RPF’s role will be vital for smooth succession

A week after President Kagame’s Liberation Day televised interview on RTV, the public is still having a good conversation on his statement that ‘Rwandans with less historical baggage’ would make ideal candidates for a successor.

A week after President Kagame’s Liberation Day televised interview on RTV, the public is still having a good conversation on his statement that ‘Rwandans with less historical baggage’ would make ideal candidates for a successor.

I found myself in one such conversation on Friday night at a teashop in suburban Kiyovu; it’s 9pm and we were unwinding after a long day at work; Gael, an engineer with a knack for current affairs set the ball rolling.


Gael: Guys, enough of the football transfer news, Manchester United paying £75million for 24 year old Lukaku doesn’t mean he’s as good as Ronaldo; but here is a more important update, {checks his Whats-App}; NEC has just released the final list of Presidential Candidates, it’s PK {RPF candidate Paul Kagame}, Green Party’s Frank Habinza and Philippe Mpayimana.


Douglas: Oh! Not really surprised. So what happened to Rwigara, Barafinda and Mwenedata? I hear Rwigara had more signatures than required?


Olivier: If the law says bring 600 signatures and you bring 1000, clearly, that is wrong, so Mbanda is right, he just saved us from these jokers.

Gael: Actually, Mbanda says they all three failed to raise the 600 signatures required. In fact, he says Rwigara presented only 572 signatures, Barafinda brought 362 from just 18 districts and Mwenedata had 522, so clearly, they failed to meet requirements.

Bosco: Honestly, I would have been surprised if Rwigara made it to the ballot especially after her nude-leak scandal; she stood no chance. We needed a scandal-free ballot. {Everyone laughs}.

Mike: If this is NEC’s final list, don’t you think we should now focus our dear time on discussing the real candidates? My question is, does Mpayimana or Hibineza stand any chance against RPF’s candidate?

Ken: I agree with Mike, this is time to discuss candidates not hopefuls. In my view, RPF should expect a straight win, we can bet on what percentage of the vote they will win but I don’t expect anything below 95 percent. Habineza has become an honorary contender whose candidature is really inconsequential; as for Phillipe, I didn’t even know about him until a few weeks ago.

Douglas: I agree with Ken on Habineza being an honorary candidate; in fact, at the risk of sounding idle, I dare say that if Rwigara had made it to the ballot, she would have out-performed the Green party candidate (laughter around the table).

Gael: I am beginning to believe that those nudes earned the woman some silent fans; Doug here seems to be one of them… (More laughter at Douglas from the table); but I think you’re right; there is a chance she would have got more votes than Habineza.

Ariane: (only lady on the table) PK will win, that is a no brainer. So, there is nothing much to discuss about the candidates. But I think we should discuss the President’s statement during that interview on RTV; he said his successor should be someone with less historical baggage, I found that interesting…

Mike: Good point there, Ariane! I didn’t even know you could discuss anything outside banking (laughs). I am assuming that, that PK statement will serve as a yardstick for RPF to find a successor. So maybe, Ken’s friends in the media should help us build profiles of successors; the intro is there; a successor will be a Rwandan, male or female of a sane mind aged between 40 and 45 years…

Gael: I know PK has handed the succession process assignment to RPF, but I think it is also his own obligation, on two grounds; first, he must play the moderator role within the party to ensure that the succession politics/competition doesn’t ruin ideological unity of members; the last thing we want are factions within the RPF; secondly, studies show that political succession processes tend to have negative effects on economic stability, as we continue to attract foreign direct investment, there’s a risk of investors becoming uncertain about Rwanda’s economic landscape.

Ken: Gael, sounding like a political scientist than the civil engineer that he’s; but I really like your observations regarding succession. I agree that Mzee must play the moderation role of this succession debate; however, there is a risk of his critics accusing him of ‘trying to pick his own successor.’ But a moderator is vital in ensuring succession doesn’t distract us from implementing the party manifesto over the next seven years.

Accepting to moderate the process will help de-risk the succession exercise considering that succession politics can be very divisive and disruptive to especially markets; assuring investors of sustainability in spite of possible change is going to be very important in keeping the impressive momentum of attracting foreign investment.

Ariane: Question to all of you guys; if the ideal profile of a successor is one aged between 40 and 45, where does such a yardstick leave the President’s own generation, who might have had hopes of replacing him, how can their own expectations be managed?

Bosco: Brilliant point Ariane! I think that will be a major headache for RPF to cure. They may not be succession candidates but their wisdom and experience is a major asset for national stability.

Olivier: Consensus is the word; if the Party remains united, the country will cross all those bridges when the time comes.


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