The above title was prompted by a recent question on the recent house demolitions by Kigali City Council posed to His Excellency President Paul Kagame during the monthly live broadcast Presidential press conference.
The question was, “….don’t you risk losing votes because of the timing of the recent demolitions in Kigali City, at a time when elections are around the corner?” Then there followed another question on the possibility of some evictees having been unfairly dealt with.
Straight away, I told a group of people we were watching the broadcast with, that the decision to demolish or not demolish should not be based on elections but rather on whether it’s the right decision and whether the affected were duly informed and where necessary compensated.
His Excellency responded just like I had hoped. That Rwanda’s progress did not depend on the fear of losing votes but rather on doing what needed to be done. He, however, wasn’t insensitive as he acknowledged the fact that there probably could be some malpractices here and there on a few evictees.
And said these should be duly investigated or looked into.
“I have no apology for wanting to have a well planned city; I want it faster than I can actually have it,” His Excellency said before emphasizing the importance of proper communication, calling it ‘a healthy thing.’
Communication seems to be a great problem with many people and institutions here. Many tend to feel they are in a mightier position the more information they keep to themselves.
It wouldn’t surprise me if some people don’t even know what goes on within the very organizations they work for.
I have an example. In Rwanda, many people have realized the value of joining Associations. I happened to work with some in the Southern Province.
However, before we trained these associations on the importance of project and resource management, many association members could not say anything beyond the association’s name.
They had no idea of their associations’ goals or income. They just referred you to the Association ‘owner’, the president. The association president delighted in keeping all details to him/herself as this was allegedly a sign of power and control.
I suggest that all institutions should come out clearly on their programmes and inform the public using all possible media available.
Considering Rwanda’s Information Technology drive, institutions should have regularly updated websites, they could utilize television, print media and radio. As His Excellency affirmed, people are difficult to manage and I add that ill-informed people are even harder to manage.
Rwandans have a right to know all the procedures as far as land acquisition and utilization is concerned so that they don’t suffer the anguish that befell their comrades.
As I said, some workers of KCC might also not know the procedures. How will a lay man know?
On the issue of communication, the National University of Rwanda announced a cost sharing scheme for the students who had applied for a sports bursary this year.
A question arose in my mind, and probably others’ minds. Did the University consider all factors before coming to this conclusion? A 50-50 scheme might sound good but was it given ample time?
Were all parties consulted, like Education ministry officials, local authorities and the students themselves? Couldn’t it be the same at KCC that probably these people were ‘informed’ of the impending demolitions without an option of even considering probable contracts?
Anyway, as His Excellency said, there are procedures of handling any probable malpractices.
The president told reporters that he was not worried about RPF losing votes because of the house demolition exercise come September parliamentary elections or beyond.
“Without these demolitions, we lose development so we have to put into account how much in terms of votes I lose and how much in terms of the country’s development I lose.”
He insisted on doing what is right and letting the people decide, and pointed to a case in the 2003 elections where some Mayors implicated in corruption scandals were “dealt with” without deterring people from overwhelmingly voting for him.
“Some people in RPF came and said no, you can’t do that [bring culprits to account], we are going for elections and you know if we take action you will lose votes!” the president reminded the press corps.
“And I told them I did not need votes from thieves, and I honestly meant it; I did make sure they took them to account.”
That was His Excellency and he jokingly said that he is now being blamed for winning the election with a 95% vote count.
This is the kind of consistency all Rwandans should exhibit. Standing for the truth even at a time when so much is at stake.
It would have been terrible had the President bent because of vote pressure and let culprits walk scot free or halt the demolitions in the name of votes! We should look at the bigger better picture, one with the best intentions and outcomes and not be corrupted in the name of popularity.
And who said the truth doesn’t bring popularity? That would need another long discourse.