2017 succession, the obstacles we need to overcome

My last article on the succession debate drew a wave of reactions, some quite insightful and others a reflection of the anxiety that this topic is generating.
Arthur Asiimwe
Arthur Asiimwe

My last article on the succession debate drew a wave of reactions, some quite insightful and others a reflection of the anxiety that this topic is generating.

My wish was to put this debate to rest because sustaining it in the media for the next four years is as tough as paddling upstream.

But truth be told, this debate is on everyone’s lips. It’s the dominant topic in our living rooms, Bars, Offices, Saloons, Commuter taxis and soon probably headed to churches and mosques.

So talking or writing about it, is something that we cannot do away with any time soon. And the more we talk about it, the more we prepare ourselves for this transition.

My views today were partly provoked by the reactions that came through in the last article I wrote.

Based of this, I want us to take a moment and reflect deeply about a few things that I think we tend to shy away from or we deliberately choose to ignore and yet they are the realities that we will have to deal with.

For now, I will go by the assumption that we accord the principle his desire to retire come 2017. As we prepare for his exit, there are some obstacles that we need to openly discuss, digest and design a formula for overcoming them.

First, Rwanda’s fragility did not end in 1994. It remains up to now. And for the past 18 years, this country has been engaged in wars both internal and external.

Internally, we have been pre-occupied with some many issues–the Genocide, the cancer of its ideology, healing wounds and getting Rwandans to shade off their ethnic cleavages, then the tougher battle socio-economic transformation.

Externally, the geo-politics of the region have been a headache. The mess within the Great Lakes region, facilitated by the dysfunctional structures of the DRC, is always loaded on Rwanda. FDLR remains on holiday across the boarders but constantly poses a security threat.

Far across the seas, there are some individuals or powers that have never come to terms with this government ever since it came to power and they continue to be a stumbling block.

These wars are still alive to-date and they demonstrate the fragility of this country. They continue to undermine or derail our progress. That’s why any debate on transition cannot ignore the gravity of such forces and the ability to undo what we have achieved.

Secondly and somehow related to the above, is what Rwanda represents today. President Kagame’s trademark is one of dignity that is resonating across the African continent. In the eyes of some people, he’s seen as the ‘bad apple’–a growing symbol of decolonising the continent. His message that the continent’s destiny is in the hands of Africans has not only won him admiration but also enemies in equal measure.

For them, if the ‘stubbornness’ of Rwanda is not checked, then it risks spreading across the entire continent. These fellows include international NGOs, individuals who have made it their trade to dehumanise Rwanda and some Governments.

It does not augur well in some circles when a Head of State visits Rwanda and upon return to his country, announces a change in the official language.

Therefore, any golden chance of ‘teaching’ Rwanda and indirectly Africa, a lesson will be received with open arms. Kagame’s exit provides an opportunity, especially for these detractors to undo his legacy.

Third is related to our institutions. Some people think 18 years have been long enough to build strong institutions. But this is not true. The first six years (1994-2000) were years of coming to terms with the Genocide and trying to get the nation on its feet.

Between 2000-2003, the country was busy setting the foundation for building systems like putting in place the right legal instruments. In actual sense, the process of building institutions started after 2003–meaning that the institutions we talk of today are as young as a 10-year-old child.  There’s no country I know of that has built institutions over such a short period of time and hence we cannot talk of institutions now. We can only talk of the process to build them.

Therefore, as we take this debate forward, we honestly need to reflect on these issues and weigh their implications on Rwanda’s continuity and stability.

The bitter reality is that Rwanda’s succession cannot be viewed from the same lens as what is done/seen elsewhere. Ours is completely a different situation that necessitates sober and strategic thinking. It cannot be a copy and paste situation.

Above all, we need to weigh two things; An individual’s legacy vis-a-vis  a Nation legacy. That way, we will know where our interests lie.

On twitter @aasiimwe

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