Nothing can shake strength of character

Decidedly un-African! So, fake! Unless you are African – even then, not everyone – what other verdict would you pass on the just-concluded Rwandan parliamentary elections?
Pan Butamire
Pan Butamire

Decidedly un-African! So, fake! Unless you are African – even then, not everyone – what other verdict would you pass on the just-concluded Rwandan parliamentary elections?

At seven in the morning, opening time for the polls, a long line of voters was already calmly waiting to cast their vote in an election all but fully funded by their government. One by one, each voter was called by a polling official who cross-checked their name on the voting and identity cards against the list of voters.

The next official issued a ballot paper with party symbols and explained what to do. Next a voter took the paper to their secluded booth and voted for a candidate or their party of choice. They dropped the paper in the box, then their voting card was stamped lest it be used again and fingernail marked with indelible ink to avoid the lure for mischief.

No limb or chair broken; no litter to burn or a building burnt. All neat; orderly; peaceful. By mid-day, even before the three O’clock PM closing time, crowds were beginning to thin out and the few voters trickling in were those who’d feared standing too long in the queue.

As a rational human being, what would be your verdict?

If you are Rwandan, you’d have seen your second déjà-vu, the first having been an unexpected peaceful election in 2003. If you are African from a country used to the intense hustles and lethal battles that mark most African elections, you’d have been witness to another Rwandan orderly election that’d’ve been indication of which direction more and more African countries are taking.

However, if you come from a “developed country” and therefore are gifted with “advanced rationality”, your sense of democratic decency will have been assaulted by another exercise in futility; another engagement in pretence to Western democracy that, in truth, is a primitive ritual.

Now, if you have watched one ritual, you need not watch another. So, even before the election, the verdict’d been out and all Western media houses, major and minor, had made their decision – a blackout for this election.

Or so Rwandans thought. What they’d forgotten is that the slightest sense of their accomplishment cannot be allowed to permeate through the citizenry of their country. The threat of that happening was foreseen a long time ago and that’s how major media houses like BBC and VOA started Kinyarwanda programmes.

From London and Washington, the “true message” of what’s happening that can only be deciphered by “authoritative opposition” is boomed into the ears of Rwandan citizenry: “What you see is not what is. What is can only be interpreted for you by those who understand it because they once enjoyed close proximity to its creators.”

What’s sad about all the above, however, is not that the “international system” should seek to pump into Rwandans the message that they will never come out of their savagery which, in the final analysis, is what it boils down to. It’s not that Western countries should seek to keep African countries in their grip of influence; that it should seek to shape Africa’s narrative.

After all, who can vouch for Africa keeping its sense of decency, not pushing its weight on the West, once given their powers – especially with the irresistible temptation of revenge for innumerable abuses suffered?

I know that, on a personal level, given such powers, I’d relish whipping a few backsides!

What’s sad is that, collectively and individually, we should accept to be defined or used by the West. It’s a shame when we are not happy to keep our uniqueness; when there are some amongst us who see nothing wrong with African democracies craving to be a replica of Western democracies which, in themselves, are not replicas of one another.

The shame of it all, however, is listening to the mockery of Rwandans by fellow Rwandans that goes on, on said radios. It’s the shame of accepting to be subcontracted to do the job of slandering your country for the West.

It’s in that name that Rwandans heading those BBC and VOA programmes have been in the ritual of delivering the decipherment of the elections, in the wake of any major event. They’ve been hosting Rwandan “oppositionists” in exile to bombard the citizenry with the “correct version” of what elections here mean.

Lead vocalist Dr. Rudasingwa, chocking on his words to plead for “Dr.” Ingabire, swears the citizenry is coerced into rubberstamping “President Kagame’s victory”, seemingly forgetting these were parliamentary elections.

How fellow Rwandan-Diaspora voters all around him are arm-twisted into that rubberstamping, having beaten those inside the country in their 90+percentage voting turnout, he does not remember to explain either.

Meanwhile, Mr. Twagiramungu’s bass refrain is in attendance, as it has been after every election. At first, it was: “Don’t make me laugh/Don’t make me laugh/.......”. After the election that followed, it was: “Porcupine politics/Porcupine politics/......” And now it is: “Decoration politics /Decoration politics/.......”. The jolly chap, you cannot but admire his knack for creativity!

Only another sort down yonder – South Africa, to be exact – who is always missing in their company, challenged as he is in his mastery of the complexities of Kinyarwanda lexicology, compares with him. Undaunted by the said challenge, he always finds an opportunistic journalist, who has piggybacked on lies about Rwanda and managed to clinch awards, to tell his story.

When you think back to the days of his O’Level exams and remember how “DR” David Himbara was the only Rwandan in Uganda who managed to seal the dubious record of “having hit the niners” (scoring F9s, i.e. failing all eight subjects with F72), you can only marvel!

From there to a PhD, can you begrudge him his right of demeaning President Kagame’s education, surely, especially when the President came out of such exams with flying colours and went on to garner better education and other feats that have put Rwanda where she is today?

Murunganwa, Himbara, whatever, your name should be Mvuyekure (I’ve-come-a-long-way)!

Denigration, of societies as of individuals, cannot shake the strength of their character.
                        
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