigning was as successful as emotional to huge numbers Rwandans attending President Kagame’s campaign rallies. The unprecedented turn up of Rwandese was moving as were testimonies of Rwandese who moved from being the poor of the poor to high income earners was not only moving but emotional to say the least. And these are not politics as is the case in many other African elections where stories are concocted to gain the incumbent political mileage. Not at all.
These are realities from a few Rwandans that represents the views of many Rwandese that did not give their testimonies. Looking at the very masses in the campaigns one notices real change among the Rwandese attending campaign relies compared to the same in 2010 campaigns. A foreign friend of mine who accompanied me in the campaigns was even more moved but at the same time confused. Confused by what he saw and heard. Confused by the huge turn up, and the love they emotional expressed for their Presidential candidate to whom they owe everything Rwanda, and everything they literally are and own. He was even more confused like most foreigners who define Rwanda from their own contexts. Contexts that are far parallel to ours and no element of comparisons one can hardly make for it would be misplaced, out context, academic, malicious, in bad faith subjective..name it. But this is unique Rwanda that is a hall mark of two extremes. From ashes to showers of hope and prosperity.
Of late, a number of media outlets have produced articles that describe another Rwanda, and another type of leadership than one we know, and live with. The Economist has been on the fore front of this. One would have expected such media outlet to be as objective as it can be or at least prudent in their articles with thorough research before they opine a piece. Far from this and for a while now. They have consistently opined out context and given that this has been repeated for long, it can’t be taken lightly least by Rwandese who need and deserve objective reporting of their country and leadership. Otherwise they become fake news, too cheap for such an outlet.
On one hand they argue that ‘ in 1994 Mr Kagame was a necessary solution to a problem from hell…’ and they continue to outline most of his tremendous achievements. Little do they put the consequences of the same hellish problem that wrote off Rwanda except for the name of our country. Such a description of President Kagame as a savior of a hellish problem cannot at the same time be a problem. This a serious distortion of logic, facts, and an intentional contradiction of the reality on ground which Rwandans know better as they were the victims of the hellish problem and now the beneficiaries of miraculous turn round of a country that all (including us Rwandans) had no hope of being what it is today, at least not in 23 years. Taking for granted such miraculous achievements or even calling it another name for what they are not is an insult not only to our leadership, but also to us Rwandans who are the ultimate beneficiaries. But this doesn’t change the facts on ground nor the spirit of Rwandese to do even more. In fact, this energies us Rwandans and our leaders to do even more, for we owe it to ourselves anyway.
What happened in Rwandan doesn’t fit in the western mindset of what Africans can do for themselves and by themselves. And so it remains antithesis of African leadership and results thereof.
But so be it. It has served our interests beyond the remotest expectations and even hope. In fact what has taken place under exemplary leadership of Paul Kagame is not only a miracle (which they allude to) but a realization of hope or a wish by Rwandans.
To most Rwandans, heroic actions by President Paul Kagame starting from the war against the past sectarian and genocidal regime, a war that was lost on day one, only to restart at his initiative, distinguished him beyond comparability. Those who recall the process of that very war against all odds one can imagine, saw him distinguish himself, not only among his peers, but also made him indispensable to our cause. Then and now. That he commanded and won a war against the combined forced of ex-far, and their French backers with all the resources at their disposal, human and material (financial), was a humanly impossible mission by all standards. Thus, an American defense observer Colonel Richard Orth rated President Kagame as ‘among the top’ military leaders in the world (He should have added on- top civic leader of our time). But this marked the beginning of his impeachable service to his country, and to many who had lost this very war in every sense, he remains an icon of our hope. A hope against hope then, and a hope with hope during 2017 election to most Rwandans. The environment was even more hostile then, given the indoctrination Rwandans in the country had received from the then sectarian/regional leadership so much so that hatred sowed between Tutsis and Hutus, was extremely to imagine how a war would be waged, later on worn under such conditions.
