Unable to fully comprehend the mechanics of how a tiny land-locked nation like Rwanda has managed to defy the unforgiving odds of becoming the next broken-nation-in-waiting, a number of western leaders and their media-lieutenants have once again succumbed to the old habit of issuing warnings meant to put us back in our place.
This place in question is somewhere we sit back and take orders with no questions asked – after all, how dare we think that our political system is efficient and mature enough to generate decisions that reflect the will of the people?
Incidentally, this is a far cry from what the English theologian, John Wycliffe,had in mind in 1384 when he wrote that the notion behind ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people’ reflects men and women being free to make up their minds on matters concerning them, something that has gone missing in America since 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln concurred and remarked that: “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Fast-forward 152 years, and you will find that the picture couldn’t be any different; I am referring to tweet sent on 31st October 2015, by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a United States Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs,who contrary to the principle of ‘a government by the people’, went on to state that: “U.S concerned about #Rwanda parliament vote to allow more terms for president. Democratic progress at risk when leaders don’t step aside,” which is a long way from her country’s position in 1863 and miles apart from what John Wycliffe intended to teach.
Now, I know –some of you may be wondering why I even bother to challenge a mere tweet sent by an Assistant Secretary who may or may not fully understand the mechanics of Rwandan politics save for the constant reliance on dubious reports that are more or less recycled every year to serve various agendas.Mind you, my reason of protest largely depends on the fact that if we allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to go on unchecked while undermining our rights, our institutions, and the unequivocal vision that millions of us share, we risk becoming everyone’s doormat– something I am not prepared to give a green light.
Nonetheless, regardless of what Ms Thomas-Greenfield tweeted last week, let ask you; is it really odd that the Rwandan Parliament, a body of elected members, and composed of various political partiesrepresenting equally different views, managed to vote overwhelmingly,in favour of a draft of the revision of the 2003 Rwanda Constitution?
Here is my take, and I strongly urgeMs Thomas-Greenfield& co to take note; if you are up to speed with the current affairs in Rwanda, and not just an armchair commentator relying on sources as biased as France 24,then you will quickly know that indeed, it isn’t odd that when Parliamentarians met on October 28, 2015,they were simply responding to the task set before themby over 4 million Rwandans whose petition was simple and straightforward: as the elected body, we the People ask you to amend the current provisions of the Constitution to allow the incumbent president, Paul Kagame,to be eligible to run for office when his current term ends in 2017, if he so chooses.
Additionally, the undersigned stressed the uniqueness of President Kagame’s ability to transform a ruined nation into one that has the potential to become a middle-income state more so than at any other time in history.
The People’s will is valid whichever way you choose to look at things; security, economy, education, healthcare, women empowerment, regional integration, infrastructure, reforms, justice, institutions, all have registered tremendous development when compared to pre-1994 Rwanda.
And who is the architect behind all this, and why should he be easily dropped, without a fight, just because the constitution that we helped draft says so? Don’t we reserve the right to revise our decisions both short and long-term? Also, must we simply conform to how the rest of the world conducts itself without tailoring our policies to match our needs? I politely insist that we reserve all those rights, odd as they may seem to you.
I am aware that Rwanda’s unique context can only be understood only when one compares the current settings to those of 21 years ago when there was nothing but ruins.
This comparison is where critics of Rwanda’s decisions ought to begin if they are genuinely interested in finding out the mechanics of Rwandan politics.Mr Kagame has presided over a period of stability, growth, and more importantly, managed to cultivate a belief among Rwandans that we are more than capable of doubling the achievements of the last 21 years as long as we stick to the values that have helped deliver these results.
Many Rwandans have heeded this ideology, and may help to explain why parliamentarians acted on this unique nature ofpolitical persuasionled by the People themselves, and recommended that the president serving at the time (Paul Kagame) of the constitutional amendment completes his current term and remains eligible for a seven year term.
Over the last two decades, Rwanda’s political arena has changed, and I believe, for the better.
Unlike in some other countries where politicians often disagree for the sake of disagreeing, or simply bend over to conform to international pressure driven by various motives, in Rwanda, there is a level of political maturity that admittedly is uncommon in Africa and much of the world, and may perhaps go a long way in explaining why many outsiders view Rwanda’s political arena with curiosity and suspicion.
For the good of their souls, I propose that they better get used to this. As the saying goes in the Wild West; a new sheriff is in town, buckle up.