WHILE the ongoing election campaigns have demonstrated unprecedented levels of political maturity attained by the Rwandan people, they equally have generated a lot of interest, both from those who have been genuinely captivated by Rwanda’s stunning success in virtually all areas of human endeavor, and the detractors whose view of the country has long been blinded their own politically driven resentment of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) led government.
Despite the hundreds of thousands of crowds that have been the defining feature, of, mainly, the RPF candidate, the campaigns have been incident free. As we read media reports about gun violence marking primary elections in a neighboring country, foreign journalists and observers are confounded by the peaceful campaigning in Rwanda, in spite of the overwhelming numbers.
While Paul Kagame has not missed any opportunity to campaign, as expected of any candidate anywhere, his rallies have pretty much looked like one huge celebration party after another. It’s a climax of the excitement that has been building up over the last seven years and the smiles on the faces of the people, forming the massive crowds at the RPF candidates rallies, show it all.
Every time the candidate arrives at his campaign venue, you can’t help but conclude that this is a moment everyone has been waiting for. The crowds have been so spontaneous and unrestrained, the fact that not a single incident of violence has occurred simply boggles the mind and goes a long way to demonstrate that the Rwandan people know exactly what is in their interest. They know where they are going and they are not looking back.
As has been the case with other events and processes in post-Genocide Rwanda, this campaign season has generated quite some debate, not among the Rwandan people, to whom the process belongs but from foreign commentators and detractors.
As I browsed one of those digital networks, recently, my attention was drawn to some exchange between two foreign subscribers, around the issue of the elections in Rwanda. Someone on the network posted a cynical view contending that Paul Kagame’s campaign rallies have witnessed extra-ordinary numbers because the voters are forced, by local leaders, against their will, to attend the rallies.
A reader on the same platform begged to differ and asked the cynic to take another look. His position was that while it is possible to coerce a few people into appearing at some campaign venue, there is no way such enormous crowds would be forced to attend any function, much less a political rally.
And besides, he went on, if the government succeeded in manipulating such massive presence, it simply wouldn’t be able to force all those radiant smiles on the faces of the multitudes who attended Kagame’s campaign rallies.
Cameras, as they say, don’t lie and you don’t need a psychologist to discern that what is happening at the RPF candidate’s campaign rallies is monumental.
The massive turn out and the smiling faces that have characterized Paul Kagame’s campaign is not only their expression of support and appreciation for what they have achieved in the last seven years, but is also the people of Rwanda’s answer to those who have sought to undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process in the country.
Indeed, in the end, it is their elections and it is the people of this country who determine the credibility and legitimacy of their own processes. And going by the numbers and the happy crowds, the critics and the detractors have got their answer.
At the other end of the campaign line up, the other contending parties have put up a spirited campaign performance and are probably doing better than they expected.
Their highly motivated and energetic campaign rallies must have served as a rude shock to those who have sought to portray them as political organizations working to facilitate RPF victory. Indeed the parties contending against the RPF, specifically Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Liberal Party (PL) are not a new phenomenon in this country.
Nor are they some sort of obscure outfits imposed on the Rwandan people. They were first formed inside the country in 1991, and they fought street battles with the Habyarimana regime and Interahamwe militia, as they worked to challenge the fascist regime.
To suggest that such parties would be expending all that energy to benefit someone else, is not only misleading, but is also an insult to the multitudes of their committed supporters and adherents.
We have, this year, witnessed sustained efforts on the part of certain foreign interests to impose political parties on the Rwandan people, a project that has not succeeded. It is these forces that have turned around to label PSD and PL as RPF stooges.
There is a history of imposition of political parties by foreign forces on the Rwandan people and it is the kind of experience that the Rwandans wouldn’t want to endure again.
In his book, “De la Féodalité à la Démocratie, 1955 – ‘62”, Col. Guy Logiest, the last Belgian Colonial Administrator in Rwanda, arrogantly details how Democratic Republican Movement (MDR) was a Roman Catholic – Belgian Colonial government creation. The rest, as the world now knows, is the history of the genocide against the Tutsi.