Rwanda is under serious scrutiny due to the upcoming presidential elections, it is criticised for not having democracy in the western mould as if democracy is something you can wish into existence.
One cannot judge a nation’s democracy by a presidential election alone, one must look at all levels of government and the society itself. It is as if the critics want a democracy imposed from the top-down and from the outside.
That concept has never worked in any country in history, there has to be a growth of democratic principles from a grassroots level upwards, otherwise it is like dragging a cow to the river because you cannot force it to drink.
When one looks at Rwanda, it is more democratic than people give it credit for, many decisions affecting people’s lives have been devolved to lower levels of government.
Local and regional government leaders are held to account for their decisions and given targets by their voters, they also sign performance contracts.
In the recent parliamentary elections, women, independents, and minor parties got an equitable share of the vote in free and fair elections.
However, the presidential elections have been seen in a different light because the western media wants to see a traditional western-style election.
We will eventually see the democracy at local and regional level percolate upwards to the highest level of government, but this requires ordinary Rwandans to be educated in democratic principles.
Democracy is not just a concept for politics exclusively, it is a way of life, fathers must listen to their children, mothers as well; neighbours must learn to express themselves in a democratic and consensual way.
A president cannot impose democratic values on an undemocratic society and neither can a president stop true democratic values developing in a society that really believes in them.
When Paul Kagame said it is not his job to create an opposition, he was right, he cannot copy Mobutu. When Mobutu was accused of running a one-party state he went and created some 300 parties.
All the unregistered parties are blocked in an entirely constitutional way, therefore the critics should look to the constitution which has strict limits on the type of party, candidate and system Rwandans can vote for.
A party like FDU-Inkingi is not based on policy but on the genocide idealogy We need serious development of political parties, political thinking and politicians. Without the option of tribal politics there is little that unregistered opposition parties can offer.
Rama Isibo is a social commentator