Rwanda inherited bad politics centred on regionalism and ethnicity. It is no surprise therefore, that the divisive politics climaxed into the horrible 1994 Tutsi Genocide.
Any election, right from the grass-root level to the highest one in the country, were based on ethnicity and regionalism.
You could not for example think of securing a big post in the country when you were not part of the Northern Provinces- formerly known as Ruhengeri, Byumba and Gisenyi respectively.
Regions like the former Butare and Gitarama also had a say in the leadership and found themselves at the helm of economic and political power, in the early years after the colonial period.
“You could not dare to seek for a higher post during Habyalimana’s regime, when you came from Kibungo. We were actually treated as second-class citizen in those days. That is why you see our province poor in terms of infrastructure, no one cared for us”, lamented Jean Marie Kayibanda, a peasant living in the Eastern Region of Rwanda.
Few Tutsis was allowed to occupy any political post, usually limited to one member of the cabinet.. This kind of environment created intrigues and permanent discontent, not only among the ‘Tutsis’ but also with the ‘Hutus’. This is the political atmosphere that the RPF-led government inherited.
Death and hatred loomed all over Rwanda. The country was in such a miserable state, that only patriotic citizens had the courage to bring it together. The post-colonial regimes had destroyed the country and its people to the extent that even its own citizens hated it.
“Is this the country we fought for? A country with no life and sign for tomorrow, I wish I never came to Rwanda. Bodies everywhere and even those moving looking dead puts me off. I hate everything here”, complained Kamakazi Jennifer, an 18-year-old girl who had just returned from exile after the RPF/A liberated the country.
The young person was not wrong, for Rwanda that time, never depicted the country that was praised by our fore fathers- a country of milk and honey, where ‘God chose to spend all nights’.
Today Rwanda is a different country whose story is not only told by its sons and daughters, but foreigners too. The people who amaze me most are ‘some’ Rwandans in the Diaspora engaged in a losing battle, to tarnish the name of ‘Today’s Rwanda’.
The RPF they try to criticize is the mother of the success stories we see today in Rwanda.
14 years is a very short period, for we know countries that have lived with relatively stable environments for ages, but do not measure to Rwanda’s development levels. I would only advice them to come and join their motherland’s move towards prosperity.
A case in point, is the build up to the parliamentary elections. The calm and maturity with which they are being conducted prompts the naïve to question them. But let them be informed that days are gone when politics meant conflicts and violence in Rwanda.
“We no longer depend on politics based on ethnicity or any other form of hatred. Ours is clear; show what you and your party have for the people and you will win their votes. I am a member of PSD but I do not have any problem with the other members in PL or RPF. Our objective is one, to build the nation. We are therefore, competing to see who can do it best and that is all”, said PSD district leader Gasana Jean Baptiste.
The RPF initiated politics of inclusion and other parties like PSD and PL, should be saluted for embracing the political culture which fosters a spirit of multi-party politics.
What Rwanda needs is what we are seeing in today’s elections; calm and political maturity both from candidates and the electorate.
You know the recent ugly election chaos in Kenya and Zimbabwe affected some people’s minds. Rwanda is moving in the exact opposite direction.
Rwanda today, offers the best leadership example and there is no question about that! It further explains more, the popularity RPF enjoys in a way.
When some parties made a coalition with the RPF, some people raised their eyebrows. But I salute the parties that made it into the coalition, for their good foresight in what good governance entails.
Democracy and proper governance for that matter, does not necessarily call for large numbers of political parties, but the people’s freedom of choice backed by the candidates’ fulfilment of the promises they make. There lies Rwanda’s future!