On Sunday, the curtain will come down on the presidential campaigns. Up to 5.2 million Rwandans will on August 9 cast their ballot.
The Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) has introduced Rwandans to the world of conscious democracy, and the latter seem determined not to disappoint.
In a previous article, I argued that Rwandans have demonstrated a level of political maturity by choosing to value candidates’ manifestos and track records and not their ethnicity.
The candidates, too, have soberly focused on telling the electorate how they would ensure that the ‘Rwanda Inc’ continues to thrive. This healthy competition embodies what Rwandans have for long desired for, and offers a strong belief that the kind of homeland we all wish for our children is, after all, achievable and fast-approaching. It’s a dream Rwandans will never stop chasing. It’s a path they are determined to tread at any cost.
The closer we get to, the all-important, Monday’s poll, the more the international media gets lost amidst what seems to be a two-faced and self-defeating international opinion on Rwanda.
The Guardian on Sunday ran an article under the title, ‘Wary Rwandans choose strongman Paul Kagame – and peace – over democracy.’ The title misrepresented the accounts of the ordinary people who the author seemed to have spoken to. Despite all that he heard from the people, and saw on the ground, the author was still caught up in the stereotype that nothing good comes out of Africa, as he attempted to twist ordinary people’s accounts.
Yet he concedes that the incumbent, President Kagame, is hugely revered across the country and that he is expected to win this race “as smoothly as in 2003, when he gained more than 95% of the votes”.
In the article, ordinary Rwandans give crystal-clear reasons why they want Kagame to carry on, including the prevailing peace and stability, unprecedented economic boom, free nine-year education, public health insurance, free anti-retroviral medication for people living with HIV, ‘one cow per family’ programme, efficient public service, negligible corruption levels, among others.
Despite these accounts, however, the writer goes on to claim that Kagame would be voted back into power because Rwandans are wary of what may happen without him. He points to the detention of an opposition figure, the unfortunate deaths of a politician and a journalist, and an ongoing court case against Victoire Ingabire.
He ignores the fact that suspects have been arrested in connection with the two murders, and that some have confessed. He continently ignores that a UN panel of experts blacklisted Ingabire as having links with a Rwandan genocidal/terrorist group. Some of her accomplices have also confessed. Instead, he explains these incidents as a sign of lack of democracy.
In the same breath, though, the writer acknowledges that the Rwandan leadership is ‘efficient’ and that ‘corruption is rare’.
Such people attribute these successes to strict enforcement of the country’s laws by holding public-office holders to account. On one hand, they all praise Kagame for enforcing a zero-tolerance policy to corruption, while on the other hand they spiritedly defend people who break the law.
The big question is who’s consistent here? The one who does not tolerate impunity of any nature, or one who supports justice today and impunity the next?
Second, the argument that Rwandans support the incumbent because they’re scared of what might happen without him in charge, speaks volumes It’s not strange that voters anywhere in the world will elect someone they think is capable of delivering the future they aspire for. And the people of Rwanda are no exception. They cherish and are progressively building a violence-free Rwanda; one that embraces all Rwandans equally.
That we’re Rwandans, our aspirations for the future do not get any inferior to those of British, French, German and other western voters who have previously barred politicians with extremist ideologies from entering elective offices.
Rwandans aspire to live together in harmony, to move forward as a nation, and to guard their pride and dignity.
For this, I have no doubt they will get down to make their choice with such ease. They know their man is not two-faced, and that international cynics are.