Why Rwandans get a lot of stick for doing right

No two realities of the same country can be more markedly different. One is the reality lived by Rwandans over the last two decades. It is a visible and measurable reality of the progress they have made.

No two realities of the same country can be more markedly different.

One is the reality lived by Rwandans over the last two decades. It is a visible and measurable reality of the progress they have made.

Statistics that measure it abound, collected, not only by Rwandans, but also by neutral and reputable international organisations.

If you don’t trust statistics, as some do, selectively, saying that in Rwanda’s case they are cooked but without giving evidence of the raw ones, there is the physical evidence of progress that should convince you.

The second reality (it is really fantasy) is one that negates the first, and has been created for Rwanda by people living far from her borders, but whose wish is to deny the undeniable fact of progress the country has made.

This alternative reality has been around for as long as the new Rwanda has been in existence. In all that time, the narrative of its creators has not changed, which shows disdain, laziness and lack of imagination, but is also proof that it is all made up.

Invariably it goes like this. Rwanda is ruled by an authoritarian regime. People are gagged and cannot say what they think. Political space is closed and tightly controlled. Donor money is used to prop up a dictatorship.

All the talk of satisfaction with the way they are governed and the confidence they have in their leaders and government institutions cannot be trusted because it is the result of fear. And the much touted progress – in economic growth, doing business, competitiveness, effective governance, education and healthcare, and a host of others – is fake. Donor money is used to perpetuate a falsehood.

The voices of fantasy become more strident at election time. It seems they are intended to counter the unbounded enthusiasm and celebratory mood of citizens at the campaign rallies of Mr Paul Kagame who is the target of all the fabricated narrative.

If that is the intention, it has not worked. The crowds at rallies grow bigger. A festival atmosphere envelops the whole country and cannot be suppressed.

There is also a condescending tone and threat behind all this. The voices say: You Rwandans are incapable of making the gains you claim without our support, and if you don’t behave, we shall cut it off.

I don’t think they are having much luck with their intended foreign audiences either. There is no fresh or credible evidence to back their wild claims. They are the same ones they have presented for over two decades, complete with wrong or outdated information. The source of most of the drivel is from the same discredited individuals and organisations.

Which leads one to ask. Why does Rwanda and her leaders cause so much irritation in some quarters and repeatedly get vilified for doing right?

I think one reason is pique. Another is that Rwanda challenges the conventional western view of an African country and their assumed monopoly to efficiency and good governance. They are doing some remarkably good things that apparently they have no right to be doing without the guidance and permission of the powerful.

Rwandans have ignored the tellers of fantasy stories and gone about rebuilding the country very much on their own terms, based on the assessment of their needs and what has to be done.

It goes back to the immediate post-genocide period. Usually in post conflict situations, an army of relief agencies descends on a country offering help in what they think are the urgent areas, even if the local people think differently. If unchecked, they end up carving the country into exclusive areas of operation, sideline local authorities, and turn the people into beggars dependent on charity hand-outs.

The Government of Rwanda rejected this approach to rebuilding and indeed asked many of these groups to leave. They have never forgiven Rwanda.

Post conflict countries are equally attractive to democracy builders. Various foreign foundations and institutions set up shop in the country. They pour a lot of money into the democracy-building project.  They organise numerous workshops. They often target people outside government, especially young people, and those in civil society organisation, many of which they help set up.

The aim is simple: create a cadre instilled with a model of democracy from its instructors and urge them to install the same in their country regardless of local realities. Another aim is to manufacture a political opposition to the government of the day.

Again Rwanda chose to follow a different path, reflecting the unique historical and political context of the country, and dispensed with the sermons on democracy from outsiders.

So Rwandans get a lot of stick for being big-headed and refusing to follow a path chosen for them, but striking out independently. They get hit for insisting on being the principal actors in making choices about matters that concern them.

That’s why all the daggers are out at this moment when they are about to elect their president.

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