The second week of campaigns was characterized by huge turn up of Rwandans, and being an early riser and thus turned up early at most venues, I witnessed firsthand zeal by Rwandans especially the rural folk to attend President Kagame’s rallies and emotionally so.
From young to old, famers to business men, all brought together to support a candidate that has transformed their lives visibly. To foreigners, this may have been mistaken for a religious convention of people that want to give testimonies of how they have been healed, made rich, got married, got children and want more of the same or better still more of more through spiritual powers. Yet these were political rallies of a candidate that touched the hearts and minds of many akin to religious conventional relies. The difference is that, in religious rallies one gets his prayers answered on the basis of faith and hope.
In President Kagame’s rallies, the issue of hope is negated by his historical delivery of all his promises to Rwandans so much so that, his word and deeds are integrated to the highest order possible. And so the thousands that turn up go back home with promises to be fulfilled and not political wish list that is repeated in the next election.
And unlike in many African campaigns where incumbent’s failure is blamed on account meddling in government programs by opposition, stealing of budgeted funds through outright corruption, lack of donor funds name it, in our case such does not happen. Which is why President Kagame’s campaign rallies are more of celebrations of achievements beyond achievements attained and an outline of more and better yet to come. And so his trade mark “imvugo ni yo ngiro” loosely translated as “he delivers what he has promised” has made brand Kagame unassailable, and through this brand Rwanda as a country that delivers.
A senior member of opposition parties allied to RPF and a friend for a while who attended these rallies for the first time alluded to the fact that, really popularity of President Kagame among Rwandans populous and love these have for him is a kin to a religious prophet that delivers miracles, and that no other Rwandan leader will ever marshal such in the foreseeable future.
Input of leaders of allied Political Parties.
This time round though, leaders of other political parties spoke in support of the candidacy of President Paul Kagame and from their heart. From the leaders of PL to PSD etc, all gave their testimonies as to why they support President Paul Kagame.
In fact, these same leaders are part of ruling coalition that can lay claim to our transformation but acknowledge the exemplary leadership of President Paul Kagame that has baffled them as to the manner in which he has delivered for Rwanda in manner that defeats comprehension and with minimum means financial and human capacities.
This is where foreigners draw confusion. In Rwanda unlike in other democracies, the winner-takes-it all model doesn’t exist. Even after winning overwhelmingly President Kagame and RPF shares with other parties both positions and management of our country. These parties are brought together by unity of purpose i.e socio-economic transformation of our country and their divergence views (ideologies) from social democrats to diehard capitalists put their minds together for the sake of the development of our country. They have trusted and entrusted President Kagame to be their leader for good reasons as has majority of Rwandans. His visionary leadership, tested and certified by experience of delivery that all see and believe in is what draws the masses. And so to foreigners, political competition and complimentarity from within is assigned the tag of limiting political space by the same foreigners who always judge our country out context or worse still mistake Rwanda for another country in their fake media.
There is the co-existence of the political parties in Rwanda to avoid repetition of the negative role some played during the genocide. It is in this line that the post – genocide Rwanda’s political management is a bit unique to suit the Rwandan situation and context, like many other homegrown solutions we have had to use
But this is the product of a hard-earned consensus among most of the country’s political parties, which to some critics is unfamiliar and questionable, because it does not fit in what they have seen elsewhere especially in the west, read about in text books or western coated political lectures that serve different environment than one we live in. But this is mere confusion by foreigners who hold Rwanda’s political as well economic development independent of its contextual framework. And they always get it wrong.
They don’t understand Rwanda or have chosen not too, more so don’t understand President Paul Kagame’s modus operandi. It reminds of me the media hype in UK in 1997 (was a PhD student then) when he was then Vice President and Minister of Defence and announced that he will get medicine for the interahamwe (in Zaire then, now DRC) no matter how much it will cost. Media discounted his intention to cross the border on account of size of Zaire (now DRC) and that Rwanda could not take on such a giant with no means and barely three years after war of liberation of our country.
In fact on defence analyst took mockery of this intention calling a wish and not a military intension given the odds. This same defence analyst argued that it will take our defence forces a minimum of 20 years if ever they reach Kinshasa to topple late Mobutu who had supported interehamwe and Habyarimana’s regime for far too long. When our forces took less than a year to reach Kinshasa (with impassable roads and impenetrable jungle), the same media acknowledged this as a military miracle that can’t be replicated. But this was and is President Paul Kagame that they still mistake regardless. This was to define the capacity and efficiency of our defence forces to guarantee our security within and without our country- all handiwork of President Paul Kagame.
Security is critical to development.
“Without a strong economy, there can be no strong defense. Without a strong defense, there can be no Singapore…(read Rwanda) to maintain a strong economy and a strong defense … the government must be led by the ablest, most dedicated and toughest...I think you are a born leader or you are not leader. They must have the extra drive, intellectual verve, an extra tenacity and the will to overcome” (Former Singaporean Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew who transformed his country to what it is today).
One of the strong pillars and indeed cornerstone of our transformation and socio-economic development has been strong (defense) security for our people and their properties whether Rwandans, or foreigners/investors alike. But like other sectors of our development, our security systems evolved by paying an extremely high price. Architects of the same did our country proud and certainly President Paul Kagame has been the main architect, which is why our choice in these and other elections will have to ensure and assure our security and without which the rest of our achievements would evaporate in our eyes.
Our security (defense systems/institutions) have evolved to meet the challenges we faced before, during and after 1994 genocide. During campaigns, sustenance of our current security is an imperative to our political choices for we know more than most the opposite.
By Professor Nshuti Manasseh,
Economist and Financial Expert.