Methinks the drums of chaos-prediction are dying down. Advocacy and media hounds of the world are clicking their tongues in disappointment.
There may be one still whimpering here and there, but the overblown balloon of noises like “Tense atmosphere!”, “Pre-election violence!”, “Climate of fear!” or “Freedoms curbed!” is slowly but surely deflating.
The self-proclaimed protectors of Rwandans’ rights who have been predicting doom can now move on in hopeful search of another likely victim of pre-election violence.
And while those prophets of doom are at it, Rwandans can have the chance to concentrate on scrutinising what is on offer for them, in the manifestoes of the four parties that have fielded candidates.
Which candidate personifies their hope and heads the party that best answers to their needs and aspirations?
Rwandans know that during the last 16 years, they made great progress in education.
Not only are their children provided with free primary education but they also, as parents and communities, can go to school, technical colleges and higher institutions of learning any time they choose.
Girls and special-needs people have been sensitised to join fields in education that they erstwhile thought were beyond them, like science and technology. Primary and secondary schools, as well as higher-learning institutions, have grown in number and are ICT-empowered.
Which candidate heads the party that promises more?
Life expectancy, which was a mere 43 years in 1994, has risen to 53 years and infant mortality fallen by 70%. Infections from malaria, water-borne diseases and HIV have fallen and health insurance today covers 94% of the population.
Now an ambulance is an SMS away, for any expectant mother, and the number of health centres has multiplied, together with their corresponding doctors and nurses, as well as health-awareness officers.
Rwandans must look out for the party that will maintain these and offer more.
As a country that was practically killed by the 1994 genocide, Rwanda can give itself a good account of its recovery effort. With over 1 million of the perpetrators tried and many released and re-integrated back into society, Rwandans are now working as a united people.
The justice sector has undergone a complete restructuring and more judges have been trained and over 100 new courts built to expedite court cases. These, together with local mediation services for simple cases and a streamlined justice system, should see Rwandans access justice more easily.
Which party will lead them in this?
As a small country mostly dependent on agriculture, Rwanda has embarked on using its land optimally. Crop intensification programmes and a co-operative system of buying crops from farmers and extending credit are among the initiatives adopted to drive the effort.
Also, crop cultivation has been diversified. There are plans to provide at least one tractor per village and to completely mechanise agriculture. To eradicate malnutrition and hunger, irrigation farming has been introduced and there are programmes like the one providing a cow to every family (Girinka Programme).
Who can be trusted to deliver on such programmes?
From $220, the average earnings of a Rwandan have climbed to $560. This has been made possible by promoting initiatives that demonstrate the value of hard work to Rwandans.
There are efforts to promote small and medium-size enterprises through provision of credit, to diversify by venturing into new products, to strengthen the private sector and to increase government domestic funding of development projects and cut on government expenditure.
Rwandans should go for the party that can promote, and add on, such initiatives.
Even with the few incidents of the past months, there is no denying the fact that Rwanda today enjoys unprecedented peace. No doubt, this can partly be attributed to the fact that responsibility for security has been devolved to the people and that local initiatives are encouraged.
Yet again, it may be mainly because Rwanda maintains a disciplined police force and army. Still, all that would come to naught if there was the smallest tolerance of corruption and impunity, and if there were no efforts to ensure the good health and better living standards of members of the law-keeping forces.
ICT being the main focus of government for long-term development, it has pervaded all state departments and the country is influential on ICT global issues. Mobile telephony and the Internet are king, and kilometres of fibre-optic cables are racing to cover the whole country.
There are plans to cover the country with a network of permanent roads, to provide all villages with electricity and to put up constructions that are built strictly according to plan.
Most ambitiously, there are plans to build a railway that will connect with the Isaka inland port of Tanzania, not to mention a modern international airport in Bugesera.
Indeed, all the above-mentioned are lofty ambitions and can only be achieved with the co-operation of neighbours and other friends.
That is why Rwanda strives to cultivate an image of a respected partner and is quick to contribute to the peace of other countries, wherever its contribution is thus required.
Who is the candidate, and which is the party, that can articulate the spirit of Rwanda?
Some are time-tested, some are not, who?