If last week I appeared to wax philosophical, according to direct expressions of indignation, I must have been misunderstood. I am not given to philosophising because my peasant mind is not cut out for handling profound thought. Whoever has seen through my missives has ample evidence to bear me out.
In “change amid the continuity of change”, I was trying to capture correctly what triggered what’s today being referred to as “the debate”. While reminiscing with the ruling Rwandese Patriotic Front party cadres, President Kagame never once mentioned the constitution, leave alone talk about tinkering with it. It’s therefore bewildering how foreign commentators seized on his address to turn it into “He is changing the constitution, isn’t he? He is not going, is he?”
For one, that constitution was a product of the consensus of all Rwandans and it is an insult to them to attribute it to only one of them. For another, it is an insult to President Kagame to think that he has been doing a thankless job leading Rwandans, without knowing, and when his job is up, they’ll excommunicate him! For crying out loud, Kagame is with Rwandans and they are with him, in whatever capacity. Ways he can serve the cause of this country are innumerable.
But the noise was before his press conference with journalists this past Wednesday. Things are different now and it’s interesting to see how all the international media houses and bloggers – some, heavyweight, others, obscure – have gone ablaze with headlines like: “Kagame brushes off speculation over third term”. And so, good, you’ll think, they’ve stopped there. Now Rwandans can breathe easy, right?
Wrong, sir, for these commentators will not have reached the interesting part. That part being – you guessed it! – their favourite “But….” Yes, that “but” that they’ve turned into some kind of a Damocles’ sword always hanging over Rwanda’s head. And what “but” is it this time? Listen: “Kagame dismissed speculation over another term but he did not come out clearly to rule out the possibility of extending his time in office.” And you thought they’d jump with joy! Don’t you wonder: are these people made in the element that other mortals are made in? In any case, where are Rwandans in all this? Does their opinion count?
To them, it’d seem that only the thieves and opportunists ensconced in Western cities are Rwandans. Only opinion from these counts, because it is a welcome departure from the happy comments of other Rwandans who are busy going about the business of building their country. It does not matter that the prodigal sons/daughters fell afoul with their government after they’d been caught, hands in government kitty or efforts in divisive tactics.
However, when you remember that these outsiders come from the same systems as those that begot admirable souls like former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former President Bill Clinton, you sit down and think soberly. As Rwandans say – even if in reverse form! – it is not what is running in them that’s the problem. The problem with the commentators is what is running after them.
In other words, these foreign personalities are serving interests that make them deaf to the facts that Africans verbalise to them. Remember, whoever has been in power in these Western governments instantly turns Rwanda into a sweetheart the moment they step down. And, in equal measure, they face the same wrath that’s doled to Rwanda periodically, as if on cue. It becomes clear then, when you take time to reflect over it. Western governments have an agenda to be pushed and they are not lacking in means to create an army of pushers. Hence, these activists, media talking heads, bloggers and other indefinable “experts”.
Rwandans should refuse to be diverted. They must keep sight of the premise of the “debate”, which is not the simplistic statement of “constitutional change or no change”. That premise is the more fundamental resolve to maintain the transformation that they are undergoing; the range of change in character and condition seen every day. This daily positive change is made possible by actionable policies and programmes whose results are tangible. Whatever momentary change takes place should not affect these policies and programmes adversely. The debate belongs to this continuity, therefore, and it belongs to the agents of this transformation, the masses.
From 1994, Rwandans are on a course whose objective is clear to them: to better their lot, their fortunes, with everyday day that comes. Improvements in every sphere of the life of this generation have made a statement in their history as the objective of their very existence. And institutions have been erected to ensure the endurance of those policies and programmes which, in turn, will ensure that the next generation inherits what it will be proud of.
Nothing has been left to chance; everything has happened according to a plan that was laid down in succinct terms. This is the case for all areas: democratisation; good governance; economic growth and development; unity and reconciliation; education; health; agriculture; environment; infrastructure; ICT, et al. And as in these areas, so in the 2017 change; thus this debate, this early.
The debate is about the continuity of this progress and stability; the “continuity of change” and stability. That, in my humble, peasant submission, needs no profundity of thought to articulate or comprehend. And so, in the name of the Rwandan peasantry, I rest my case.