As the presidential campaigns get underway today, one thing remains important: scaling up our transformational agenda is critical to Rwanda’s development trajectory that should not be taken for granted.
This is the hallmark of our forthcoming elections.
By keeping a look into the rear mirror of our abnormal Rwanda, and to most Rwandans refreshing our memories of the same country – that was a preserve of an entitled few – and in context of where our country is as of now, making an informed choice is obvious.
This is even more pertinent to some of us who were refugees for more than 30 years; scars on our conscious, leave alone bodily scars, are not only indelible, but also time, event, status, or whatever changes that our country has witnessed can’t heal these.
To those who stayed inside, the story is the same the only difference being that, they were ‘home’ but not at home. They were marginalized on account of region, religion, and in the extreme ethnicity.
The maxima of abnormal Rwanda, (the Genocide against Tutsi of 1994) has left national trauma that will define our economic as well as political choices, and foreigners who don’t factor these events in their analysis of who we are as a people and nation, mistake us for ‘another country’. We are not, and won’t be. We guard our transformation jealously and are ready to pay any price to that end. We have paid more than a price to be where we are now already…
And so, the choice of leadership we need and deserve in this, as in other elections yet to come, will be informed by our past abnormal Rwanda, that is yet to be normal in the true sense of the word given many parties that would want to reverse the clock at any opportunity and cost. God forbid!
The exemplary leadership of President Paul Kagame has had a fundamental impact on the transformation of our country and restored hope, to the most hopeless situation in our history so much so that, the issue of election manifestos, typical of most elections, become irrelevant for such transformation by far supersedes what can be captured in a simple booklet-manifesto, which in many countries is a fancy that is never realized.
President Kagame has had to deliver to Rwanda – what if put in an ordinary election manifesto – may sound an idealism and wish-list or better still, guess estimate of intentions.
Yet his delivery has been true to this and has cofounded many within and without our country who are now students of the same. Competing against such heroic actions is not only an illusion, but also negation of the bare and rare realities that even diehard critics acknowledge.
Economic Vs political systems in place
For some time now, Africa has had many lessons/lectures on development, both political and economic, from all sorts of know-it-all westerners so much so that one wonders whether Africans are bad students or they have had bad teachers. I bet on the latter.
Lectures given to Africa have not been in the interest of Africa. Problem is, these lectures are coated with western self -interest and are not value neutral and no one should take the view that the West will ever develop Africa. It is not in their interests, and has never been anyway.
Africa will be developed by Africans. And although this may sound radical. I personally have no apologies for reality on the ground vindicates this thesis.
A lot of research has been done on the failure of Africa to develop as fast as Asian Tigers did despite having similar backgrounds. All/most research has zeroed on leadership deficit in Africa, as the main variable that explains the difference in development episodes of the two regions.
However nearly all Asian tigers had consistency in one variable; good and transformational leaders, whose minimum tenure office was 30 years. This was true for Singapore, South Korea as it was in Malaysia etc.
Such leaders delivered transformation until these economies grew to sustainable modes where growth reinforces growth. Which is why elections were not an end to these countries, as they should not be to any other country lucky to have an exemplary leader least Rwanda with its heinous past context no one can hold constant.
The constant here is transformation leadership of President Paul Kagame. Period. Changing exemplary leadership at the altar of convenience and hypercritic western neo-colonial hegemony nowadays preached by western diplomats to an audience different from our fore fathers is an insult to our intelligence and by extension our choices.
Time is gone (except in West Africa) where the west decides who should and should not lead African countries.
Western double standards
Nevertheless, development history of Western Europe bore similarities to those of Asian Tigers. European countries were ruled by Kings/Queens who ruled for life.
A good King/Queen left a developmental mark on his or her own country. And because of proximity of these countries’ growth, development was literally contagious.
Up to the post-industrial revolution and later years of development of Europe, this governance paradigm remained constant. It was not until these countries developed a middle class that there was a need for paradigm shift in the governance model which had to answer their circumstances.
And so the powers of kings/queens were to be transferred to Prime Ministers and Presidents as the case dictated. The theory here is that, economic development and political development are highly correlated (bedfellows) that, it is literally impossible to skip the stages of one, leaving the other behind/constant (ie; one can’t disentangle one from the other).
It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked anywhere else, it will never work in Africa, much less in Rwanda. So those agitating for fast-tracking one, must also fast-tract the other. But they can’t!
The structure of our economies cannot allow this, as it could not allow it to pre-industrial Europe anyway. And so, as research has concluded, it is not possible to talk of democratic development until a country has attained middle income and with a per capita income of about $2500. The rest is academic, and lectures without substance. This is the hard truth. The rest are experiments that take us no where except to sustain and entrench the interests of those giving lectures without substance.
This was true for western Europe as it was for other regions of the world, including the Asian Tigers that latched into developed mode just recently. It is true for Africa.
The issue of democratic narrative espoused by westerners will have to be revised by these, or by us Africans to address the realities of our developmental phase.
And, as such, if we Rwandans fit into the historical development paradigm, a path that has been taken by all developed countries, we are justified.
The western descendants should read their history before they lecture Africa lessons it cannot learn because it happens to operate in similar environment as that of their great-grandfathers.
Some of this environment was shaped by them to serve their interests. We only have to reverse it and do what is in our best interest. We don’t owe it to anybody except ourselves.
And so, if transformational leadership is the key word in our forthcoming elections, the choice is stark.
Professor Nshuti Manasseh is an Economist and Financial Expert.