We should never ignore hate speech by politicians

It is that time of the year when the rest of the world joins the people of Rwanda in commemorating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. That single event is undeniably the most gruesome thing to have happened in recent times. The scale and intensity at which it happened left scars that will take ages to heal.

It is that time of the year when the rest of the world joins the people of Rwanda in commemorating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. That single event is undeniably the most gruesome thing to have happened in recent times. The scale and intensity at which it happened left scars that will take ages to heal.

A whole society was abused and deep scars were left on both the victims and the perpetrators of this horrific crime. 1994 may be 22 years ago but some of the wounds it left are still very fresh. And yet at the same time, Rwanda as a country and society has not allowed to be bogged down by that despicable moment. Instead, Rwandans have risen from their blood-soaked moment to become a beacon of hope in the region and the world in general.

 

Of course a lot of credit goes to the Rwanda Patriotic Front led by President Paul Kagame for daring to even dream that things could be better and embarking on a liberation struggle to save the country from the divisive politics and later on successfully stopping the Genocide. After all this, the same government has clearly done a commendable job regarding the process of rebuilding and then developing Rwanda so that it emerges as a country known more for its good story than the shameful past.

 

There is no doubt that a lot more still needs to be done and the President never shies away from reminding Rwandans of how much more needs to be done if Rwanda is to fully transform into the kind of society it desires to be. Amidst all these efforts to move forward, the efforts to ensure that Rwanda or any country never slips back to a time like 1994 remain very vital hence the ‘Never Again’ message.

 

Unfortunately we keep seeing situations around us where the value of life is lowered by those with selfish interests. Many conflicts in the region, continent and world in general still result in crimes against humanity and general abuse of power. The newest members of the East African Community are still trying to pick up themselves from years of war while Burundi remains the sick man of the region.

Our brothers and sisters in Kenya are now marching towards another general election slated for sometime next year. The political temperatures are slowly rising but this often also means that the prevalence of hate speech is also on the rise. Kenyans may have to be reminded that this kind of loose talk fuelled by a bungled election in 2007, left the country in flames.

Lots of lives were lost, property was damaged and most of East Africa was brought to a standstill since the port of Mombasa and the trade corridor that feeds Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo was now cut off by the conflict. The East African Community is now so interlinked that a crisis in one country deeply affects other countries.

The situation in South Sudan affected the economies of Uganda and Kenya while Burundi’s current impasse has left many counting losses as their security in the country remains a challenge. All these situations are allowed to manifest each time we allow politicians to abuse their influence by throwing around words of hate and incitement.

One’s political ambitions should never be pegged to the innocent lives of others. Sometimes I see politicians speaking with a smirk on their faces and using proverbs and sayings in mother tongues to plant these seeds of hate deep in people’s hearts and yet when the country blows up they will simply jump on a plane and fly to safer grounds.

It would be good if we redirected our politics towards development and away from the lethal ‘us against them’ tone that has kept us behind for years. I am particularly concerned about Kenya where the politicians seem to have mastered this game of coded hate speech. A lot more responsibility will be expected from these influential public figures. 

Lastly, I must say it was quite refreshing seeing that the Tanzanian leader’s first visit was to a neighbouring country, Rwanda. In this single act, President John Pombe Magufuli showed the world that EAC integration is something important.

The Rusumo One Stop Border Post that connects Rwanda and Tanzania that he launched together with his Rwandan counterpart will certainly boost trade between the two countries. His visit was also a great step towards warming the relations between the two countries.

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