The first week of campaigning was as successful as emotional to many Rwandans, especially those attending President Kagame’s campaign rallies (tens of thousands of them at each rally).
The unprecedented turn up of Rwandans was moving as were testimonies by those whose lives were significantly transformed due to the good leadership ushered in by the RPF leadership, to say the least.
This is not mere politicking. These are realities from a few Rwandans who represent the views of many out there, whose lives have changed for good.
Looking at the masses at the campaign rallies, one notices real change among the Rwandans attending the rallies compared to the 2010 campaigns.
A foreign friend of mine who accompanied me in campaigns was even more moved but at the same time confused.
Confused by what he saw and heard. Confused by the huge turn up, and the love and emotions expressed for the Presidential candidate to whom they owe everything Rwanda, and everything they literally are and own.
He was even more confused like most foreigners who define Rwanda from their own context that are far parallel to ours and no comparisons one can make for it would be misplaced.
This is a unique Rwanda that is a hallmark of two extremes; from ashes to showers of hope and prosperity.
Of late, a number of media outlets have produced slanderous articles that describe another Rwanda, and another type of leadership than the one we know, and live with.
The Economist has been on the forefront of this.
One would have expected such a media outlet to be as objective as it can be or at least prudent in their articles with thorough research before they opine a piece. Far from it and that has been the case for a while now.
They have consistently opined out of context and given that this has been repeated for long, it can’t be taken lightly, least by Rwandans who need and deserve objective reporting of their country and leadership.
Otherwise, they become fake news, which is too cheap for such an outlet.
On the one hand, they argue that ‘in 1994 Mr Kagame was a necessary solution to a problem from hell…” and continue to outline many of his tremendous achievements. Such a description of President Kagame as a saviour of a hellish problem cannot at the same time be a problem.
This is a serious distortion of logic, facts, and an intentional contradiction of the reality on the ground which Rwandans know better as they were the victims of the hellish problem and now the beneficiaries of miraculous turnround of a country that all (including Rwandans) had no hope of being what it is today, at least not in mere two decades.
Taking for granted such miraculous achievements or even calling it another name for what they are not is an insult not only to our leadership, but also to Rwandans who are the ultimate beneficiaries.
But this doesn’t change the facts on the ground nor the spirit of Rwandans to do even more. In fact, this energises Rwandans and their leaders to do even more, for we owe it to ourselves anyway.
What happened in Rwanda doesn’t fit in the Western mindset of what Africans can do for themselves and by themselves. And so it remains an antithesis of African leadership and results thereof.
But so be it. It has served our interests beyond the remotest expectations and hope. In fact, what has taken place under the exemplary leadership of Paul Kagame is not only a miracle (which they allude to) but a realisation of hope or a wish by Rwandans.
To most Rwandans, heroic actions by President Kagame, starting from the war against the past sectarian and genocidal regime, a war that was lost on day one, only to restart at his initiative, distinguished him beyond comparability.
Those who recall the process of that very war against all odds one can imagine, saw him distinguish himself, not only among his peers, but also made him indispensable to our cause, then and now.
That he commanded and won a war against the combined forces of ex-FAR, and their French backers with all the resources at their disposal – human and material (financial) – was a humanly impossible mission by all standards.
Thus, an American defence observer, Colonel Richard Orth, rated President Kagame as ‘among the top’ military leaders in the world (He should have added; top civic leader of our time).
But this marked the beginning of his impeccable service to his country, and to many who had lost this very war in every sense, he remains an icon of our hope, hope against hope then, and hope during the 2017 election to most Rwandans.
The environment was even more hostile then, given the indoctrination Rwandans in the country had received from the then sectarian/regional leadership so much so that hatred sowed between the Tutsi and Hutu, was extremely difficult to imagine how a war would be waged, later on won under such conditions.
Kagame’s visionary leadership enabled the country to turn around, in a record time, and register the highest transformation of any country in recent times. His integrity and objectivity in nation building has earned him a character that no other Rwandan CV can match.
That no Rwandan, at least among our current crop of leaders, matches his qualities, and more so the fact that, most that have worked with him, have fallen far short of the aforementioned qualities makes his choice Godsend.
His overwhelming legitimacy and the respect he commands among Rwandans low and mighty, as well as among our foreign friends, puts to question the objectivity of foreigners in their assessment of everything Rwanda.
A few foreigners play with thematic words in their description of our development and governance for other contexts other than Rwanda so much so that our pace of development (social and economic), unity and reconciliation, security, equality, and unity of purpose as a nation is lost in their academic literary of Rwanda as a country and people.
That our leadership under President Kagame has been able to tame most evils typical of other African systems such as corruption, nepotism, tribalism, cronyism, the big-man mentality and through this impunity, as well as a sense of entitlement is no mean feat.
But these values are work in progress and, unless these become cultural norms/virtues of our national identity, they remain as vulnerable as the country’s progress itself in case of wrong choices.
They can only be sustained for our betterment if our choice is focused and understands the essence of these values. The choice of leadership that can sustain these and scale them up will be acceptable to Rwandans.
Thus, what is best for Rwanda and Rwandans given our context, past and present, is the rough text for our political choice in this and other elections ahead. Our choice has to be country specific in the extreme sense of the term as our environment has had extremes too, that any other choice/formula will not simply work.
Ours is a country out of emergency which has not yet ended. Wounds, be they social as well as economic, are just starting to heal, and this is a process.
A process that can only be sustained by sober leadership; for agents of the same horrendous past are still alive and kicking, and we can only lose sight of this if we have short memories. Most Rwandans don’t and will not.
In fact, it is these very negative elements, especially from the Diaspora, who, working with their western paymasters wished that President Kagame leaves in 2017.
These include past political failures and rejects of our system of accountability, as well as Genocide fugitives and their ilk.
Such groups cannot represent anybody except themselves, nor can they decide the destiny of 12 million law-abiding Rwandans who are steadily building their country, no matter how loud they seem to be in the agitation of reversal formula.
These are outliers of our society and are not stakeholders in the current political dispensation. They lost legitimacy among Rwandans and can only speak to uninformed foreigners.
What is ironic though is that those making noise about our political dispensation are non-Rwandans, misguided Rwandans, or Rwandans who had a hand in our tragic past, and have nothing to lose in our ‘tragic’ future if they were allowed to shape it.
But Rwandans learnt the hard way through heir terrible history that we alone had and still have to save ourselves. It is us who saved ourselves from ourselves when our ‘friends’ had left us to kill ourselves.
Who then has the audacity to tell us the choices to make? They all lost this very right when they abandoned their obligations to Rwandans at their hour of need in 1994!
The writer is an economic and financial expert based in Kigali.