When you read through the article published in the issue number 292 of Umuseso under the title; ‘Amakosa 10 Perezida Kagame akora kenshi’, one thing you will not fail to notice is that the author was led by subjective impulse to write.
It appears right from the first paragraph that the author was filling hours of boredom.
However, given the history of our country (at one time some people picked up machetes to chop off their neighbours’ heads at the incitement channelled through the media); it is dangerous to leave it at that.
The kind of journalism practiced by some journalists is, to a great extent, an indictment of the current media.
The author did not only discredit himself by trading in lies about President Kagame’s character, he also represented a big threat to the process of creating the vibrant, enlightened, knowledgeable and critical media this country needs.
One wonders how the president whom he alleges fears criticism would advocate for a critical media.
Because that is the critical type of media President Kagame mentioned at the last government retreat that Rwanda deserves.
As a partner in development, I think the media should be pre-occupied with reporting on issues related to the socio-economic development, peace and political stability, national security, promotion of our culture, regional cooperation, etc, as opposed to gossip and propaganda embedded in the wild opinion alluded to by the author.
The media law No/05/2002 that is currently under review is very clear on the conduct of journalists.
The assertion that President Kagame hates criticism is baseless.
The media landscape in Rwanda has seen many media houses emerge, close to 50, most of which criticize the government and the president.
The fact that no journalist or media house has been charged with defamatory charges, for criticizing the president is a manifestation that the current leadership understands only too well that allowing criticism is one important symbol of a developing democracy.
The journalist is free to write another set of ten and be assured of enjoying his freedom.
When the President emphasizes a knowledgeable and enlightened press in the country, he very well knows the dangers associated with an uninformed media.
An uninformed media has detrimental effects to development and can easily be manipulated by negative forces. The 1994 Genocide is a case in point.
The media then had an integral role in spearheading the ‘hate ideology.’
In retrospective of the history of this country, underestimating the power of the media in influencing events will be a blunder.
As a good student of history, the president has been heard on a several occasions cautioning the media against propaganda, trading in lies and blackmail fed into by narrow interests, very detached from the greater and long term national good.
This does not mean he fears criticism. He is only conscious of the effects of the media, particularly when it is at its infancy stage.
Not one man show
I do not want to be misunderstood as an apologist for Kagame’s leadership. I am simply an observer who thinks the article grossly misrepresented the personality of the president.
The writer starts by asserting that President Kagame’s leadership is a one man show, where the president single-handedly takes decisions on national issues with the approach of a bush war commander (Gutegeka kinyeshyamba).
He alleges that other leaders are ‘yes men’ or his sycophants.
This is evidently far-fetched.
For the author to try to convince Rwandans that such a political dogma is prevalent, is to forget that rule of law returned to the country thirteen years ago.
It is to disregard the fact that fundamental rights and freedoms are enjoyed here.
These rights are entrenched in the June 4, 2003 national Constitution and the current leadership is eager to enforce it to the letter.
The author contradicts himself when he confesses that the majority of Rwandans love President Kagame.
You are left wondering how and why they should love a bad leader. No one should underestimate Rwandans’ ability to get what they want politically.
The 94 per cent majority who voted the president four years ago ought to be interpreted thus.
The author quotes ‘Charroi Zero’. In April 2005, following the Cabinet decision to withdraw all luxurious four wheel drive vehicles from various government officials.
When the author quotes this move that was intended to bring down government expenditure through reduced fuel expenses and maintenance costs, he unknowingly gives Kagame’s government credit.
Indeed, the government scored. A lot of money that hitherto was spent on running government in a luxurious way is now spent on improving social amenities for the citizens.
That is partly why the government can today afford to educate for free Rwandan children for nine years and tremendously subsidize theirs and their parents’ medical care through Mituelle de Sante, besides bringing the same services nearer to every citizen.
No witch hunt
Secondly, the author accuses President Kagame of undermining the media.
The claim that Kagame witch-hunts and unleashes scathing attacks on media houses, including Umuseso, that reveal the weaknesses of the top brass of the regime is unfounded.
The president invites criticism against any public servant and he categorically supports exposure of corruption and other forms of abuse of office.
But, what the president time and again stresses is that it is unprofessional and unethical for journalists to publish sweeping statement against government officials, which cannot be substantiated.
Obviously, he is irritated by stories which are not premised on tangible facts and evidence.
Such stories, instead of helping excesses, they abate them.
This is because it becomes easy for the accused to prove themselves as innocent in light of the baseless stories.
It becomes frustrating since relevant national anti-corruption authorities cannot find such stories useful either.
The recent events in the country, where Cabinet ministers, senior public servants and high-ranking army officers have been probed or even arrested, is evident that there is no place for impunity in the current government as the author wants to wrongly impress it upon his readers.
Impunity and sectarianism of all sorts had bedevilled the country in the past.
It is extremely mean to state that the very government manned by people who got the nation out of the bad past only thirteen years ago can so quickly forget.
What defeats commonsense is why a journalist who claims to do his job ‘professionally and ethically’ should be perturbed by the president’s suspicion that some journalists connive with politicians to blackmail others.
Doesn’t it make this particular journalist suspect himself of the vice?
No flair for gestures
The allegation that President Kagame loves people who flatter him and hates those who criticize him is hollow too.
The president, for those who have followed his term of office analytically, will tell you his actions and reactions are motivated by merit and increased efficiency in service delivery.
This is why we have had a number of reshuffles in the past, affecting even those initially considered as untouchable.
The author further alleges that appointments to senior offices are based on sectarianism and offered as political gifts (Gutanga cadeaux).
The author says this is a form of corruption.
I absolutely agree with him that the act in itself is corruption.
However, the public expects the media to investigate and expose the president on the strength of hard evidence and not bar-talk kind of statements.
When he makes unsubstantiated statements of the kind we find in the article, the public loses confidence in him as a watchdog.
Secondly, such lazy statements are confessions that some journalists have failed to investigate and do entirely depend on speculation and manipulated.
When journalists write without giving concrete facts, they mislead the reading public.
The article goes on to present a number things that appear to be the authors wishful-thinking.
He alleges that there are some presidential advisors who do not play their duty.
Should the advisors issue a press release whenever they advise the president?
Unless the president exposes an advisor as being incompetent, to imagine so is to miss the point.
I am sure if some of the advisors the author refers to were his relatives, he would see them as the best for the job.
The author ends the opinion by raising a very interesting point. He says the president sacks his ministers after the media has exposed their weaknesses.
Yet, at some point he said president Kagame hates criticism directed to him and his cabinet. What a contradiction?
Truth always triumphs over evil.
The author finally accepts that Mr Kagame respects the media by taking action after they have exposed some weakness somewhere.
The article carries so many inconsequential issues like President Kagame falling out with Terracom.
His, is after development and fast-tracking of Vision 2020. Indeed if the divorced telecommunications service company was not living up to what it promised Rwandans in 2005, what would he have done if he had been an advisor?
Did he expect the president to sit back and watch indifferently simply because at some point he was made to believe government could do business with the company?