No other CV can match
His visionary leadership enabled the country to turn around in a record time, and register the highest transformation of any country in recent times. His integrity and objectivity in the nation building has earned him a character that, no other Rwandan CV can ever match. That no Rwandan at least among our current crop of leadership matches his qualities, and more so the fact that, most that have worked with him, have fallen far short of the aforementioned qualities and thus achievements makes his choice God sent. His overwhelming legitimacy and thus respect he commands among Rwandans low, and mighty as well as among our foreign friends, puts to question the objectivity of foreigners in their assessment of everything Rwanda.
A few foreigners play with thematic words in their description of our development and governance for other contexts other than Rwanda so much so that our pace of development (social and economic), unity and reconciliation, security, equality, and unity of purpose as a nation is lost in their academic literary of Rwanda as a country and people.
That our leadership under President Kagame has been able to tame most evils typical of other African systems such as corruption, nepotism, clanism/tribalism, cronyism, big man mentality and through this impunity, as well as a sense of entitlement is no mean feat. But these values are work in progress and unless these become cultural norms/virtues of our national identity, they remain as vulnerable as the country’s progress itself amidst wrong choices. They can only be sustained for our betterment if our choice is focused and understands the essence of these values . The choice of leadership that can sustain these and scale them up will be acceptable to Rwandans void of simplistic emotive judgment of the west. Thus, what is best for Rwanda and Rwandans given our context, past and present, is the rough text for our political choice in these and other elections ahead.. Our choice has to be country specific in the extreme sense of the term as our environment has had extremes too, that any other choice/formula will not simply work. Ours is a country out of emergency but not yet over it as pointed out earlier. Wounds; be they social as well as economic are just starting to heal, and this is a process. A process that can only be sustained further by sober leadership; for agents of the same past horrendous past are still a live and kicking, and we can only lose sight of this if we have short memories. Most Rwandans don’t and will not. In fact, it is these very negative elements especially from Diaspora, who working with their western paymasters wished The President Kagame to leave in 2017. These include past political failures and rejects of our system of accountability (including renegade Himbara who is now an expert to western media, one that he was not at home), remnants of interehamwe, and their off-springs, who will be haunted by the blood of our 1 million compatriots who died not for what wrongs they did, but rather for what they happened to be. Such groups cannot represent anybody except themselves, nor can their decide the destiny of 12 million law abiding Rwandans building their country, no matter how loud they seem to be; in the agitation of reversal formula, using all sorts of communications available today. These are outliers of our society and are not stakeholders in the current political dispensation. They lost all moral right possible as Rwandans; and can only speak to unsuspecting foreigners who hardly have no idea of their past nor comprehension of our present Rwanda in context.
What is ironic though is that, those making noise of our political dispensation are either non-Rwandans, misguided Rwandans, or Rwandans who had a hand in our tragic past as pointed above, and have nothing to lose in our ‘tragic’ future if allowed to shape it. But Rwandans were taught very hard lessons by disastrous past experience that, we alone had and have to save ourselves. It is the same Rwandans who saved ourselves from ourselves, when our ‘friends’ left us to kill ourselves. Who then has the audacity to tell us the choices to make? All lost this very right when all willfully lost their obligations to Rwandans at the hour of most need in 1994. These are now the same people that have the courtesy to give political lectures to Rwandans!
Much as our history has been shaped by the sectarian leadership from as early as 1959 when colonial legacy under strong marriage with Christianity, systems that defended and shaped divisionism of a people that had lived in harmony for ages, and hence planted seeds of sporadic genocides that characterized Rwanda from 1959, 1974, 1980s and to its epic of genocide in 1994, such past history has a high chance of repeating itself, for perpetrators of the same has it as unfinished business, and they are many. It is this tragic past, probable loss of our hopeful present, that informs our political choices. The spontaneous emotional reaction of Rwandese in President Kagame’s campaign are a testament of what he did for Rwandans in context. The rest are passing clouds.
By Prof. Nshuti Manasseh