On June 20, veteran journalist and former diplomat Gerald Mbanda launched his maiden book “China and Rwanda – Effective leadership is key to transformational governance.”
In the over 200 pages of the book, Mbanda draws comparison between China and Rwanda’s development, especially demonstrating the gains achieved by the current leaderships of both countries.
The New Times’Hudson Kuteesa sat down with him to find out more about the book and the topics it tackles.
Tell us about yourself and what inspired this book
I worked as a journalist for a long time, but I also served in the military during the liberation war. I also served as a diplomat for some time.
The reason I wrote this book is because there is a lot I see in common between Rwanda and China. When you look at the title of the book it talks about effective leadership as key to transformational governance.
Leadership should translate into tangible results for the people. Sometimes you may find that we have governance which we say practices all the forms of democracy like elections among others but the leaders that are elected leave before they show any tangible results to the people. Yes, somebody has been elected into a position, he has served and has gone; but what has he left in place for people to see?
In 1994, Rwanda was almost a failed state. There was nothing on the ground but if you see the development that has taken place in just 25 years is much more than what some other countries that have been stable for all along have achieved.
You draw a comparison between Rwanda and China as states, but on the cover of your book there are the pictures of President Xi and President Kagame. China has also had some leaders like Deng Xiaoping that have tailored its development. Why do you particularly draw comparison between Presidents Kagame and Xi. What is especially similar between these two leaders?
Of course in the book I talk about the history of China and other former leaders are mentioned and the role they played. But when you look at the time when Xi came to power, over 68 million people were lifted out of poverty in about five years. That was a great achievement, I think the highest rate in the world.
I see him as a person that stands out when you look at economic development, scientific advancement, and military capabilities.
And for President Kagame, lucky enough I was with him in the liberation struggle. He fought in the liberation of Uganda in the 1980s; and when the Rwandan war of liberation started, he was in the US. He did not look at himself, he just abandoned studies and came and joined the struggle. He was able to organise forces and stop the Genocide (against the Tutsi). That was something very great.
It was the first test of his effectiveness as a leader.
After 1994, you can look at his role in building the national infrastructure, fostering Rwanda’s dreams to become a middle income economy, among others.
The book talks about many things including politics, economics, among others. How would you describe the focus of your book in a nutshell?
I wrote with a critical eye of a journalist and the book was just from an informative point of view. It is not an academic book. I just read what people think about these two countries and added what I think about them.
In the book, you address home grown solutions. One of the home grown solutions of China is Socialism with Chinese characteristics. In this system, China doesn’t organise elections like other countries do, among other things. Would you recommend any African country to take up this kind of democracy that is practiced in China?
All people are free to pick whatever they see works for them. What to me is not proper is for some countries to feel that they are more democratic than others. Actually to put it in the right sense, there is no civilization that is better than the other. All civilizations have the right to choose or to determine their destiny. It is not other people that should judge.
You revealed that you have never travelled to China. Amazingly, you know so much about it. How long do you take studying China in your daily life?
I was introduced to China long time ago by my father when I was about ten years old. He used to subscribe to Chinese magazines which were written in Swahili. I would most of the time pick these magazines from the post office. I would be interested to know what is in them. For me as a child, I would be attracted by the pictures. My father would explain to me what it talks about; the way the Chinese people were working, and how industrious they were.
When I grew up, this is a country that I kept following very much even as a writer. Most of the work in my book is research based. I haven’t travelled to China.
You talk about many similarities between the two countries. Do you see any differences?
Of course we are different in many ways. The size of the two countries is not the same, the population size is different, even the culture. Even our political systems are different. The differences are there but I looked at what we have in common.
What do you think is the role of China in the world today?
In this book I talk about China’s presence in Africa. Today when you read most of the foreign world media outlets, they tell you that China wants to colonise Africa. But I never saw China being one of the countries that colonised Africa. I see China as a country that helped Africa to fight colonialism. They were training people in liberation movements in Tanzania. So I see China as a country that is a friend in need. This is how I see China’s involvement in Africa.
Chinese are good negotiators. If people take huge loans from them, more than they can pay, I take it as a fault of the one who is borrowing. If you have a huge appetite for loans, and you take more than what you can pay, who is to blame?
How has the feedback been so far concerning your book?
It has been so exciting. I even get people call me from distant places telling me they have read my work and they are happy about it. It feels quite encouraging.
Where do you see the future of China and Rwanda going forward?
I think that with effective leaders, we are going to have more and more transformation. These countries have had a high rate of economic growth. The sky is the limit if we have the right leaders; leaders who can put in place the right policies.
How much is the book, and where can people get copies?
The book is in different bookshops in town like Ikirezi bookshop, Arise bookshop in Remera, Charisma bookshop at Kigali Heights, but it is also on a German e-platform called www.bookstore.de. It costs Rwf12,000 in bookshops in Rwanda.