RWANDANS from all the Districts in Rwanda and the Diaspora have joined Nyamirambo in electing Kagame to a second seven year term Patrick. I trust you have heard the news. Nyamirambo was empty on the 9th of August.
All of us had gone to the Amahoro stadium, to await the results of the elections, not to celebrate victory even before the results were known as some malicious people have claimed.
This is normal practice the World over, as you and I know Patrick. Supporters gather to await the results of an election. Some do it at party Headquarters.
We chose to do it at the Stadium. And the mood was celebratory. We celebrated the running of a very successful campaign. We celebrated the enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands that turned up to meet the RPF candidate – and the celebrations almost turned riotous when the results from the Rwandans in the Diaspora were announced – with Kagame winning 96% of the vote.
When Kagame arrived, the normally taciturn Rwandan crowd erupted in celebration. The official program was jettisoned because the Master of Ceremonies failed to get himself heard. Spontaneous eruptions of joy went on for hours. Nothing like this has ever been seen at the Stadium. Not when the Amavubi football club are in action, not when popular international music stars perform, not when the stadium hosts a fervent prayer convention. That it happened in reaction to the arrival of a politician is astounding.
Think about this for a moment Patrick. I know what your friends are bound to say about the elections in Rwanda. It is standard fare I have heard about elections in Rwanda and Africa in general. They will say people had no real choice and that they were coerced to vote.
Well, the Rwandans who travelled by boat, by air, by road and by train to cast their votes in Sweden, the UK, South Korea, Germany, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, and the rest of the 25 countries where they voted clearly had a choice.
They could have stayed home and got on with their lives in what is by all accounts, a very hectic life in the countries they currently live. Who coerced the thousands of Rwandans who lined up to vote in Kampala? No Patrick.
These Rwandans in the Diaspora are like those of us in Nyamirambo who flocked to the polls. We did so because we knew we had a choice, and because we had candidates we believed in. We were coerced to the polls, not by the police or the authorities, but by our very strong democratic impulses.
Then the results. 96% of the vote for Kagame in the Diaspora. Over 92% of the vote inside in Rwanda. Turn up over 97% in many districts. Figures do not lie Patrick.
Although I know liars sometimes do figure, as some of your friends have done, they all should pause and reflect on these figures. In many countries, a turn up of 60% of eligible voters is considered extraordinary. An electoral result arising out of a 40% turn up is valid.
In Rwanda, almost the entire electorate turned up to cast their vote. And they did so peacefully and with the discipline Rwandans are famous for. They wanted their voices heard. They have spoken Patrick. You ignore their voice at your own peril.
The negative spin from your friends has begun and will probably reach a crescendo in the coming weeks. I have heard the most extraordinary explanation of the Kagame landslide from some of them.
That the RPF’s opponents were indistinguishable from the RPF, so voters decided to go for the original not the photocopy. Amazing! But if this was true, why bother to turn up for the vote in the first place? Why wake up at three am, as thousands did, to take part in a charade?
This was a secret ballot Patrick. Nobody was forced to vote for President Kagame. Ask the thousands of observers, local and internationally, who witnessed the vote.
And then the mood. Did you see it Patrick? Our polling stations looked like wedding venues. We, the people, decorated them. We prepared tea and snacks for the sick, the elderly, and the pregnant who turned up to vote. Nyamirambo women wove mats to decorate the venues.
We dressed up to fulfill our civic duties. In some districts, beautiful young women gave out flowers to the voters. You would have enjoyed yourself immensely had you been present in Rwanda for this historic vote.
Did I tell you we have a cool Mufti? He really is. It is rare to find a combination of youth, development, piety, and clarity of vision in one individual. We are lucky to have him. Well Patrick, our Mufti, and other religious leaders spent the month mobilizing their followers to pray for the electoral process.
Thousands turned up for these inter denominational prayers. They invoked God’s benediction on the country and its democratic process. Nobody coerced them to do so. They did it because it is the right thing for any patriot, concerned about the greater good and not his or her own well being, to do.
You call for war Patrick, in the safety of a South African refuge. The religious community prayed for peace, because their families and the families of millions of Rwandans require and demand peace.
They are interested in leaders who enable the faithful put food on the table for their families, money in the bank for a rainy day, hospitals for the sick and schools for children.
Gluttony and selfishness are anathema to them, fit only for Dante’s third circle of hell with its everlasting rain, cursed, cold and heavy. Of the people you associate with, why don’t you choose our cool Mufti and his fellow religious leaders?
They are much better than Theogene Rudasingwa who confesses to stealing an election (Jesus wept), or editors of tabloids known for a very thin and tangential relationship to the truth and best known for gutter journalism.
President Kagame has been given an overwhelming mandate by the citizens of Rwanda. I told you from the very beginning, that these are the only people who matter.
Not the foreign analysts and journalists, and not the self declared experts of things Rwandan. Given his record, I know he will use this mandate judiciously. You should see my inbox Patrick. Rwandans are incensed at your call for war.
They wonder how an individual can invoke the protection of an African State to advocate for an extra constitutional removal of an elected African Head of State. They want me to tell you they have spent their own resources following Kagame on his campaign trail because they believe in him and the vision he has laid out for the country.
They have made the calculation that this vision is good for their own pockets. When you cry murder most foul, they are mad at the effrontery to tarnish him and the RPF with unsubstantiated allegations, many of them reflective of the mindset of sires Bruguiere and that Spanish Judge with an unpronounceable name.
If you want change, you will have to lay out a better vision for Rwanda than the RPF has. I don’t envy you your task. I suspect you will have a very hard time doing so – and you will have to be patient for at least seven years - because Rwandans have sent President Kagame back to Urugwiro village for the next seven years.
And they have done so joyfully, deliriously so, with their voting thumbs yes, but also in song, dance, and celebration.