It has grown into a pattern now: for every positive on Rwanda, there must be two negatives. And so there was a twin birth of critics recently, in response to the single item of news that, last October 26th, Rwanda won the ‘Green Globe Award’ for restoring the Rugezi-Bulera-Ruhondo wetland.
But these Rwandans, I can hear you protesting, they are always grumbling! However, if you were to care and closely follow the ridiculous things said about Rwanda, you’d also feel revulsion and agree that it’s not merely grumbling. And I’ve seen many people express outrage at these critics’ utterings: people as diverse as Africans, Americans, Asians, Europeans and ‘Oceanians’.
What they seem to concur on is that these critical elements, mostly from North America and Western Europe, are scrambling to be the first to give a correct prediction. For being on everybody’s lips for the good reasons, when it shot into the limelight for the wrong reasons, Rwanda must be shown for what it is: an African country.
And, as an African country, its future is engraved in stone: the higher it goes, the harder it falls. After all, a single example is only too glaring: Zimbabwe. From an emerging economy, the country hurtled back to the Stone Age.
And there the experts will have you because, indeed, Zimbabwe is in the company of many not only older, but also younger, cousins.
On being handed independence, almost all African counties crumbled. Examples are legion, no need to name names. Those which tottered on, under the deity-diviner-gunslinger leadership that watched from high-up, crushed even more mercilessly. Again, examples are sundry. In fact, Rwanda is its own example!
The moment late president Habyarimana sank to the ground from the skies, the country sank into hell.
Not that Rwanda had ever been anywhere far from the mouth of hell. When Rwandans were split into a favoured section and an abused one, they were shanghaied onto that descent journey into hell. It was only a matter of time for that journey to come to its ‘genocidal’ end.
What the critics may also know and are not letting on, much as many of them may not necessarily be lucky owners of that critical mind, is that all those countries lacked the uniting force of mass ownership.
In colonial states as in subsequent native-leader states, the masses were detached from their countries’ leaderships Where leaders are answerable to their people; decisions can be taken at the lowest level (‘umudugudu’, cell); cell members arbitrate their quarrels: peasants effect the removal of a minister abusing his/her position; local leaders sign performance contracts; et al..….
Where the masses are in effective control of their programmes, there, the “strongest man” won’t penetrate to put their project asunder. This is not only true for Rwanda. More and more African countries are waking up to the fact that effective and durable states are those that are in the hands of their people.
Critics of the West must appreciate this if they are serious about projecting themselves as experts on Africa. Short of this, they risk sounding as comically absurd as the twin birth that I referred to. The duo of jimmy Wu and Joshua Lipson start with intention to say something (hopefully) and end up saying nothing.
In an article they entitled ‘Paul Kagame’s Balancing Act’, they open with a quote from Elisa Nobel, a Harvard senior, who spent time doing research in Rwanda and should know what she is talking about. “You can see how everyone is so eager to get the country running,” says she
But the duo must look for a “But” to immediately counter this, and they find it in “international groups”! The first person to provide the “expert” analysis to them of the true state of affairs is a Prof Alan Kuperman who has never ‘soiled’ his feet in the clay earth of Rwanda but knows that the leadership in Rwanda is “a genocidal” dictatorship and “the next Mugabe” rule.
The rest is to delve into all the usual unsubstantiated allegations made about the government of Rwanda and, voilà, an “expert opinion” for the duo, as balanced as there ever was! It is not at all necessary to get an opinion of the natives of this country, because none is wise unless they’ve committed crimes and are in exile.
For effect, throw in the vehement quotes of an “expert”/”researcher” who sighted “an African strongman-dictatorship” on the Internet, and strictly not on ground in his objet of scorn, Rwanda. Charles Landow, you may recall, is the same gentleman who admitted he’d never visited Rwanda but assured me he‘d continue and research it.
Of course, Wu and Lipson are adept “analysts”, so they show us that they are more “balanced” than even we sceptics could expect. In the service of that magnanimity, they quote “Kagame defenders” like Stephen Kinzer and Philip Clark. How “defender” springs up to qualify writers who have been on the ground in Rwanda and are reporting the facts as they saw them, you can guess.
The duo’s conclusion: “As the world observes and judges Rwanda, they will find a country tenuously balancing its needs and growth against the virtues of open democracy.”
“Open democracy”. Supposedly one that does not get in the way of machetes?