There is a classic joke in a film by Monty Python called “Life of Brian” which in set in Roman-occupied Judea around the time of Christ. The nation of Israel had splintered into such small factions that it allowed the Romans to rule them.
“We are the People’s Front of Judea, we never talk to the Judea’s People’s front, or even the Judea People’s Liberation Front or the Liberation Front for the People of Judea, look he’s over there.” Then they point to the solitary member of the party. I often used to ask myself the point of political parties but they are a necessary force.
I asked myself what a Political Party is. Is it a name, abbreviation, logo, executive committee and its registration forms? If so then any person can found a party, register it, but the question is what impact they will have on society. A motley crew of renegades and rejects recently founded a party they call RNC, a cut and paste of the African National Congress except the word Africa was replaced by Rwanda.
The egos on show will make it hard for this party to move past the logo designing phase with Kayumba, Karegeya, Gahima and Rudasingwa all wanting to be chief.
A party has to be more than a normal party in Africa, it has to be a mass-participatory movement to overcome the logistic and financial challenges. To have a viable party in Rwanda you need around 50,000 local volunteers spread across the country, plus a manifesto that appeals to voters and finally the resources to get your message across.
When I hear that opposition parties are being denied a voice, I go and look for their manifestos and a find poorly written list of promises. There is nothing to stop these parties from writing a good manifesto, you cannot blame the RPF for that.
There has always been a dream of mass-digital movements and they are feasible in the West where 80% of homes have internet, this internet connectivity has not increased voter rates which have been falling. In Africa you need people on the ground to deliver your message door to door, so sitting in front of a computer declaring a new party is pointless. we cannot elevate imaginary parties to official status just to make foreigners happy.
Most developed democracies have just a handful of parties representing various positions in the political spectrum, most candidates find it easier to join an established party than to start a new one. So how can a party that is not represented on the ground have any impact on the voters they want to influence? Most likely they do not have any care about the voters, they just want publicity and to show they are still relevant.
The truth is that they most likely do not care about Rwandan voters, they have no chance of being elected. Besides, they have bigger problems like military court marshals.