Rwandans set to party as others obsess with succession. No need to worry

In a few days Rwandans go to the polls and are sure to re-elect Paul Kagame as president. On the night of 4th when provisional results become known (that’s how efficient the electoral system is) the party will begin and go on throughout the weekend.

In a few days Rwandans go to the polls and are sure to re-elect Paul Kagame as president. On the night of 4th when provisional results become known (that’s how efficient the electoral system is) the party will begin and go on throughout the weekend.

Everybody will be dancing to the tune of “intsinzi’ (victory).

On Monday it will be back to work.

We expect the other two candidates for president, Frank Habineza and Philippe Mpayimana, to gracefully concede defeat and congratulate the winner. It is the correct and decent thing to do.

They have as much as conceded, even while still on the campaign trail. At their rallies they have acknowledged the great work the RPF and President Kagame have done and continue to do and admitted they cannot do better.

It is not even accurate to call a handful of inquisitive children and curious onlookers a rally. We need to invent another name for it.

This is one thing this election has confirmed: that the RPF is not just a colossus but has a record to match way beyond the ability of any opposition political party.

Another lesson from this campaign: the Rwandan electorate is more sophisticated than many think. They have shown a remarkable understanding of economics when discussing the promises of the other two candidates, and can distinguish between empty rhetoric and pledges that can bear results.

Ordinary people in rural trading centres and villages ask important questions. If they cut taxes, as they promise, where will the money to pay for services and development projects come from?

How will they raise salaries for everybody, increase pensions while cutting taxes? It doesn’t make sense. It is a contradiction.

All those outsiders purporting to speak for Rwandans, stand warned. They are smarter than you think and will not easily be manipulated. Give RPF credit for this.

Talking about foreign busy bodies, they will soon be at it again, concerned with life after Kagame even before he starts his new term. They are so fixated on his departure and grooming and anointing of a successor.

Given their concerns about democracy, this is a strange obsession. Were he to do what they say he should, I am sure they would scream: this is not how democracy works. And if he doesn’t, they will shout other unseemly things.

So, no matter what the choice is, expect a lot of noise about when or if he will go and who will succeed him, and why he has not chosen one yet.

Often, those who want to hear their own voice never listen to others. President Kagame has given his answer many times. He has pointed to young people as leaders and urged them to take their leadership responsibility.

More recently, he was even more explicit. Those who will take over after 2024 will be in the 40s age bracket. They would have been ten at the time of the Genocide against the Tutsi

This thing about the youth as leaders is real. He believes in their transformative potential and wants to empower them to take their responsibility now.

He repeated that message at the YouthConnekt Africa Summit last month when he took time off from the campaign to talk to Africa’s youth and inspire them as he always does.

He told them that they own our collective future. Mr Jack Ma, the billionaire founder and owner of Alibaba, a global Chinese e-commerce company, added: leadership is about taking responsibility for the future.

Telling young people that their time is now, and not at some indefinite time in the future, is a radical departure from what other leaders have told the youth in the past.

Then, they were told to be patient and wait for their time, which was sure to come in the future.

For many, that time never came. All the bright ideas and confidence, their youthful energy and enthusiasm untainted by calculations of self-promotion or self-preservation, remained unused and unspent.

When the supposed time arrived, many were no longer that young, their bright ideas and optimism had turned to cynicism. Their potential was never actualised.

In the past, leaders seem to have been afraid of young people and sought to keep them on the sidelines for as long as possible. Those who could not do that co-opted some of them and kept them close in order to hold them in check.

It is different with President Kagame. He has confidence in the youth and wants to harness their huge potential to drive the country forward. Their moment is now. Their preparation for, and actual, leadership begins now.

And so who says he is not preparing for succession, not of himself alone, but of leadership of the whole country, across all sectors, and even of the whole of Africa?

Preparation for leadership has never been about anointing an individual, but about inspiring and empowering a whole generation and entire nation, especially those with a direct interest in its future.

President Kagame continues to do just that. Now you have your answer, you succession-obsessed critics.

 

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