President Paul Kagame recently advised Rwandan soldiers and police officers, to be highly disciplined. “You have a rich history on which to reflect, to perform accordingly. But you should always look forward because much as it is important to reflect, it is never normal to face backwards to remain focused. This demands discipline,” said the President, while addressing army and police officers, at village Urugwiro.
AK-47, a gun that was introduced by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the former Soviet Union, has been synonym with armies in Africa, particularly those of the sub Saharan Africa.
The main reasons experts give, is that it is relatively cheaper in cost and maintaining. And because it is not heavy, it has been used in various mobile wars fought in African. It is actually regarded as an important, but also destructive weapon – of course depending on the user.
On a positive note, it is on record that some freedom fighters have used the weapon, to fight just wars, which liberated many countries in Africa- between the 1960s and 1980s. African liberation forces used it to end colonialism.
In such scenarios, AK 47 is a symbol of important freedom struggles. It is conversely true that the same AK 47 has caused havoc in many parts of the world, especially where it fell in hands of militias organised by despotic regimes.
In 1994 Tutsi genocide for instance, the Kalashnikov also featured in the unprecedented Rwandan massacres, however assisted by machetes in the beastly butchering more than a million people.
So what about the gun- AK 47? The gun is only a weapon that can be used in a positive or negative way, which is why users’ discipline is our primary concern.
The police, military personnel and other security agents, have to exhibit high level of discipline, if we are to have a safe environment.
Imagine if all people carrying guns went mad and shot people the way they want, or used the weapons they carry to intimidate civilians. We would live in chaos, typical of what we watch on televisions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries.
Though we are not at that level, which is why Rwanda was recently categorised as a number one secure state in the region, we should be able to have more disciplined soldiers and police officers.
Indiscipline is not innate and neither should it be associated with certain general human behaviours. Drinking may induce indiscipline, but it does not necessarily lead to it- though of course careless and reckless drinking itself is a form of indiscipline.
The warning Rwandan soldiers and police officers received from the Commander in Chief, is hence timely and should be taken seriously. Days are gone when soldiers went by the principle of three W’s- women, war and wine.
This principle set a very dangerous precedent in the African armies, where all new recruits especially the illiterate, believed it as a norm.
The ideology has manifested itself, a number of times soldiers get paid arrears (a lot of money accumulated in many unpaid salaries) only to end up in a drinking spree, turn trigger-happy and other related evils.
Discipline in the security forces is of fundamental importance. The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) for example, succeeded in its struggle to liberate Rwanda from a despotic regime, because of remarkable discipline that characterised it all the way through hurdles and many turbulent situations.
Today, the Rwandan army and police are in the same line, constantly reminded about the history. They have to live with it, if they are to remain a formidable force- a people’s army to rely on.
Why do we get concerned about the discipline of the security organs? An obvious answer is that we need a secure environment to push our economic development projects in to motion.
Non-disciplined security personnel would only frustrate our initiatives. We do not need to sight examples of countries that have great potentials of development, but remain lagging behind because of undisciplined security organs.
Whatever levels Rwanda is reaching in development, is no doubt a result of a secure environment, courtesy of the security organs discipline. But because we have been experiencing isolated cases of indiscipline, our consciousness, calls us to ring a warning bell.
The bell in the African context and the sub-Saharan one in particular, echoes thus; handle AK 47 with maximum discipline possible, to allow your country to develop.