Second-hand democracy for Africa?

I remember the first shoes I wore because they were forced on me and yet they were rejects from someone else. Don’t get me wrong; I did not dislike them because they were second-hand.
Pan Butamire
Pan Butamire

I remember the first shoes I wore because they were forced on me and yet they were rejects from someone else. Don’t get me wrong; I did not dislike them because they were second-hand.

I only didn’t want to appear as if I relished being superior to my peers. If the Catholic priests were being charitable, why didn’t they help needy families? Why were they helping my family which, being relatively better off, could afford shoes?

However, you did not reject what the priests “ordained” was the lifestyle for your family and so my siblings and I were made to wear them to church. The ordinance was a veiled order and we could not appear to disobey it because that would have cost our father his job, as a sub-chief. For being sub-chief, our father had to maintain a lifestyle a rung higher than the “underlings” in his constituency but without making the mistake of climbing higher. He was not supposed to reach the rung of priests, who were on the level of our colonial masters.

Somehow, it felt as if colonialists and their charitable priests wanted ours to be a “second-hand lifestyle”.

The above reminiscences came flooding to my mind when President Kagame started to speak. As chairman of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), he was addressing its Bureau Politique meeting last Wednesday evening. Literally, he lifted the veil off my eyes.

That very RPF, you’ll have heard or read in the Western media, is never mentioned without remembering to add that it’s “one-ethnicity” dominated. The unseen effort is to distance it from Rwanda and therefore delegitimize it. That’s why it’s hardly ever mentioned as one of the political parties in Rwanda. Once you’ve lifted it out of Rwanda and made it one-ethnicity dominated, the government is delegitimized because RPF is the ruling party.

It’s no wonder, then, that so many in the West who are not in on this conspiracy get surprised when, on visiting Rwanda, they discover that, in the party as in the government, the opposite is the norm. That “opposite” will be understood by those who see Rwanda in those ethnicity prisms, though, and there is no need for us to be drawn in.

There is no dispute that Rwanda has made spectacular economic progress from the ruin that it was close to twenty years ago. And there is none that she has realised stability, order and calm even when those who would wish to disrupt everything are camped a stone-throw from her border. But for single-handedly leading Rwandans in the realisation of these achievements, this government must be cut to size. Either aid donors show how their aid is used or the government’s democratic credentials are smeared with the necessary smudge.

And so the government is a dictatorship, an autocracy, a one-man rule, the book. In fact, these Western powers have blown out this one-ethnicity domination to an extent that it is beginning to mean Kagame-domination!

Whatever we other 11 million plus souls of this land have been doing with him to haul our land out of the basket counts for zee. It’s the Kagame-domination that’s been riding on our submissive backs all along. How else could we have imagined that we’d come up with primitive practices like Gacaca, Girinka, Imihigo, Abunzi, Agaciro, Umuganda and suchlike and call them home-made solutions? And how can these deliver a democratic dispensation?

There is only one democracy; tested democracy. Democracy is democracy because it has been tested by Western countries. They may have rejected some aspects of their democracy and it’s no longer the democracy they practice but they’ve tested it anyway. Because Rwandans are in their infancy, they must start with that hand-me-down democracy.

All Africans are in their infancy and must be guided on how to grow. When these African states are in a shambolic state, that’s how it should be because growing up is a process.

And so when some leaders from Western countries cross from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and into Rwanda, they are not happy. They are not happy because one country is a mess while the other is the epitome of order. What’s interesting about it is that they are not happy about the country that has put their aid to good use. Rwanda has therefore become their bête noire while DRC, where the aid seems to do nothing except perhaps go to the multitude of Western organisations based there, remains their darling.

It would then seem that aid from the West is destined to Africa for purposes of tourism; it’s “tourist aid”. After doing a tour of Africa, Western aid goes back home.

In Africa, we are only supposed to be left with footprints of tourist aid after it has done a tour of our second-hand democracies. It seems that’s the only way we can make our “development partners” happy.

Nothing else can explain how Western powers demonise governments that are genuinely working to improve the lot of their people and jealously defend those sending them downhill.

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