Part VII: Change with continuity: which term limits?

As our lawmakers proceed with the process of constitutional review aimed at amending article 101 and others that are out of touch with the current realities so as to sustain the exemplary social transformation the leadership of President Paul Kagame has delivered to the country, there are varied views as to how many presidential terms we should settle for.

As our lawmakers proceed with the process of constitutional review aimed at amending article 101 and others that are out of touch with the current realities so as to sustain the exemplary social transformation the leadership of President Paul Kagame has delivered to the country, there are varied views as to how many presidential terms we should settle for.

My simple survey has revealed a few options suggested by various Rwandans for various reasons.

The first suggestion is another two seven-year terms for President Kagame. Rwandans with this line of thinking argue that the two terms would enable President Kagame to consolidate the country’s gains and that thereafter a successor would be found to carry the baton and move the transformation process forward.

Yet there are others who view the change as a function not only for socio-economic transformation but also of ensuring sustained reconciliation that currently remains work-in-progress and too fragile to gamble with.

Those subscribing to this school of thought also believe that, the same applied to our security panorama which is so dynamic that, there are serious threats that we, as a country, will have to contend with in the long haul, especially the FDLR militia and their ideology to exterminate the Tutsi that they openly espouse.

These Rwandans argue that only President Kagame has been certified by all measures to face such threats, and contain them.

They argue that three seven-year terms would most probably be sufficient to enable President Kagame mentor a capable heir who can carry his mantle.

These point out that he is, after all, just 57 and another three terms would end while he’s 78. These have confided that extremists who have drank ethnicity, which to them is a creed/faith, will be too old to influence what happens in our country as far as reconciliation security threats to Rwanda are concerned.

Request stage

As it is now, President Kagame has not even acceptable our request to run come 2017As such, we can’t request him to stand in 2017 and at the same time give him timeframe within which he should end his leadership.

This approach would be counterproductive. Let us for the sake of argument assume that Rwandans will settle for one term of seven years.

Would that be acceptable to him? I personally doubt whether such will be acceptable.  The right thing is to leave him decide how long he can stay on with his exemplary transformation agenda.

We would rather leave him to decide when it is viable for change. He knows our abnormal Rwanda better than anyone else.

He, like many of us, lived as a refugee of rejection by his own country for who he was rather than what he did.

It was under his able command that the combined force of Ex-FAR, the Interahamwe militia and their foreign backers were defeated, their financial muscle notwithstanding.

President Kagame has turned around this abnormal Rwanda to a seemingly normal state but it is too early to celebrate.

He drafted all models of our transformation that has worked beyond remotest imagination in the shortest time possible in the history of a post-conflict country, much more so a post-genocide country.

In my opinion, he is the only one of us who knows better when his models are in a stable and sustainable mode to pass on the baton to the next leader without awakening the ghosts of the abnormal Rwanda.

So I wouldn’t go into the debate of how much more we should let him continue to lead us.

Moreover, we also have to take into account the fact that, such exemplary leaders emerge once in the lifetime of a nation and limiting such leader through terms is irrational and a disservice to our country with serious ramifications we can’t afford to underwrite nor discount as a country.

This is why we shall need to engage our national soul-searching to arrive at the best scenario for the country.  Mine, and one informed by his extremely rare leadership virtues and values that changed this country miraculously, is no limit at all.

I do not share the view that he could stick to power for life if we took this route. Zero! Absolutely zero. History will judge me. He will pass on power (if he accepts our request) at such a point in time when he is sure his legacy can’t be reversed through change of leadership.

That should be the time when all he delivered for this country in form socio-economic transformation is in a sustainable mode. He is the only one who knows when.

Sustainability is time invariant

As pointed out earlier in this series, sustainability of socio-economic transformation depends not so much on the timeframe we can set for our President, but rather on many socio-economic variables that are time invariant.

They can take a few years just as they can be attained in the long term. For instance, our national reconciliation will take centuries to usher into irreversible mode.

Research has indicated a minimum of three centuries which is equally true for socio-economic transformations (other things being equal).

And so, in my opinion (and this is true to a number of Rwandans I have surveyed), it is in our best interest as a country to open our constitution and peg the term of our leadership to delivery rather than term limits.

If we are opening the same for the exemplary leadership of President Kagame to bear us more of ingenious deliverables that have seen this country rise from ashes of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, to an example of the fastest growing economies today, then our objective should remain sustenance of exemplary delivery rather than term limits as if these are an end in themselves.

We have an opportunity to define our political set-up so as to peg it to socio-economic delivery of our leaders which is true to such countries as the UK, Germany, The Netherlands, etc, whose leaders remain in office as long as they deliver to the expectations of the electorate.

Ours, being in the development phase we are in and a unique context, term limits would defeat the purpose. We can’t afford other narratives that don’t respond to our context.

A context that President Kagame has managed in such a heroic way.

Leaving his exemplary leadership open is the most logical thing to do.

To be continued…

The writer an economist and a financial expert.

nshutim@gmail.com

 

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