During my early childhood, I was taught that children should obey their elders and elders should respect and protect their younger subordinates.
Such values contributed to social cohesion that prevailed in Rwanda for many centuries, until the colonial era destroyed the social fabric and self-esteem of Rwandans.
The Rwandan culture was that; heirs had the responsibility to take care of all the vulnerable persons in the family, including the orphans, widows, women and the elderly.
Whoever failed to honour and to fulfill those duties was relieved of them, and sometimes was banished from the family.
That was the essence of social protection in the ancient Rwanda.
Heirs were the leaders in their family, which has always been the foundation of the Rwandan society. This principle has always been consecrated by national laws.
The Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 left behind a devastated Rwanda, and RPF-Inkotanyi, under the leadership of Paul Kagame, inherited a failed country with many widows, orphans, persons with disabilities and women.
These groups of people –who were mainly homeless-, had been marginalised for centuries because they were considered non-active members of society.
The Government of national unity took charge. All refugees were repatriated and reintegrated. Different social protection programmes were initiated aiming at empowering all sections of the population.
Today, Rwanda is an integrated society, where everyone has a stake and access to health insurance, education, and equal opportunities for all.
All vulnerable groups are catered for in all sectors of life. Youth, women and persons with disabilities are represented in all decision-making positions, either public or private.
Above all, women – who make the majority of the Rwandan population – are the majority in the Rwandan Parliament. This has been a record worldwide over the last five years, and the journey continues.
The presidential campaign is an opportunity to prove what a good leader or otherwise one can be. What is not questionable is that; Rwanda is an inclusive society, and vulnerable persons are attended to in a special way.
For many decades, the Southern Province was a hungry region, and people were either dying of hunger or migrating over famine. Today, such an alarming situation has been relegated to history.
Social protection is not only at an individual level, it can also be a macroeconomic policy.
Political scientists concur on that, “the quality of leadership is measured by the way in which vulnerable persons and the elders are treated by the society”.
In Rwanda, there are many social protection programmes that are paying off. This is the time for the electorate to evaluate how good those programmes have been.
In addition to public policies, it is important to educate all Rwandans about the role that everyone should play to reduce the dependency mindset, in order to make self-reliance a reality. That is the cost of total liberation.
Rwandans have a lot at stake now. It is a matter of their choice. The incumbent President has a lot to offer to the electorate. Fresh candidates, whatever their manifesto is, are well advised to consider social protection as a priority.
The writer is a Political Analyst and a member of the PanAfrican Movement, Rwanda Chapter