This coming August, three countries namely Rwanda, Kenya and Angola will hold what political pundits have called pivotal elections.
They have been called pivotal for different reasons.
And in case of our country, a number of commentators have of late been actively discussing what type of elections Rwanda will hold, and the nature underlying democratic dispensation in the same.
Some have dubbed it done deal for President Paul Kagame as a candidate of choice specifically and RPF showing in the same generally.
Commentaries have been advanced for all sorts of reasons ranging from the fact on December, 18th 2015, 98.4 per cent of Rwandans voted in a referendum to allow President Kagame run not only for a third term, but also free to lead our country to 2034.
This they say will be repeated in the coming election which is in no doubt. Others allege that, no other candidate can beat RPF’s financial muscle and its countrywide reach and popularity and so competing in such a situation is wastage of time, for RPF will emerge a winner anyway.
‘Financial muscle’ per se although necessary in any election is by no means a sufficient condition to win an election, and as such this argument is flawed, for President Kagame’s delivery record is his most critical muscle to Rwandese which is held very dear to all and sundry.
There are commentators who either have little, distorted knowledge of Rwanda and its environment or both and point out to the fact that, there is no political space for candidates to compete fairly (which is a misplaced attitude for we have over ten political parties in Rwanda).
One may argue that, having many political parties is not synonymous with having political space.
Such argument is academic and straight jacket, for our context and history taught us that serious internal debate and consensus thereof serves our purpose and in fact fits pretty well with Rwandan culture that is traditionally void of confrontation.
That is why there are no stone-throwing and street-heckling of opponents typical of most African elections which westerners see as a symbol of ‘African democracy’ never mind that this does not happen in the west.
No one-size-fits-all democratic process
Every democratic process draws heavily from underlying historical context/cultural values and social constructs in place so much that any other imported model is bound to fail.
This is why there are many variants of democratic dispensations world over so much so that, UK’s political system is not the same as one for the French or Italians.
But in case of African countries, ours has to be defined by the high and mighty otherwise it is not democracy. But this is neo-colonial hegemony that should not have place in modern African political economy given our stage of development.
The latter argument also comes mainly from detractors outside the country some of which were responsible for the heinous crime of Genocide and nothing good can come from our political dispensation for they hold dear to their extremism views of sectarianism which is also backed or condoned by their western backers/sympathizers.
These are inconsequential to the new Rwanda, which will move on regardless. In any case, political history shows that, a political party is only good or viable/electable if its chairman or leader of the same party is in the first place.
However, those arguing that the referendum handed President Paul Kagame a ticket for next election acknowledge that, he has transformed Rwanda from a failed state it was in 1994, to a fastest growing economy that is today, and a case study in development economics discourse.
This is evidenced by numerous statistics that rank Rwanda highest, from development, to security, from gender to incredible social transformation.
They then argue that, competing with him against such miraculous turnaround is a waste of time. And they are right on this for, for Rwandese who know better than most their country, and its context can’t afford to lose such a transformational leader whose track record and exemplary leadership we can’t afford lose by choice. In any case leadership and management are about delivery. Period.
History has shown that, great leaders/statesmen/fathers of nations such as George Washington of USA, Winston Churchill of UK, and of late Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore among others emerge once in a lifetime of a nation and their exemplary leadership (assuming stable and sustainable environment in place) is not replicated thereafter.
This is the case with own President Paul Kagame.
The rest of the above arguments are niceties of western media and one size fits all political frameworks advocates who are in themselves in shambles in the west given the popularist movements that have challenged and dislodged some of western democratic narrative of democracy that is at cross-roads.
At cross-roads because it has been elite driven political systems that have more often than not benefitted the same elite at the expense of majority.
In fact one reason why President Kagame has delivered against all odds unimaginable is that, he has involved citizens in his development model which is anti-thesis of elitist western democratic order now under threat.
And so benefits from miraculous Rwanda’s growth and development under exemplary leadership of President Kagame, has been shared and distributed equitably among citizens and even regions that have worked so hard for the same.
The vices of entitlement, cronyism capitalism and opportunism (given in most African political economies and indeed in some western political economies) have been negated in the Rwanda’s development trajectory.
And so our 2017 election is pivotal to sustaining our stability and development. The rest are divisionary/distortional and wishful thinking of parties alien to our context. These are a history.
The writer is an economist and financial expert.
To be continued…