Democracy is not a creature on stilts

Someone in an e-mail pointed out to me the fact of how last week I contradicted myself. On one hand, I denounced mind-manipulation that foments violence and death. On the other, I praised armed struggle for liberation, which necessarily involves death.

But, before you put me to the sword, allow me to call to my rescue part of a 14th century declaration in the Kingdom of Scotland.  “It’s in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” (Note: “man” for “humans”).

Or a 19th century quote by American Frederick Douglas: “It’s better to die free than to live as a slave.”

In a word: for freedom, we should be ready to pay the ultimate price: loss of life.

The quotes are evoked only to vindicate my intended assertion that it’s not senseless violence when fighting for justice, freedom, dignity, sovereignty in forging one’s destiny or any such virtue, much as it may cause death to others.

And that, if need be, we should take up arms against wilful pauperisation, subjugation, victimisation, racism, ethnic discrimination, misogyny, murder, genocide and other vices that man, directly or indirectly, has visited on fellow man since time immemorial.

For that, dear e-mail prompter, I glorified the October 1, 1990 gunshot that rang out in northern Rwanda. It heralded the end to shame and planted the seed of pride for a whole society.

We were going to be reborn and rediscovered for what we were as all, citizens of this land and of other climes, including those reluctant to admit it, were going to slowly discover. And are still discovering, because that gunshot marked the beginning of a long journey.

It’s a journey that has taken a people far, fast, but it’s still ongoing. Today in Armenia is also a piece of one lap of that journey.

True, then, the pangs of rebirth for today’s Rwanda came at a price. Many lives were lost.

But it was that or it’d have been oblivion.

Without that shot, the country would’ve eaten itself from tail to head, considering its myriad internal intractable contradictions. If invented ethnic differences were its tail, regional segregations were its middle and family feuds, its head.

But let’s not waste time on what’d have been. An account of all the problems that’d have led to that hurtle into the void would go on till cows come home.

Let’s re-examine, yes, for the nth time, how we are here.

That gunshot was a call to the then regime to heed Rwandans’ voice: their quest to be whole again. The RPF as carrier of that voice therefore was calling for peaceful co-existence for all in unchecked exercise of their rights.

Which is why, from outside, the RPF was seen as an enigma.

It was not answering to the character of other so-called “liberation” movements that are out to grab power for power’s sake. To replace the old guard and carry on business as usual.

Its armed wing, RPA, was formed only just in case dialogue failed. In the liberation struggle, captured opponents were re-educated and integrated into its ranks; no POWs, no killings. Once promised that the government was ready for peace talks, the RPA withdrew from the ‘mouth of victory’ as requested, to the consternation of other liberation movements.

Alas, the RPF/A was betrayed with a genocide that gobbled up more than a million.

Still, it disappointed all who expected mass revenge. It reassembled all citizens for a unity and reconciliation meeting of minds. And, in fact, went beyond that to pardon some genocide perpetrators, sometimes inexplicably in instances where some were not necessarily remorseful.

The aim was to all together work on crafting a destiny of advancing as one: progress and justice for all, without exception.

However, none should fool themselves that this is licence to abuse that justice.

Whoever is found to fall foul of the established laws of this land has to face the full force of the consequences of their actions. Politician or lay, leader or led, rich or poor, man or woman, old or young, whatever station in life, none is above the law.

You may be a pedestrian greenhorn from foreign climes or from the local affluent class, brandishing your femininity and some imaginary “pressure from the weighty West”. The law of this land is blind to all that and will bring its full weight to bear on you.

“Jail…has-given-me-more-determination” repeat offenders, the fangs of justice are a-sharpening!

The West may wax lyrical about lack of political space all it wants. Hang their political space!

Here political space doesn’t live in isolation. It blossoms in the fertile company of social, economic, cultural, suchlike spaces. And as it doesn’t exist singly, so don’t others without it.

So is it with democracy: it’s not a creature on stilts. It’s grounded on the hardening rock of this society’s overall wellbeing that these spaces are in the process of crusting into.

That’s my humble opinion. May you bring on the sword, if it’s riddled with contradictions!

butapa@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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