Continuity and stability resultant from the change the current debate ignited has brought on board this debate, either indifferent parties or those that have chosen to ignore the contextual framework we happen to face as a country, or are not directly affected by the events subsequent to change come 2017.
What is more interesting though is that; parties joining the debate (and they are entitled to their opinion) can be classified into two categories (at least going by the feed-back I have received via email or even by way of phone calls.
Change and Change
To this group, the anticipated change is a change to the unknown. It is a change for worse. It is a reversal change. It is a change that negates the very essence of the RPF struggle for it will certainly be lost. It is a gamble. A gamble whose consequences they just don’t want to imagine. They argue that we should not gamble with the lives of 12 million Rwandans, not now and not ever. To this group of Rwandans, a good leader and an exemplary one for that matter, emerges once in a life time of a nation. And that, losing him through term limits or otherwise is bizarre. That no country in history has ever done this (let leave of an exemplary leader) except in the West where institutions and systems have evolved over hundreds of years, that any one can only fit in.
In our case, they argue that our institutions are too young and fragile to act as shock absorbers to political crisis (social and even economic crisis) that may arise as a result of such a change. These Rwandans have even argued that, in our case, and indeed context, the leader and institutions are synonymous in the sense that, he is the architect of these institutions and cannot leave them at the foundation stage. This is true, given that, institutions building process started in earnest around 2003.
Before this period, our country was struggling to pick the pieces of a failed state in the extreme sense, and managing consequences of genocide, which will be part of our character as a country for life as a country. These Rwandans then argue that these truly young institutions will collapse after the architect is gone. They even argue that the capacities of these institutions and those of officeholders are starting to shape. Thus, any disruption in the process is bound to halt the process with dire consequences to our country.
History of institutional building indicates that it takes at least 30 and at most 50 years of visionary leadership for institutions to become sustainable. That ours are less than half this conventional time is a serious part of our political homework that we must contemplate.
That a leader can fall back to the party leadership (Chairman of RPF) where he can then control what is going on the government is naïve and wishful thinking. The outgoing leader will be maneuvered, ignored and even removed where underlying systems and institutions are not strong enough to guarantee his counsel to the incoming leader.
This they say, given their knowledge of political dishonesty that is characteristic of political elitist past and even present, is the gamble of gambles. They also point out that ours is not yet a seamless society (given our recent past) and that our unity and reconciliation, which is on a very good truck is a work in progress.
That this is easily reversible by a leader whose credentials are not acceptable to the divide strategy of the colonial legacy that we are yet to overcome as a people, though this is on track as a healing process. Wounds are too fresh to scratch.
Thus, this group argues that, the Hutu-Tutsi animosity which was exploited by the past sectarian regimes for their political gains (if any) leading to the 1994 genocide and is a function of our current successful reconciliation process, should not be disrupted by any means what so ever, as the consequences of doing so would be catastrophic to the country.
They argue that President Kagame, the architect of this very process of reconciliation remains indispensible for the process to be sustainable. That President Kagame has succeeded in closing the divide, as he is viewed as a true national statesman devoid of the divide, and represents the Rwandan character, which is the hallmark of our reconciliation.
They even deposit a compelling reason and one that has been a cancer to most African nations:
Effect of Moral legitimacy
This section of Rwandans further maintains that President Kagame has attained moral legitimacy at home as well as broad. This legitimacy has been earned over time, right from the start of the struggle in 1990, through his political career, and all he has done for his country (transformation of the nation) can be attributed to this moral legitimacy.
They point out that another formula that may bring in another leader compromises this cardinal virtue of leadership. They further believe that the new leader will certainly lack this moral authority without which governance structures would be compromised through systematic clientelism.
This group has it that, if this is the case, the new leader will have to ‘buy’ this moral authority (both in the short-term and even long-term) through corruption of top leadership, nepotism and cronyism all aimed at ‘buying’ moral legitimacy, vices that will reverse all that has been built at a very dear price.
Commenting on the importance of political economy in development of countries, a number researchers agree that stable and predictable political systems, which then send signals to economic agents who accordingly act in their best interest to ensure development, is a critical factor in overall development of a country. Consensus among development researchers is that at the early stages of development, leadership is critical to stable political systems and their outcomes. They add that it is not easy to disentangle the leader from the underlying institutions at such a stage of development. Our country is at such a stage of development.
Hence, theorists, political opportunists, misguided elements; simplistic street analysts, self serving political misfits, and outliers will only serve to advance a hypothetic view devoid of reality. But these cannot answer our political homework in its complex form.
A study conducted by Perroti and Meguire (2009) on African political economy found overwhelming evidence of higher political risks and thus costs associated with change of office. These risks and costs become dearer if economic agents perceive the change into uncertainty.
They then factor this scenario into their decision-making process by delaying, postponing or worse still shelving their economic activities/decisions altogether in the economy concerned. This then impacts seriously on the economic growth and thus development of the underlying economy. As pointed out earlier, economic agents are not indifferent to our political home work.
They will in fact watch it closely and factor the same into their decision making process. Which is why this homework has to be done with the highest level of prudence possible and done faster to minimise the uncertainty it creates that would certainly affect our entire economic as well as socio-political endeavours.
However, many models in political literature assume that, political powers and or groups in office act strategically, in intertemporal sense when making decisions that have economic consequences that span more than a decade.
Cukierman et al., (1994, 2004) argues that, “for a country’s development to be sustainable, requires developmental leaders of high calibre who will then maintain such a process for at least three decades, after which it will be self propelling, except for management of cyclic shocks”.
They further point out that, “poor public policy performance of African countries has been blamed on account of their short-termism or ad hoc in nature, which is due to the divergence of interest between African leaders and their populations resulting from chaotic change in leadership of these countries, usually for worse.
These researchers then point out that, “chaotic changes in African leadership cost underlying economies growth rates of up to three percentage points and double the rate of project/policy failure relative to homogeneity”. They also point out that chaotic change in leadership fails to establish developmental states that respect their budget constraints, allocate resources, pursue policies that develop human capital, and encourage private sector savings and investments to generate productive employment and thus generate growth. That this is possible in our country if our current homework is not properly done will not be a surprise. It would be surprising to think to the contrary.
To be continued…
The writer is the Chairman, Board of Directors of the Crystal Ventures Group