President Paul Kagame has never minced his words when criticizing the West for looking away when the Tutsi were systematically being wiped out during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“I have heard friends, very good friends of Rwanda come to me and advise me, I know they mean well, to advise me that when I am talking about powerful countries, I should be careful.
I am not going to be careful...” He told the fully packed Amahoro national stadium in 2004, during the 10th anniversary of the Genocide.
Kagame’s relationship with the international community kicked off to a bumpy start.
16 years down the road, it is still rough.
But, President Kagame’s battles were elsewhere.
Seven years ago, Rwanda population was under 9 million - with an estimated 250,000 living with HIV/Aids (UNAIDS), tens of thousands more in jail for committing the genocide, and considering that close to a million – mainly adult working people - had already lost their lives to the Genocide, things looked bleak.
The country had one of the lowest life expectancies in the world.
According to the World Health Organisation statistics, Rwandans expected to live to only 39 years.
With extreme poverty levels and illiteracy at 36% the President made improving the lives of the Rwandan people his first priority.
Kagame had indeed inherited a chronic battle - poverty.
There was no doubt that there was a risk Mr Kagame had become a captain of a ship that for many years has been stuck in the icy waters with the crew and passengers surviving by sheer luck.
He had earlier, brilliantly, led a force that ended the 1994 Genocide. As commander, his military credentials will remain to be respected in Rwanda, Africa and beyond.
But, fighting poverty was yet another frontline.
After seven years, the battle is evidently registering success, except the commander feels he is not done yet. But before Kagame proceeded, he needed to garner the support of the people - an election.
On August 9, 2010, the people decided that he continues.
Like in any other democratic environment, the candidate trotted all the 30 districts in the country canvassing for votes. He, at times, held three rallies in different districts, so wide apart.
But knowing what was at stake, Kagame and the supporters hardly tired. And, more interestingly, the campaign rallies, all through, had turned into the kind of celebration parties that no one wanted to miss.
But, had the commander-in-chief already delivered to warrant such massive support?
Today, 19 out of 20 kids are in school, life expectancy has shot up – on average men expect to live up to 55 and women 58. And, 9 out of 10 Rwandans have medical insurance. If you think that is not reason enough to celebrate, 40 year-old, Vestine Musabyimana, from Gicumbi has another.
“I lost my husband before we could legally get married. His family threw me out without anything. I had one kid and literally nothing until a government official directed me to Haguruka, where I got some credit to start a small business,” she says. “Today, I have a small business and a Friesian cow. My kid is going to school. All this has been because President Kagame has given women their place in society.”
Musabyimana’s story is just one of more than 150,000 that made the Gicumbi district residents turn Kagame’s campaign rally into an enormous celebration party – the biggest rally of them all. Across the country, the stories were similar, no doubt he garnered over 93 percent of the total votes.
If Kagame delivers the same way he has, over the last seven years, what more would Rwandans ask for? Literally.
And, in spite of the detractors, his allegiance is, and will always remain to the Rwandan people. They, and no one else, therefore, have the right to call the shots.