On the campaign trail with Paul Kagame

‘Ye people of bad faith,’ Kagame continues to rebuke critics who refuse to believe that Rwandans are capable of making a free choice, even when the evidence is overwhelming.I am in a religious mood this week.
‘Oh, ye people of bad faith’
‘Oh, ye people of bad faith’

‘Ye people of bad faith,’ Kagame continues to rebuke critics who refuse to believe that Rwandans are capable of making a free choice, even when the evidence is overwhelming.

I am in a religious mood this week. Who wouldn’t be after seeing the adulation of the crowds at the RPF rallies?

Who would not be lifted by the spirit of thanksgiving that fills the air at every rally? Testimony after testimony, those made publicly and those shared privately between individuals, all speak of deliverance from a host of ills. They also firmly believe they are on the road to the Promised Land.

The people have been delivered from abject poverty and divisive politics. Their zest for life has been rekindled because they see a bright future, not the one promised by politicians, but one they are fashioning for themselves because they have been freed from the cares of day-to-day survival and can now plan ahead.

The confidence in the future is expressed in the size of the crowds and the spontaneous joy of the people. Take Gicumbi, for instance, the crowd was bigger than any you would get at a campaign rally anywhere in the world. That is not surprising.

In a survey carried out early this year, residents of the district expressed the highest level of satisfaction with government’s performance in nearly all areas. It showed in their turn up and enthusiasm.

It also showed in the stories of other individuals at the rally. One man, Juvenal Habimana, in his late forties, said in all his life he had never seen a president in the flesh until Kagame became president.

“Kagame visits us in our sectors. He is not some far-off president whose voice we hear on the radio, or whom we never see as was the case in the past,” he said.

Habimana’s joy in seeing the president in the flesh was shared by Mukeshimana who was excited at seeing Paul Kagame dance.

“He dances like us. He is just like any of us,” she said, clearly elated by her discovery that Kagame is just as human as the ordinary people of Gicumbi.
These sentiments were echoed by an old woman in Bugesera who was so delighted at greeting him that she said, “We are happy we have seen our son. He is really Rwandan. God bless him.”

Many others boasted to their friends, “I shook his hand”; or “I danced with him.” Clearly for most of them it was a once in a lifetime experience.

These sentiments are not the expressions of a population living in fear. It is hardly the response to the “strong man” or “flawed hero” the western media is keen to label Kagame. The response is rather one of satisfaction with the present and confidence in their future which they want to ensure by re-electing Kagame.

Yet the western media continues to refuse to see this aspect of Rwandan life, or to believe what they see.  Instead they opt to sound warnings of instability, fear and lack of democracy.

The false alarm raisers are the usual suspects. Carina Tertsakian of Human Rights Watch (she of the forged papers) makes the usual shrill noises, which are picked up by reporters as authoritative assessments of the situation in Rwanda. “There is no democratic space in Rwanda

People are afraid. They are scared,” she shrieks like a demon. Not the ones I have seen across the country. Not the ones who leave their homes as early as 3.00 a.m in the morning to walk to Kagame’s rallies. She must be speaking of other people, in a different country. She speaks and writes out of spite. Obviously her comments can only be in bad faith.

The other is the organisation with so much hatred for Rwanda that its vision is blurred. Reporters Without Borders say that, “Rwandan authorities are openly flouting the rules of the democratic game.”

Which ones, when the people are freely making their choice and prepared to show it? Perhaps Reporters Without Borders should be renamed ‘between truth and lies’ as their full name, since they are acting out of pique.

Other writers pick up the trend. Matteo Fagotto, writing in the Observer, August 1, 2010, is still skeptical of Kagame’s appeal to the electorate, even after getting confirmation from one of the presidential candidates.

He quotes Dr Alivera Mukabaramba, the PPC candidate, as telling him it is difficult to beat Kagame. “He has done so well for the country, rebuilding it from scratch after putting an end to the bloodiest page in our history,” she told him.

At the rally in Kicukiro on August 3, an American woman, clearly impressed by what she had seen and heard, wanted to find out the reaction of a European reporter of one of the news agencies. She said, “very impressive, don’t you think?” The reporter put on a gloomy face, mumbled, “no comment” and turned away. What she had seen did not suit her preconceived idea of life in Rwanda.

Half the story in most foreign media is about the current event. The other half is taken up by two things. One, it is a recap of past events, many of them already resolved or in the process of resolution.

They are clearly no longer news. But, in a deceitful way, they are presented as if they were still current. They deliberately continue to undermine Rwanda’s efforts at reconciliation by constantly harping on the ethnic divide, ethnic tensions and sometimes presenting Rwandans as if they were composed of distinct nationalities.

So, who is flouting the rules of the democratic game or violating human rights? Obviously the ones who distort the reality and subvert the truth; the ones driven by hatred, spite and bad faith. One can only hope that they are not beyond redemption and that one day a Pauline miracle may happen.

jorwagatare@yahoo.co.uk

 

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