When Rwandans rebuked detractors

The election is over and Rwandans have spoken in the most unequivocal way. Last Friday, August 4, they chose their president in a landslide vote. President Paul Kagame has been re-elected as predicted even by those who do not like him.

The election is over and Rwandans have spoken in the most unequivocal way. Last Friday, August 4, they chose their president in a landslide vote.

President Paul Kagame has been re-elected as predicted even by those who do not like him.

His re-election, while never in doubt, was not taken for granted. That is why he campaigned tirelessly throughout the country; lives of Rwandans matter to him and guaranteeing that they live well today and in the future has been his business for a long time.

It is also the reason the RPF Inkotanyi invested heavily in the campaign. There are important lessons to be drawn from this election, especially for outsiders.

As he said in his victory speech, the victory is not his alone, or for the RPF, but for all Rwandans. It is at once the expression and fulfilment of their aspirations, and affirmation of their independence and right to choose.

In this sense the victory is a resounding rebuke to detractors and doubters who had come out with threats and insults, bared claws and daggers. In normal circumstances this should silence them.

But it will not and we have not heard the last of them. Indeed, they have already begun questioning the massive turn up at the polls and the magnitude of victory, and are busy ascribing all manner of reasons to it, except, of course, the real one.

That is their nature. They cannot cope with good news coming out of Africa.

Rwandans chose stability, continuity and progress. They approved what they see and experience daily that addresses their problems and promises a future they can well imagine and are confident they will reach.

They were least bothered by abstract notions peddled by some elements in the media and so-called experts, and all who hide behind them.

Even assuming that they have the best of intentions, it is difficult to trust the judgement of such media and experts on election matters. In recent times, they have consistently made the wrong call in elections even in their own countries, which shows they are out of touch with real people and real situations.

And so, Rwandans ignored the din, barking dogs and all, and went about making their choice peacefully but decisively.

They also displayed political maturity and common decency that is lacking among the self-appointed custodians of democracy and their high priests.

One such instance is the coming together of different political parties to back the RPF candidate. In other places they would probably have ganged up against him to oust him.

Not so here. The overriding objective is not simply attaining political power, but rather the well-being of Rwandans and the unity and prosperity of the nation.

Another is the way Rwandan voters showed respect to all presidential candidates, even those purporting to present an alternative vision for the country, although they really had none.

Admittedly President Kagame pulled the largest crowds because of his record. But the people listened to the others and then decided there was nothing for them in the messages they heard.

They did not heckle them or throw rotten eggs or tomatoes at them. They made their voices heard by voting their choice.

The other two candidates conceding defeat is not common in this part of the world. Knowing when one is defeated and accepting it is never a sign of weakness. It is the recognition of a fact which no amount of protest or violence will alter. It takes courage and humility, but it is necessary among decent people.

Then there was the conduct of the campaign and election. It was an entirely Rwandan operation. It was financed by Rwandans. Election materials were made in Rwanda. Young Rwandan volunteers (over 70,000), distinguished by their courtesy and efficiency, assisted the National Electoral Commission in running a faultless operation. Their enthusiasm, dedication and efficiency are a hopeful sign for Rwanda’s future.

Nothing can best the sheer enthusiasm and determination to cast one’s vote. What can one say about an elderly woman who arrived at the polling station long before polling opened and slept on the bench so as not to miss her chance to vote for her favoured candidate? Or the man who arrived at 1.30 in the morning to make sure that he cast his vote early?

That was their answer to all the cynics and sceptics, and naysayers.

Yet, this is also what these groups fail or refuse to see – that Rwandans want their own space and the right to do what suits them in that space. They refuse to be defined by others or occupy space allotted them. They reject a narrative created for them and insist on telling their own story. Apparently that is a sin.

A final lesson to scholars and experts on Rwanda. Stop coming here loaded with models and theories of governance, and imposing them on the country and expecting it will fit nicely.

What if it was done differently – gather the facts on Rwanda, in the country and on what actually exists, factor in their context and then construct a model, if you must. It would even be better proof of your scholarship.

Before that happens, Rwandans will continue doing what suits them and ignore all advice given in bad faith or lessons based on arrogance or ignorance.


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