At 9am on Tuesday, a group of journalists arrived at Muhanga Regional Stadium in the Southern Province where the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) presidential candidate Paul Kagame, was addressing a rally.
On our way to the stadium, we noticed shops were closed and vehicles with RPF flags littered the streets. Red, white and blue (the RPF party colours) covered just about everything. Hordes of people cheering in anticipation waited for their candidate. They danced and sang campaign songs.
Rwanda’s biggest names in music have been part of this excitement and have particularly come out to show their support for candidate Paul Kagame.
Just before President Kagame arrived at the venue, Urban Boys, Knowless, Tom Close, R&B artiste Christopher Muneza, rapper Riderman, Tuyisenge Intore and legendary traditional artiste Massamba Intore, all hit the stage.
Going by the deafening cheers, it was obvious that some RPF-party supporters were seeing their favourite artistes live for the first time.
The artistes collectively performed all the songs they had lined up and left revelers yearning for more. It was clear throughout their performances that people were in high spirits and that there is more to come on the campaign trail.
The musicians are part of a group of artistes selected to entertain people during the RPF campaigns.The list includes Primus GumaGuma Super Star winners and other renowned artistes known to support the party like Maria Yohana, Senderi International Hit, Christopher, Jules Sentore and Kitoko, who recently returned from abroad where he has stayed for three years.
So what inspired these artistes to be part of this campaign?
Rwandans will head to the polls on August 4 and musician Humble Jizzo of Urban Boys group says there are a thousand reasons to be part of this journey.
“If you have followed the development of the country, there’s an obvious reason to be inspired and motivated. As an artiste, being part of this election journey is important and supporting the RPF candidate shouldn’t be a question,” he says.
“We have seen many changes happening within the last seven years under the leadership of Paul Kagame, not just in the music industry but among all Rwandans. For the first time, recently, as artistes, we met the President at Kigali Convention Centre and he addressed our issues. This was a clear sign of what the future holds,” he notes.
Jizzo, real name James Manzi, believes that meeting the President for the first time, and deliberating on the issues affecting the music industry, was an indication of the will and the commitment to turn the industry around, thus, a good reason to give him their unwavering support.
“We have not really heard voices from top government officials, but the fact that the President himself reached out to us and met us in person is an honour.And that is why we are on the campaign trail,” Manzi adds.
Senderi, a man whose ever changing stage name has left many amused, calls himself a diehard fan of Paul Kagame. He says that joining the presidential campaign trail was no coincidence.
“Look at our music industry and compare it to five or 10 years back. There is remarkable improvement. This is because we have a party that believes in the power of all sectors. This is why I have been supporting Kagame since day one,” says the singer.
For R&B crooner Christopher, the idea of being part of the campaign trail, in particular, giving the support to the RPF candidate is a sign that artistes believe in Kagame’s leadership.
Important to note is that the artistes say they were not paid to perform and happily add that they don’t need to be paid to give their support.
For instance, Senderi says, “This is our unwavering support and the contribution that musicians decided to give to the RPF candidate.”
He adds that the President has done a lot for them and that is why they are where they are today.
Based on their performances, it is safe to say that entertainment has definitely spiced up the campaign season.
Emmanuel Kalisa, who had turned up for the campaign rally,says that they are thrilled to see some of the musicians performing.
In Bugesera, where Kagame campaigned on Wednesday, another supporter who asked for anonymity said that having the musicians perform indicates how much the country values them.
“This is a platform for artistes to showcase their music to the many Rwandans across the country,” he said.
But it wasn’t just music; poetry and dance also featured on the entertainment programme.
What do artistes hope for?
As people in the music industry, particularly the ones who support Paul Kagame, there are expectations from his leadership.
“With President Kagame, we expect more in the next seven years. Many things are going to change in our careers. We expect more infrastructure and education for our people. These are the things that will bring development, not just in the music industry but the entire country,” notes Manzi.
Intore Tuyisenge says that they hope the government will focus on helping artistes make a living out of their work.
“It is a valid aspect and we envision that the music industry will be taken to greater lengths in the years to come. In the shortest period of time, we have seen this industry grow but we want to see more artistes economically empowered. We expect the strengthening of policies to secure the work of musicians,” Tuyisenge says.
Tuyisenge says that recent engagements with artistes have resulted into a framework of how the government will increase support to the industry. And that this is the reason they want to give the party another chance to lead.
RPF-Inkotanyi’s manifesto indicates what the next seven years will be great for the creative industry in general.
In their manifesto, RPF-Inkotanyi wants to build a knowledge-based economy, particularly to promote the arts, music, and film industries, as well as promote culture-based education, among others.
Moreover, they indicate that through the private sector, they will establish a centre for entertainment events.