Post-genocide Rwanda has put bar high for political aspirants
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On August 3 and 4, Rwandans will go to the polls to elect their President.
Barring a black swan, the Rwanda Patriotic Front candidate, President Paul Kagame, backed by the other major political parties, will win the election. This is as it should be.
The RPF candidate is in the running despite his preference to pass on the baton. Rwandans mobilised to petition Parliament to amend the Constitution so he could continue to deliver for them. They know which side their bread is buttered!
To the uninitiated, post-genocide Rwanda is wrapped in a veil of contradictions. Take the upcoming elections. Two decades ago, the consensus was that Rwanda was a failed state. Today, the country is rated among the fastest developing economies in the world, cementing its reputation as a business-friendly safe space for investment.
Government policies have led to the fastest drop in absolute poverty in history, and Rwandan women are at the fore of development, national unity and reconciliation.
Rwanda is a clear example of what an African renaissance should look like. Anchored in the commonalities of our people’s history, shrugging off the nefarious divisive effects of a destructive colonial and post-colonial agenda, investing in our people both as their right and also as the continent’s most precious resource, learning from the past but refusing to be held captive to it, and frankly confronting the self-imposed shackles to our development, including corruption.
The miracle of this transformation can only be credited to the leadership of Paul Kagame and the resilience and innovation of the Rwandan people.
I have listened to thousands of Rwandans during the commemoration of Genocide against the Tutsi.
They belong to different political persuasions, have differing opinions on the socio-economic status of the country, but all are united in praise of the RPF and President Kagame for stopping the genocide and laying the foundation for a unified, reconciled country against all odds. In this, they echo Elie Wiesel, who could find no alternative to a post-holocaust state that returned life, hope, vibrancy and sanity to a people condemned to extermination.
I have also listened to testimonies of Rwandans that the RPF has given them the opportunity to participate in the country’s rebirth despite their participation in, or acceptance of the genocide.
It is difficult to balance the needs for justice with the imperative of reconciliation and the affirmation of our common humanity, as is evident from the changed global order following the 9/11 attack on the US. That attack led to a turbulent World Order. Yet, Rwanda, in the aftermath of the loss of over one million citizens in less than 100 days managed to overcome and move beyond that national trauma.
The big questions that form the basis for political competition elsewhere have been resolved in Rwanda. In 1998, Rwandans debated their past and agreed on their future.
These “Urugwiro” talks, named for the place they were held, laid the basis for Rwanda’s recovery and future political dispensation. The results thereof were codified in the country’s Constitution.
Among the fundamental principles enshrined in the Constitution are the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, fighting against denial and revisionism of genocide as well as eradication of genocide ideology and all its manifestations; eradication of divisionism based on ethnicity, region or on any other ground as well as promotion of national unity.
Others are equitable power sharing; building a state governed by the rule of law, a pluralistic democratic government, equality for all Rwandans and between men and women; building a state committed to promoting social welfare and establishing appropriate mechanisms for equal opportunity to social justice as well as a constant quest for solutions through dialogue and consensus.
I am therefore not surprised that the major political formations in Rwanda have endorsed President Kagame as their candidate for the upcoming elections. There are those, however, who think the post-genocide era could have been better.
They are in the running and will share their vision. They have their work cut out for them because post-genocide Rwanda has placed the bar very high for those aspiring for the highest office in the land.
So when Rwandans go to the polls, it will be a celebration, an affirmation that investment in unity brings impressive returns. These are exciting times not only for Rwandans but also for those working towards a vibrant and prosperous Africa.
Dr Richard Sezibera is a former secretary-general of the East African Community.
This article was first published by The East African