When the presidential campaigns kicked off three weeks ago, the international media descended on Kigali to relay to the rest of the world what, to them, was another chaotic and violent election season on the African continent.
However, from the comfort of the safe hotels of Rwanda, western media crews increasingly grew frustrated, whining about a lack of ‘a typical African election story’.
These ‘seasoned’ journalists freely traversed the whole country in a desperate search for a negative perspective to what they found to be a disappointingly unAfrican electoral process.
To some, the understanding was that, this being ‘undemocratic’ Africa of naturally divided communities, bloody violence was certain.
To others, a peaceful electoral season was a far-fetched idea in a country which lost one million people in a genocide just 16 years ago, after enduring decades of ethnically based and sharply polarizing politics.
The country still had hordes of exiled fugitives, genocide deniers and their sympathizers predicting doom. To them, and indeed to the rest of the cynical world, there was no way a nonviolent campaign was going to take place.
Some tried so hard, in vain, to find evidence that corroborates the allegations by the now disgraced ill-intentioned politicians.
Frustrated with the way Rwandans were instead enthusiastic and positive about the opportunity to exercise their democratic right – instead of going for each other’s throats – the western media resorted to recycling old allegations of government violence against dissenters.
In a typical case of journalistic recklessness, the BBC reproduced the same allegations in what it marketed as a ‘BBC Investigation’. Some referred to these same accusations as ‘Special Report’.
Others attempted to distort facts related to a recent decision by the Media High Council to release a list of media outlets that had complied with the new media law.
Some international media organs and watchdogs shamelessly reported that the Council had closed down as many as 30 media organs. And, in an effort to drive their point home, they linked the supposed ban to the ongoing electoral process.
Make no mistake, these organizations know very well that there has never been such a ban, and that more and more media organs have since been added to the list after complying with the new Media Law.
Laws are public documents; and in the case of Rwanda, you can always download them on the internet. Anyone who cares will easily find out that the MHC was actually more than six months late to publish the list.
Credit to Rwandans, though, who have done what some of these individuals didn’t expect and possibly wouldn’t want to see in the New Rwanda.
The extraordinary turnouts of excited and beaming ordinary Rwandans at the multiparty campaign rallies was an outright rejection of the likes of Victoire Ingabire and their political ideology.
More importantly, that the campaigns concluded without an incident is a clear message that Rwandans, know what is best for them and that no one will dictate it on them.
That is their best way of hitting back at detractors and, from the look of things, they will happily deliver the blow time and time again.
They have done it during the campaigns and I’ve no doubt they do it today by voting in large numbers. I watched in delight as my ageing and ailing aunt told me the other day that she has to cut her visit short and return to the village to cast her ballot.
Reports about excited Rwandans in the Diaspora who travelled long distances on Sunday to vote (the Diaspora constituency voted yesterday since they wouldn’t get a holiday on Monday) show how much the people of this nation are determined more than ever to shape their own future.
They treasure their identity; and are wary and suspicious of foreigners who are hell bent on forcing a certain future down their throats.
The fact that there was virtually no campaigning of any form across the country yesterday, as the law requires, is telling. It is an indication that Rwandans want to be law-abiding citizens, and will not turn against their own laws to appease anybody.