That a passing comment in The East African newspaper can elicit an elaborate reaction from a high-ranking government official is evidence enough that everybody’s opinion is listened to and respected, correct or erroneous.
Rwandans, in all their humility, always seek to correct any misrepresentation. But let not that humility be taken for docility or a feeble self-defence effort.
Much before it took the reins of power, the RPF as a liberation movement was premised on scientific methods of work, as one of its fundamental functional pillars.
This meant collective decision-making; transparency all-round; auto-criticism; free expression; respect for any voice; leadership with humility; promotion of the hitherto side-lined groups (women, youth, sections of citizens); and other forms of fair play.
That’s why you’ll be hard-pressed to find our numbers of self-expression forums in any other country. From the National Retreat for top officials, the National Dialogue, Umushyikirano, for all Rwandans, diplomats and interested outsiders to umuganda discussions in every village of this land. Not to mention the numerous interactions among all, in between.
Every tongue finds expression. If any opinion on this fact is “conflicted”, it’s for lack of correct interpretation.
So, that’s why I’ve always been intrigued by these “Rwandans being gagged” bromides and stereotypes that everybody likes to echoingly bandy around without substantiation.
Interestingly, those parroting these clichés have no idea about their origin. None knows they find root in media personalities and so-called rights defenders pushing the agendas of Western countries or organisations for their own dubious interests.
But these bromides, for having failed to find traction, have as good as died out. It’s unfortunate that some of our fellow Africans should be the ones to naïvely continue fanning their embers.
Those originators one time even tried to bizarrely assure us that diplomats here, when they wanted to ‘leak out’ the truth, “only whispered it inside the confines of their walled-in compounds”! They dared not comment on local politics out in the open!
Which begged the question: what was the use of representing their countries then?
Moreover, none of the originators cared to explain why the diplomats never divulged the truth of this lip-sealing they and Rwandans suffered, after their tour of duty.
Would it be that, once securely back in their ‘democratic’ countries, they nonetheless feared that some kind of Rwandan KGB-like shadowy forces could be unleashed against them?
Fascinating, indeed, these journalists-cum-rights-protection agents militant(e)s!
I remember such a sort named Mr. Gettleman (‘t’ not ‘n’!) who, if it was not that heuresement le ridule ne tue pas, would have died many times over.
After an extensive and frank interview on the state of this country with the Head of State, he sought to punch holes in it. So he went out to visit a teacher in a remote part of Rwanda, bearing a ‘privileged offer’ of sleeping in his humble abode and a gift of a can of sardines.
For all his pains, the journalist only got the ‘harvest of a truthful complaint’ about the inadequacy of the educator’s salary. After which, he was flooded with answers to all his questions on any topic under the sun, though none to his desire.
The inadequacy-of-salaries complaint? That global common dish was not to his taste.
Disappointed, then, he headed south to get “free speech” from Rwandan fugitives holed up there. Of course, to legitimize their claims of innocence, the outlaws being sought at home for various crimes have mastered the art of camouflaging their evil handiworks crooning about having been victimised for “daring to speak out”.
This, much as they’d never been heard to utter a word in that connection while still here, if it was not whispering about how they’d managed to stash away their ill-gotten gains.
Today, Gettleman’s sought-out redeemers of then restlessly roam hostile climes, contenting themselves with hurling insults at their homeland. Meanwhile, they are in cut-throat wrangles with opposition bedfellows, unable to find a common cause to rally around.
These are the sponsors of the lady a fellow East African calls “the only woman…. to vie for president in Rwanda…...thrown in jail, in a country that prides itself on putting women in positions of leadership.”
Well, young commentator, first for information. There is another “only woman” cooling her heels in the cooler, who breezed in from her Northern den “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” except a futile attempt to divide Rwandans, as ordered by her puppeteers.
The puppeteers are from the era of Genocide commission, who are dreaming of a day their satanic intentions will be consummated. A pipe dream, if ever there was one!
So, compassionate commentator, cry not for the women and youth of this land. Leadership here is already in their hands but comes strictly with merit: ability and requisite discipline to deliver.
And terms in the topmost office are not cut in stone. They are counted in terms of relevance, as judged by Rwandans in their 11.92 million-strong voice.
Heckling, stone-throwing and tyre-burning democracy that sometimes attracts blood-letting, that’s not the Rwandan way. Consensual democracy, is that a preserve of this land?
Otherwise, in a gagged society, there impunity and corruption dwell, methinks.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.