There is a school of thought that states that great leaders are born, not made; and that they possess near super-human qualities and abilities that most humans cannot aspire for.
A different school of thought stipulates that anyone can become a great leader as long as he/she knows what qualities and skills are required to be a great leader and he/she seeks to develop them.
The proponents of the latter school of thought contend that leadership is not something with which you are born or that you inherit.
In other words, that great leaders are made just like anything can be made by hard work. What these schools of thought have in common, though, is that great leaders are people who appear to be priceless, show characteristics of very high standards, who serve as role models for the people they lead, and have the capacity to develop those people into something better.
It is always presumptuous to delve into the life and character of a head of state but, like other Rwandans, I have been observing our President. So, let me share my thoughts with the readers. I wish to posit that President Kagame is a great leader and a true statesman, and history will judge me right. Was he born a leader, or was he made a leader?
He certainly has intellectual qualities and natural talent that most of us, Rwandans, do not possess, but his great leadership must be a product of his upbringing, his life experience, the choices he has had to make and the decisions he has taken, and his unwavering propensity to refine his abilities.
I liked an article I read the other day by Sangeeth Varghese of the London School of Economics, and as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think about our leader. In it the author says that leaders are rarely born because they often do not carry any legacy, nor are they from great families.
He argues that people who have initiated and propagated great changes are seldom there because of a birthright, adding that such people emerge as and remain great leaders out of their own merit. They begin with a decision to take on leadership and a determination to lead a cause that they believe in.
I do not think I can find better words that encapsulate the leadership of our President, his trajectory, and the motives that have shaped his style.
Rwandans and Africans will look back to the day President Kagame took the decision to lead Rwanda as a landmark and a defining moment in our history.
Successive generations of Rwandans and Africans in general will narrate and marvel at Rwanda’s success story under the leadership of President Kagame and strive to be leaders themselves, well-aware that great leadership is something they, too, can grasp and practise.
So, what motivates President Kagame? The first thing that motivates President Kagame must be the love for his country and the Rwandan people, and his determination to defend them at all costs.
He has said on several occasions that governments and leaders should have their people at heart, value them, and protect them. This is a man who risked his life, sacrificed many things, including people he loved, to achieve a better Rwanda for all of us.
He saw his comrades fall on the battle front to liberate Rwanda and then saw countless innocent Rwandans perish in the genocide of the Batutsi. One can safely assume that he made an unpronounced pledge to them all that he would not betray them and that he would always remember that their blood did not drain away in vain.
This, in my view, is enough reason to strive to restore the pride and dignity of the Rwandan people, and to transform this country and make it one in which the inhabitants, Rwandans and others, would love to live, to work, and to prosper.
Another thing that motivates President Kagame is the imperative to have a just and fair society in Rwanda and elsewhere. We know that, as a child, he was engulfed by a world of injustice and, for decades, lived in a refugee camp.
He refused to abdicate; he instead chose to counter and confront that injustice at every turn. This injustice, we are told, taught him to be disciplined during his childhood and to walk the tough walk rather than seek short-term and easy solutions to what was a generalised predicament for a sizeable proportion of Rwandan people.
Events in the last few weeks have shown us that he will not fear to challenge the mighty and powerful of this world where justice and dignity of Rwandans and Africans are at stake or have been trampled on.
There must be other things that push him, and only time will tell. We cannot ignore, however, that he has virtues that have made him the great leader he is. These virtues are typical of most great statesmen and women and we can only afford to list the most salient to his leadership style. First come vision, clarity of aim, and faith in oneself.
Let us recall the state of our country immediately after the 1994 genocide. The whole world thought that Rwanda showed all the signs of a failed state. In fact, most pundits did not give us a chance to resurrect from the abyss. But Kagame, against all odds, had a different vision of Rwanda.
Amidst corpses strewn everywhere in the country, countless orphans yawning for care and support, a generally traumatised population that needed healing and reassurance, Kagame knew that our country could rise from the ashes and aspire to be an enviable country where all her citizens were reconciled and could live in peace, harmony and dignity. All it needed was steadfastness, hard work, and continued self-sacrifice.
Look at our country today! Although everyone agrees that there is still a lot to be done, Rwandans are now seeing the realisation of the vision President Kagame had for Rwanda and we can only admire his certitude, tenacity and his determination to stick to a noble cause and see it through.
The biggest lesson we can draw from this is that clarity of aim and vision are paramount in successful statesmanship. Can we blame him if at times he becomes impatient with those who are not pooling together to realise the vision he has for our country?
Vision, clarity of aim, and tenacity are related to another of his virtues: willpower. Willpower is the most decisive of all qualities in public life and President Kagame has it in abundance.
For him, will comes from unshakable confidence in being right and in doing what is in the best of interest of all the citizens. He will not sacrifice his values and principles for short-term populist goals at the expense of the wider long-term public good.
He has communicated this through words and through actions. He has also consulted widely at all levels of his administration. And he has shown magnanimity, or greatness of soul, what we in Rwanda call “ubupfura”.
No wonder then that he has earned the love and respect of all Rwandans, who are now inclined to follow him and participate in the implementation of the policies and programmes that he has presented to them.
In conclusion, let me say that our man is a genius. In many ways, the things I mentioned above that characterise President Kagame: great intellectual qualities, remarkable abilities such as visionary leadership, commitment, tenacity, persistence, faith in onesself, truth and honesty, courage in the face of fear, are also attributes of a genius.
Those close to President Kagame say that you do not need an intelligence quotient to determine that he is a genius. He has extraordinary capacity to think fast, to make the right judgment, and to act fast. And most Rwandans would agree that he has used his intelligence in a productive and impressive way.
The state of our country today is there for all to see. Those who believe in divine providence should thank God for him and ask Him to shower him with more of His blessings. They should also pray that God continues to give him good health so that Rwandans benefit more from his leadership and his wisdom.
The rest of us can only wish him well and promise that we will support him in the noble mission to propel our country to even greater heights.