I want to attempt to elucidate an inexplicable mystery about Rwanda – a mystery which some people find worrying and others somewhat irritating.
And the mystery is this: why has post-Genocide Rwanda not yet collapsed? Worse still, why instead of things getting progressively worse, are things getting better?
After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the prognosis for Rwanda was a gradual relapse in economic decay and mounting political turbulence. Since this did not happen, people have chosen to fabricate all sorts of narratives to predict doom and gloom, with the intention of undermining Kigali’s legitimacy.
What many people do not seem to understand is the fact that, unlike many African countries, in Rwanda there is a widely established level of trust that the total system of governance is committed to improving the welfare of the country as a whole.
The existence of this atmosphere of trust provides the positive context that empowers the government and enhances its ability to deliver.
To win such trust, the government of Rwanda always refrains from saying anything which it does not believe in, and as such, people slowly recognised that it is honest and sincere. This is President Kagame’s most powerful asset. This can be likened to Singapore’s leader Lee Kuan Yew who managed to build trust among his population by always keeping his word. Just to illustrate this; during the economic downturn, the Singaporean government cut the civil service pay by some 15%, and the public was urged to accept. Can you imagine how politically suicidal this would be in most countries, let alone the number of riots and strikes?
The reason why Singaporeans did not question this move is simple – they trust their government to make the best decision on their behalf. People trusted that in good times, they would get their share of the economic rewards.
In bad times, they accepted lower rewards so that the good times would return earlier. The population believed that the policy of wage restraint would result in a faster economic recovery that would benefit them in the longer term. Six months later, wages in Singapore were duly restored.
This leads me to the second point: that of credibility. The only reason why the elections turned as they did in favour of RPF underlines my point - credibility must be born out of consistency of action.
Our policies are consistent because they are derived from the careful rational analysis of options and consequences against the fundamentals of ensuring our economic viability, competitiveness and well-being.
Politics is of course the art of the possible not the science of rationalism. Each country strives to arrive at its own balance between the two ends of this tension. Rwanda’s balance is much more towards the side of rationalism than that of most other countries. Rwanda can hence do this largely because of the credibility of the government in improving the welfare of the people.
In conclusion, each system of governance is strongly shaped by the surrounding culture and nature of the society that it serves. Our empowering context, the economic rationalism of our goals, and the excellent leadership has evolved in response to the needs of this misunderstood country.
Liban Mugabo is a graduate student