KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: You have the right to choose your leaders

Leadership is a very important aspect of every society. Leaders can create order and effect growth or they can lead to chaos. This is why it is important to learn about and participate in leadership from a young age.

But what is leadership? There are many definitions of the word but they all point to one thing: the ability to inspire or influence others towards a common goal. This means that in order for leaders to take a specific direction, they must seek the support and approval of the people that they lead. The support and approval can also be defined as democracy.

Paragraph three of the introduction of the constitution of the Republic of Rwanda is in support of democracy. It states that by writing the constitution, the people of Rwanda were “determined to fight dictatorship by putting in place democratic institutions and leaders freely elected by ourselves.”

Before democracy came into place, people were ruled with authoritarian style of leadership. Here, leaders had power to make all the decisions without consulting anyone. They could prescribe any punishment they deemed fit and they could make laws as they pleased. Quite often, they abused power and oppressed the people they were leading.

However, with democracy, and as pointed out in paragraph six of the introduction of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, democracy supports “respect for fundamental human rights, pluralistic democracy, equitable power sharing, tolerance and resolution of issues through dialogue.”

Article one of the constitution of the Republic of Rwanda further emphasizes that Rwanda is an independent, sovereign, democratic, social and secular Republic; the principle governing the Republic is “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.  

As a child, you may not be able to participate in the process of electing leaders such a presidents, members of parliament and other leaders in government. But you still get to choose the leaders at your school. Choosing school leaders or participating in school leadership is an important democratic process because it prepares you for the future.

For example, leadership at a young age instills confidence, teaches you to work in a team and in the interest of others, helps you to become responsible, and increases your creativity and problem-solving skills. Participating in the democratic process of choosing leaders prepares you to become a responsible citizen who knows how to vote for good leaders.

You are the future. Start treating democratic processes with importance now in preparation for your time as state leaders and as responsible adult citizens.