Most who measure levels of democracy take them to flow from the top to the bottom, ‘offered’ by top echelons of leadership. None thinks of looking at the ‘bottom’ – which, in this land, may not necessarily be the bottom that many take it to be. In this leadership, I’d call the citizenry the integral part of this democratic exercise. The top –if there is a such a thing – gives its contribution and vice versa. I am not giving a fib that citizens enjoy the salaries and perks that go with our leaders’ positions. No, Sir/Madam. My point is that you may enjoy those emoluments, all right, even in generous aggregates. But you’ll know that you’ll kiss them goodbye the moment you are caught dipping your hand in the public coffer. Or using them in a way that does not meet the expectations of the citizenry. Which accounts for many leaders falling foul of government and choosing to lie low and hope for the smile of another chance. Or to cut and run and hawk the lies of being victim to speaking out against cooked-up dictatorship. Or to ‘mat’ their bottom with the cement in he can. I say this after watching the RPF expanded NEC meeting of last May 30-June 1 and knowing how all such meetings take on a similar trend. Be they citizen outreach meetings with leaders, yearly National Dialogues, yearly National Leadership Retreats, press conferences that involve many leaders, all. Everywhere, women, men and youth will be involved and have equal voice. The youth, in the first place, who seem to taking pride of place in leadership, with their innovative approach that gives leadership impetus in ways unfamiliar to our aging precursors. Back to the meeting. Any problem raised by any citizen present, from President Kagame to a minister to any department leader in the field must provide an answer and solution there and then. If not immediately, the citizen will give their address where the answer will be delivered at their doorstep by the concerned party without any delay. Woe betide thee if any citizen presents a grievance that was not addressed in time and no reason for it is forthcoming. The Head of State, being the number one answerable citizen, will demand an answer that must satisfy all present. And the demand will be made in none-too-kindly terms. An official thus at fault will receive due roasting in the presence of everyone: colleagues, those below them, the hoi polio of the country, all. Humbling oneself out of such a situation and asking for forgiveness, that’s punishment enough. Few have gone through that and repeated the mistake. In the spirit of auto-criticism that the RPF government is founded upon, the truth must be availed to everybody post-haste. Every official at any level having been sworn to that, they either eat humble pie or call it quits, on failure. Don’t get me wrong. There is no crude way of sacking an official on the spot, as in the way of a kneejerk reaction that was the favoured choice for a neighbour and friend. Exchanges would’ve taken place, most often news of such error having filtered to the ears of many, and dialogue will continue until communication is established or proves impossible. If impossible, the official will readily plead ‘incapacitated’ and humbly accept to lie ‘fallow’. In the meeting then, every current problem was examined in detail and approaches of tackling it charted out: the state of Covid-19, its impact on the economy, the Rwandan dissidents sworn on bringing Rwandans to harm coming in their droves, the relations with neighbouring and distant countries, the whole gamut. And apart from giving opening and closing remarks, the Head of State sat in some obscure spot among us, the audience in the hall. A group of a mixture of old geezers and young stallions constituted the penal on the stage and led the conversation, providing a view in the Rwanda of today and a peer into that of the future. In all, however, the topic that provided animated unanimity was the welcome of the French Report, in all its guardedness, and the fact that France could accept the no-holds-barred Rwandan report. That the two could be represented together was welcomed by all. In my corner, I couldn’t help but imagine what our sundry fugitives in France and elsewhere were doing to the unfortunate boots! As to the questions of reparations for all the torture that domestic individuals and foreign countries have visited on Rwanda all her life from the 1880s, none wanted to hear about them. Victims of the worst genocide in history, what are their lives worth in material? Nil, zilch, zippo. The life of a baby whose head was smashed against the wall till its last breath, what can replace it? Rwanda that was cropped up to be left as a series of a few hills, what on this earth can repay that? All that aside, we rejoice in the fact that nothing, but nothing, can break our spirit, our dignity.