Kigali – Rwanda’s former Minister of State in charge of Constitutional and Legal Affairs had a rough week after he allegedly assaulted a private security guard for doing her job.
The week ended with him stepping down.
On Monday, February 3, 2020, Evode Uwizeyimana declined to go through the security procedures required of public buildings, and when confronted by a female guard, he shoved her to the ground.
As it turned out, this was not the first time the honorable government official had declined to undergo a security check when visiting public buildings, at least from the feedback on social media following the assault.
And, this time too, he would have probably gotten away with it, had the guard known he was a member of the cabinet or had the incident not been reported on Twitter.
What however the public did not see coming was the resignation of Isaac Munyakazi, the Minister of State in charge of Primary and Secondary Education on the same day, February 6, 2020.
Public officials across the world, have run-ins with the law, however, the acceptable threshold in Rwanda is higher and no one should know this better those in leadership positions.
This is because the Rwanda of today is founded on the rule of law, and no matter who you are, no one is above the law.
This founding principle has guided many decisions and enabled appointing authorities to hold to account those that have fallen short.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), is investigating both men.
Munyakazi is being investigated for corruption-related offenses while Uwizeyimana assault-related.
In the courts of law, Munyakazi’s alleged crimes are of higher nature.
As for ex-minister Uwizeyimana, he risks being charged with intentional assault or battery, an offense provided and punished by article 121 of the Penal Code, which only came into force August 30, 2018.
The law reads in part: “Upon conviction, he/she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than three (3) years and not more than five (5) years and a fine of not less than five hundred thousand Rwandan francs (Rwf 500,000) and not more than one million Rwandan francs (Rwf 1,000,000).”
Then of course, there is the court of public opinion where hearings are held in the ruthless chambers of social media.
The public got to know about the former Minister’s misdeeds via a post on social media. The Minister then replied to the tweet with an apology for his actions. Unfortunately, the apology was lost in translation, attracting further criticism.
In the grand scheme of things, this case brings to the forefront the question of integrity and leadership.
As a member of cabinet, Uwizeyimana was in a leadership position. Does that give him the leeway to by-pass security? Absolutely not. The checks are there for the good of the society to which he belongs. He should actually be exemplary and follow the rules. By doing the right thing, others will follow.
The moment we choose to bend the rules to favour or accommodate certain people, we will create a shortage of integrity - any double standard is a dangerous path for Rwanda to take.
Hopefully, the former honourable minister has learned his lesson. But more importantly, there are lessons for other leaders to learn as well.
We hear of public officials arrested for drunk-driving, beating up their spouses, employing child labour or even evading that same taxes that are used to pay their salaries taxes. The list goes on.
With the 2020 National Leadership Retreat coming up, the Prime Minister should consider having a dedicated session on integrity and to read the riot act. It seems leaders need to be reminded that their words, actions, and decisions shape societal and organisational culture and behavior.
With the look of things, the leadership code of conduct that was put in place in 2013, is only on paper.
The author is a social commentator on topical issues in the region and beyond.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.