The other day, I happened to stay up early enough to catch President Kagame’s discussion with the executive cell leaders. He made a comment that has swirled in my mind for days. He said that he wasn’t convinced about those asking him to stay beyond 2017 because it was as if they were saying, “Here you carry Rwanda all by yourself!” Upon reflection, I think Rwandans, especially leaders, have come to use President Kagame as a crutch. When we look at our challenges, say energy or affordable housing or skills, we think, ‘Kagame will fix it’. We need investors, ‘Kagame will find them’. We need someone to challenge double standards, “Oh yes, Kagame can do that too”. In essence, the rest of us have absconded our personal responsibility to get involved in moulding Rwanda’s future. We have grown comfortable with our progress. I think this absconding of responsibility was the bottom line at the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) retreat that happened at the weekend. To paraphrase, President Kagame said, ‘This is as much about you as it is about me.’ Of course, he is right and sometimes we fall prey to the shallow and toxic debates in the media and forget the heart of the matter. I was recently in Cape Town and one night, my colleagues and I had a heated discussion about presidential term limits and Africa’s future. Basically, some were saying, “Kagame should stay, end of discussion. Those suggesting otherwise have their own agendas.” Others argued that he should leave for the sake of appearances but remain in some position of leadership or mentorship. What position? Crickets. As the only Rwandan in the group, I finally said, “This has nothing to do with President Kagame”, which of course made the room go silent. 2017 is about Rwandans deciding how we want to be governed going forward. For me, this is a wider discussion about our governance system, term limits, and other points for discussion in the constitution; an opportunity for meaningful reform. It is the lazy way out to say, “President Kagame should stay” or “President Kagame should go” and that’s it. Within which system? Does the current system allow us to achieve our set targets? What areas can be reformed or improved? And what will you, ,as a Rwandan, contribute? In the last few months, I have been reading about political systems across the world, and thinking about how Rwanda used to be governed before the white man ‘discovered’ us. Rwanda has been successful at blending best practices foreign and local; this is another time to look to that model. One thing is for sure, term limits have to go. Not because we want President Kagame to stay on forever – which he will not accept anyway – but because it has become a tool, among many, of manipulation. I asked my colleagues the other day, “If President Kagame has delivered and we want him to stay, should he go just to please your sensibilities? Are Rwandans not able to decide for ourselves who should govern us?” Western democracy, for all its PR machinery, has failed in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan to name a few. I call it the kiss of death; it promises results but has a lot of deadly side effects. By the way, who said term limits were the only way to check leaders? Are you telling me that removing term limits will mean an automatic failed state? There are other ways to guarantee that no one overstays their welcome. These include empowering young people (who if organized have the sheer numbers to topple any government), strengthening institutions to deliver inclusive growth so that the poor and vulnerable have an equal say, reforming the public service to deliver on strategic goals so we don’t need the president to handle everything all the time, etc. Now guess what? President Kagame has led from the front on all these points. To conclude, let me say that it is the right of those who say, we don’t want to change the constitution, to say so. If 100 per cent of people wanted the change, that would be suspicious. As has always been the case, let us reason together and reach a consensus on our common future. It’s not about 2017, but 2020, 2050, 2100. I’m not afraid for 2017 mainly because we are not the Rwanda of 1994 – even with enemies left and right and others who are trying to make a name for themselves (read here experts who should be interns and ‘independent’ media who spread western hegemony). We shall be just fine if every one of us rolls up our sleeves and refuses to take lessons from those whose political systems are in need of as many lessons as they are ready to give. The writer is Communications Manager at the Next Einstein Forum, Africa’s global forum for science.