Rwandans celebrate decades of gains at campaign rallies

It is once again election time. Rwandans go to the polls on August 4 to elect their president for the next seven years. In this country that means celebration; it is party time.

It is once again election time. Rwandans go to the polls on August 4 to elect their president for the next seven years. In this country that means celebration; it is party time.

There is a splash of colour everywhere, at rallies, along the roads, on vehicles and every imaginable place. Crowds, in their tens of thousands, turn up at the rallies which are spiced by music and dance, and general merry-making.


Along the roads, cheering crowds line up to get a glimpse of one of the candidates.


It is joy everywhere and there is reason for it. There is celebration of achievement, of targets met, both individual and collective, and of improved livelihoods.


And yet some foreign rights groups talk of a climate of fear in Rwanda. Does fear look like this in the normal world? Or perhaps there is an alternative meaning to fear that is only applicable to Rwanda.

Others in the media, led this time by The Economist, say all this and more is the result of compulsion. Compelling tens of thousands to come to rallies and sing and dance and cheer for hours?

Forcing them to have a smile on their faces as they come to the rallies, throughout their stay there and on their way home? Such a feat would require a miracle or powers close to those of God.

If Mr Kagame and the RPF can pull it off, then they should be credited with another wonderful invention – giving new meaning and positive attributes to a word that usually has negative connotations.

Surely the media and those whose messages it carries can come up with more imaginative and plausible criticism of Mr Kagame, the RPF and the government of Rwanda.

What can one say about the different party banners and members clad in their party colours at the same rally? It is a wonderful sight. The colours blend so well. They do not clash or jar against each other, or jostle for space or special attraction.

I hear protests from the usual suspects: that’s not surprising; you have killed the opposition.

No such thing has happened. The opposition is alive and well, only it is more sensible and places Rwandan interests first. Even if it was dead, what would that matter if the result was harmony, unity and prosperity for Rwandans?

In any case, opposition here does not mean confrontation and fighting and cheating, or insulting others and digging up dirt them, and then splashing it all over the place, or smearing them with other dirt.

Rwandans are more refined than that. Of course, there are different views about how to manage the country. But that does not mean blocking each other’s good ideas and put the country into a gridlock of dysfunction as we see in some places.

You only have to look at how the other two candidates in the current campaign are faring. Of course, they attract a handful of people. These listen to them respectfully and then go about their usual business.

Whether they are convinced by what they hear is a different matter. But there are no insults, no heckling, no throwing stones or breaking things.

That is the universe Rwandans live in and they love it.

But as sure as Mr Kagame will win the election, those who don’t like what he is doing or where Rwanda is headed will try to create an alternative universe for us, even though they know we are perfectly happy with the one we live in.

What informs this unusual desire to place us into a world we have not asked for? It is not generosity, but rather a stereotype view of Rwandans and Africans.

You see, Rwandans cannot be this united. It is not African.

They cannot do the things they are doing and getting such good results. It is not the African way, and in any case they hardly have any natural resources.

The most non-African thing of all is their tidy cities, towns and villages. That can only mean one thing. They have carted off all the beggars, prostitutes, hawkers and the homeless to unknown places. What insult! These are people, not litter! They deserve respect and decent lives. About the actual litter? Not a word.

The turn up at election rallies and the singing and dancing and stories of change in people’s lives are carefully choreographed. Doing that several times a day at different sites and for a month? That takes some doing and the exceptionally smart. If we are that smart, we deserve credit, not condemnation.

You can make your own conclusion about what all this misrepresentation is all about. If it looks, sounds and smells like racism, it must be racism. If it pours cold water on real, visible achievements, it must be designed to send a message.

Stay in the place we superior people have allotted your kind so that we can control you. Don’t attempt to break out. If you do, we shall hit you hard on the head.

As Rwandans have shown in the past, and are doing so now, they are going to do what suits them and is in their best interest. What the rest want, think or say is their business.

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