“So you want to fill the shoes of President Kagame?”Asked a Rwandan blogger recently in a series of questions in a popular post. “Oh, are you scared of coming out?” He, at once, asked and declared, “May those who want to succeed Kagame come forward: ‘speak now, or forevermore, hold your peace!’ Yep, he went there, too: “Oh, are you scared of coming out?” “Well tough, you’ll earn it, or you can’t handle it.’
Ah, the questions. Or, is it a challenge? If you feel that the questions (or the challenge) is directed towards you, the timing couldn’t be any more opportune now that parliament has proposed an exceptional window of 7 years for anyone interested in the presidency come 2017. After that, the transition period, you lose two years on a reduced term of five years.
Exciting, it must be. However, before you get taken-up by the excitement and start getting ideas about ‘coming out’ there’s one thing worth seriously thinking about: Kagame’s shoes.
There’s one reality that may be sweet or sour, depending on how you look at things, and it is this: Kagame’s shoes are the new gold standard for the Rwandan Presidency – now and for generations to come.
His shoes are the standard on how to manage domestic affairs, geopolitics, and how to navigate the maze that is the international arena. The shoes are only recognisable if one pays attention to how the country has conducted itself over the past couple of decades, an observation that would invariably lead to the conclusion that President Kagame’s administration (both terms) presided over the most tumultuous period of our times.
During an event here in Kigali a few months ago, he revealed, albeit in a discussion on a different subject, how he has been able to persevere. Those who were present, or those watching at home on television and were paying attention, picked it up.
Speaking before him was the then outgoing president of the African Development Bank who, in an effort to tell the whole truth about a particular matter, told a joke by way of an African cautionary tale, “one cannot fight a crocodile while still in the water,” meaning that now that his term was over, he could tell it like it is without fear of any backlash.
Not one to pass up an opportunity, President Kagame, as he prepared to make his point, quipped a line that went something like, “For me, I have always had to fight the crocodile from inside the water.” The crowd went into a frenzy. It was a funny moment.
It was a light moment, but it revealed something significant, about the attitude required to master the labyrinth of a geopolitical and international environment that, truth be told, has been downright hostile. For him, the choice has been either to fight back or to accept to be swallowed wholly by the alligators.
Today, and for decades to come, Rwandans will want a president, whether it is Kagame or someone else, who is prepared to fight the crocodile from its natural setting, someone who will continue to insist that the country, despite its geographic size, belongs to the big league of nations, and is not to be pushed around by anyone.
That’s the swagger, fellas, backed up by swift action, when necessary. If you don’t believe me, ask the French or the BBC.
Which is why in their mental conception, Rwanda’s now have a standard, the wherewithal, that they expect from their president in how he or she will conduct domestic, geopolitical, and international matters. This is what they’ve come to take for granted – and no one will take that away from them. You can take that to the bank.
Which is also why I give this advice, unsolicited and free of course, for anyone with the ambition to ascend to the Presidency of the Republic of Rwanda: Kagame’s shoes should preoccupy your mind. Think, first, foremost, and often, about the shoes – make that always.
Forget what you think – good or bad – of the man; just think about his shoes. That is because failure to heed this advice will result in political suicide onto the graveyard of political careers.
Unless you have seriously integrated the shoes in your life, do not ‘come out’ just yet. This is not something that ought to be done simply because of a dare. That is a trap. What you need to be doing is to reflect deeply, conduct an internal soul-searching – about the shoes.
True, you will need the courage to speak up. But not before you have mastered one thing: the shoes. While you are at it, it might also help to start taking up some lessons in how to wrestle crocodiles. That’s the standard.
Does the shoe fit?