No, Sire, there ain’t another Rwanda!

LAST Sunday August 15th, I took to the dance floor. I didn’t recall when I had last shaken my aging bones in a dance, but this time I was compelled by the insistence of my Mudugudu (unit level of administration) leader.

LAST Sunday August 15th, I took to the dance floor.

I didn’t recall when I had last shaken my aging bones in a dance, but this time I was compelled by the insistence of my Mudugudu (unit level of administration) leader. Normally, I’d have ignored his invitation and later pretended to have forgotten, but he had reminded me so many times, through phones, SMS and visits, that I had no alternative.

To humour him in sympathy of the energy he’d expended, I made sure I herded my family to the venue on time. To my surprise, every family in our Mudugudu, and visiting members of other Midugudu (units), were already seated and engaged in muted conversation. The young ones played in a detached green square.

After two o’clock, two speeches were made, followed by refreshments. Then we all took to the floor. We were celebrating the victory of president-elect Paul Kagame. To thank the electorate for handing their chairman a second term, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had given funds to every unit in the country for celebration.

In turn, Rwandans in their Midugudu turned up at the stipulated time, many at the venues even earlier. The order with which they took their seats, queued up for refreshments and the excitement with which they suddenly burst into shouts and jumps when it was time, can only be said to have been regimental. It was as if all had been catechised to thus act.

Leaders at the unit level are not salaried.  Unit members appoint them and request them to volunteer and represent government in organising them. These leaders report to the leadership of the cell, which reports to that of the sector. This continues up the ladder to the district, the province and national level. All the other categories receive salaries.

Yet the dynamism with which unit leaders go about their work, even if you were not to consider the way they are able to organise and mobilise, is astounding.

They go from door to door to check on the implementation of government programmes or to mobilise for any cause (proper land management, good nutritional regimes, poor and vulnerable individuals’ assistance, health insurance, cleanliness, self-help projects, security and law maintenance, etc.)

It may not seem extraordinary in the context of the village but, interestingly, the Mudugudu activity of last Sunday I refer to was taking place in Kigali, where there are no villages but estates. Remember, in the cities of other countries one may not necessarily know who their neighbour is. So, to an outsider Rwanda seems unfathomable.

For instance, in our estate the turnout in the last presidential election was 100%, minus three people who were either sick or visiting overseas. Our polling station was the cleanest and most organised in the country.

Yet this was against a backdrop of even the negative media reporters and rights activists reluctantly admitting that they had never witnessed such order and discipline elsewhere as at the Rwandan polling stations. 

Again, in our Mudugudu President Kagame secured a 96% vote. Which was not surprising, considering that RPF unit chairs are products of the same RPF methods of work that were initiated into the governance of the country. They are part of the same cadre group who mobilised massive funds and combed literally every Rwandan family, canvassing for votes in the rest of the country.

True, as owner and editor of the Ugandan weekly, ‘The Independent’, Andrew Mwenda, says, on taking power RPF found structures like Midugudu that facilitate the work only that they had been abused. In fact, the structures existed even before colonialism. Villages then were under the ‘management’ of a council of elders who performed the exact duties that the Midugudu leaders are performing.

That is why even before taking over power in the country, RPF members did their mostly clandestine work in cells that answered to branches, branches to regions and regions to an overall convergence that was known as Congress.

Which means, therefore, that even if RPF had not found these structures in place, it would have recreated them.

It is these structures that facilitate the implementation of government programmes. However, a country that runs so like a company can only be viewed as a police state, however bottom-up it may be. And for that reason, it may be unfair on our part to expect an outsider not to see Rwanda as suffocating under the strong thumb of one man.

All the outsiders need is to get the shrill voice of a Rwandan who claims a platform of ethnic majority to confirm their suspicions. It won’t matter that Ingabire has no voice in this majority and that her only political lifeline is the genocide ideology that she shares with a few remnants of génocidaires and genocide promoters still ensconced mostly in foreign climes.

Now a juicy bonus for these detractors has surfaced in the name of a character that enjoyed a deservedly-shortened stint, warming his self-absorbed behind in the chair next to our highest office.

Who again? Let me have a laugh! That Théogène Rudasingwa should lick into the blood of the dead of Rwanda like the Ingabires, to betray the high regard in which many mistakenly held him is beyond sad.

Théo, I am sure those you left in the lurch when you sank the Florina ship are not surprised! Did you say Haradali or Al Shabaabi?

No, all ye mistaken souls, there is a true, breathing Rwanda here. The virtual Rwanda you see on the Internet is a phantom. It is baringa!

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