The campaign season is here, Rwanda is heating up and the four candidates are promising us things as varied as “increasing teachers’ salaries, boosting cooperatives, increasing women’s’ participation in decision-making and economic development”.
All these pledges are great and I cannot fault any of the contestants. But in all honesty, I cannot see past the Rwanda Patriotic Front candidate, Paul Kagame.
While all the candidates have talked to us, I want to use this pulpit to talk to them. By the time the winning candidate finishes their term of office in 2017, I will have hit my middle-age, along with all that it entails. In Rwanda that usually means a wife, children and a mortgage on your home.
I’ve seen this country change in incredible ways since I first arrived here in December 1994. Where once I wasn’t allowed to play because my father thought landmines existed now sprout glorious gardens and pathways.
Where shelled out building once existed are now replaced with artsy restaurants, like the one I’m writing this column from. This development isn’t something I take for granted in any sort of way, unlike some people in and outside our country.
It was very touch and go just after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and I always experience wonderment whenever I walk these Kigali streets without a sense of apprehension. I feel fortunate that when and if I ever have children I will be able to let them run and tumble wherever they choose.
For this, I must give credit to the RPF. They did not only put their lives on the line to stop the Genocide, but they have also rebuilt a country from the ground up and made it an ideal tourist and investment destination.
Every parent wants to give their children opportunities they never had and I will not be any different. The Rwanda that my children will be raised in is one I’ve imagined many a time.
The Rwanda that I want to bequeath my children is one where their mother and I won’t have to travel to either South Africa or Kenya to give birth to them because we are afraid that, in case of unexpected complications, the doctors aren’t trained enough to save the situation.
While our hospitals have certainly made huge strides, they still face challenges. I will vote for the candidate that promises to increase funding in health infrastructure. Looking at the records of the candidates, I cannot see beyond Mr Kagame.
While the United States was debating a healthcare bill that they called ‘historic’, we here in Rwanda had a system of national health insurance called “Mutuelle de Sante”.
So far, under this scheme, more than 90 percent of the population has health insurance. When the local leaders were presenting their performance contracts to President Kagame, earlier this year, they committed to making sure that all Rwandans have health insurance. Kagame, is the kind of person who will follow up on such commitments, proving to me that healthcare for all is priority to him.
And, when he recently announced that both primary and secondary education will be free, the future only gets brighter. The 9-year Basic Education for All was recently introduced and people had doubt about its practicability – no classrooms to accommodate the new students.
However, every one joined hands and classrooms started springing up across the country. Today, the drop-out rates have gone down, enrollment has shot up, more students are joining secondary school. According to the Ministry of Education, school enrollment rate is close to 100 per cent.
To many, that would be satisfactory, to Kagame, 9 years of free Education is not enough. He wants 12.
Having been a growing boy once, I know just how much food they can tuck away. In fact, I still think it’s a minor miracle that my parents could afford to keep me well fed.
One of the largest expenses in Rwanda today is food. I guess it’s simply demand and supply. With our growing population and static land area, something has to give. Or does it?
I believe that mans’ ingenuity can solve this problem. The current government has spent heavily on improving agriculture, both in quality and quantity. Just by looking at the surplus production being reported by farmers, the expenditure is already bearing fruit – another of the many steps in the right direction.
Lastly, I want to raise my children in a Rwanda where the threat of exile and death is nonexistent. While this dream is being realised day by day, I want to give my children the assurance that never will they have to face the indignity of being called “refugee” and told to “go home”.
Politicians caused my family’s exile in 1959 and politicians today have the responsibility to ensure that ‘exile’ is a word removed from the Rwandan lexicon.
There is only one candidate I trust with my children’s future, and that is the incumbent, President Paul Kagame. Why?
By looking at his track record, in the last seven years, I have no doubt that another term of office will not only do my children good, but the children of every parent in the country.