Going by numerous emails I received recently on our change homework debate of late, consensus has emerged especially among the elite (our rural folk seem to have formed the consensus even before the mention of our homework) that we cannot simply change our leadership for the sake of change.
Neither can we subscribe to the one size-fits-all ‘western democratic niceties’ that totally disregard historical context, cultural, societal constructs as well as economic landscape of a country like ours.
The western democratic dispensation (though not uniform in all countries in the west) has been tested in recent regime changes in such countries like Libya, and Iraq, and results are really disastrous.
These countries fundamentally failed the prescriptive ‘democratic niceties’ to the extent that they are now failed states with no one to redeem them in foreseeable sight.
When a country sinks into the failed state (Rwanda did) mode, only the citizens of the same feel the pain as change regime architects leave the scene and office back home. Rwanda is 20 years out of the woods but not over them yet.
As pointed out earlier, the debate is not about term limits or no term limits. It is about sustainability of the unprecedented progress we have made as a people and nation, and the stability we now enjoy, that never was since our so called independence in 1962.
We lost good 53 years in extreme sectarian conflicts (genocide) whose maxima was 1994 Genocide against the Tusti that destroyed everything Rwanda to its heart.
Whether one likes it or not, (like Jewish Holocaust, which has, and will define the identity of Israel as a nation), Rwanda genocide has, and will always define our identity for as long Rwanda as a state lives.
It will inform our choices, political, social as well as economic for generations, and no one can wish it away.
Negationists, revisionists, and other enemies of Rwanda haunted by the same for life will not, and cannot be allowed to let loose their demons as we debate the change, a change they have not been party to, as they make lots of wrong noise of their distorted ideologue in the western capitals mainly on social media.
FDLR in DRC Congo are such extremists whose hatred of the Tutsi is eternal, and a creed like the hatred of ISIS monsters to the western Europeans and Americans.
What causes uncertainty for Rwanda’s future after Kagame (among many others) is the marauding EX-Far militia and Interahamwe, orchestrating to destabilise Rwanda and a group that will celebrate if strong-willed President Kagame leaves the political stage as he is apparently the only one that can contain them.
They know this, and they have made it clear in the private/social chats. The only obstacle to the diabolic project is President Kagame. No one else can contain them.
These are outliers of our society, by virtue of their outrageous past, and a sealed futuristic hate.
That is the way it is, and will be.
Rwandans were taught by disastrous past experience that, we and we alone had and have to save ourselves. It is the same Rwandans who saved ourselves from ourselves, when our ‘friends’ and all left us to kill ourselves in 1994.
Who then has the audacity to tell us the change we need? All lost this very right when all willfully lost their obligations to Rwandans at the hour of most need – in 1994.
These are now the same people that have the courtesy to tell Rwandans and the President for that matter what to do –most contemptuous asking the President when to leave.
Leave for what and for where? This is the President who not only saved Rwandans from Rwandans but more so did what seemed humanly impossible by leading a liberation struggle that is unparalleled in African history, the only guarantor of sustainable stability and security for now, and for some time to come.
Now, some have argued that we can get another leader to take on his mantle come 2017. My simple answer (a well informed opinion) to them is: none.
As I pointed out in the earlier series, everybody knows everybody else in our top leadership that a simple elimination method leaves us with no alternative, at least not in two year’s time...2017.
If we are most lucky to have one with exemplary leadership finesse that has been severally tested, why gamble looking for another who has not been tested, and certified to govern?
President Kagame is certified by the harsh experience so much so that, getting another Rwandan to fit the replacement now is extremely presumptuous. In fact only enemies of Rwanda and their cohorts along with genocidaires can hold on to such thesis.
Can Kagame deny Rwandans President Kagame?
A regular columnist in a regional weekly that circulates in Rwanda wrote thus; “only Kagame can deny President Kagame of third term”… As it stands today, most Rwandans are in consensus mode with regard to no change come 2017.
To them it is not a matter of third or fourth or no term at all. It is about exemplary leadership of President Paul Kagame, and his achievements in all areas of our national life from national unity to security, from promotion of all inclusive education and health for all to incredible economic performance, from promotion of women to promotion of youth, and above promotion of better living standards for all Rwandans of all shades of life.
In my opinion, our biggest challenge now is not about change or no change of our leadership.
This is a done deal for most Rwandans. Rather, their serious concern (and this is also serious concern to investors in Rwanda, as well as financial markets which put a risk premium should President Kagame refuse to stand in 2017) is: WILL PRESIDENT KAGAME HEED TO THEIR DEMANDS?.
This is going to be a difficult homework for the President. Unlike in other countries where incumbents want to stick to power (supply driven power struggle) ours is a demand-driven and organic power of the people of Rwanda requesting him to serve them.
My take on this is that, although President Kagame has said he will respect the term limits, which were set by Rwandans, it may be difficult for him to reject their wishes and demands for him to keep leading our beloved country with its past abnormal context.
First, President Kagame redeemed Rwanda from extreme panorama of divisionism, sectarianism and backwardness of any post independence African country to a very secure and stable, fast developing nation we are today with a hope of a better tomorrow for us and those after us.
Can he allow such a trend to reverse? Second, can he allow the new Rwanda to regress into the past abnormal Rwanda?
President Kagame put in priceless effort to bring Rwanda (including staking his own life in the struggle), to where it is day, can he allow this priceless effort to be written off?
Thirdly, President Kagame has given his life, time, youth-hood to nothing else other than liberating and working to sacrifice for his country and to Rwandans. Can he allow his priceless scarifies to be blown up in the air in his eyes?
Fourth, can he allow this priceless sacrifice and achievements derived as a result to be reversed in his own eyes?
Fifth, to him his struggle and the emancipatation of Rwandans, and this time focusing on the fight and battle for economic emancipation, still continues, and is on course. Can he allow it to be reversed?
Last but not least, if Rwandans voted him (when he requested for their votes) by as high as 93% in 2010, can he refuse them an overwhelming reciprocal request to lead them post 2017?
Wouldn’t it be a double tragedy for Kagame to leave and live to witness the country he sacrificed to liberate, unite and rebuild being torn into pieces and the peace he brought about forfeited following his exit from active politics.
Don’t we Rwandans have a legitimate cause – the unwritten social contract we have with him which is much longer than two terms written document, a binding social contract that entitles both parties to right and obligations which neither party can terminate at the detriment to the interests of the other party?
Given the circumstances stated above, I highly doubt Kagame will deny Rwandans President Kagame come 2017.
To be continued…
The writer is an economist and financial expert.