Two things this past week have made me miss home like mad. Rwanda Day and the 23rd anniversary of the beginning of the liberation struggle. To the men and women who died to make the Rwandan Dream come true, I salute you. It is only my hope that the nation that we are building is worthy of their sacrifice.
Here in China we have no access to Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, so I’ve not even been able to follow events on social media like I used to. But, speaking to people who travelled to Toronto, I got the feeling that Rwanda Day was a success.
Now, if only the people who organise this yearly event take it somewhere on the African continent, say Kampala, Nairobi or Cape Town, I will finally be able to attend it in person.
Yesterday, the US government officially shut down shop in word, if not in deed.
Up to 800,000 federal workers have been forced to go on unpaid leave; the 1.4 active duty military personnel will have their paychecks delayed but will stay on duty and NASA, the space exploration body, will send almost all their employees home.
While tourists will be able to get visas from US embassies worldwide, forget about visiting Yosemite National Park or even the Statue of Liberty. They will be closed until further notice.
The impact of this government shutdown will not stay simply an American issue.
If it was, I wouldn’t comment on it but that is not the way things work when it comes to matters pertaining to the sole global superpower.
Currently, the global economy is only just getting back to its feet, and we cannot underestimate just how much potential damage this shutdown can cause. If more than a million Americans aren’t getting their paychecks on time; they will not be able to ‘shop till they drop’. And guess who suffers when this happens? All the nations that export to the US market. Guess what is the first thing that Americans will remove off their shopping lists? Exotic coffee and peace baskets.
How did this come to pass? Because the US House of Representatives, dominated by the Republican Party’s Tea Party wing, decided to play ‘who will blink first’ with the White House and the Democratic Party-dominated Senate.
Why? Because they wanted to make funding the government until mid-December contingent upon a one-year delay on the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare). Never mind that the law was passed three years ago and that the Supreme Court had ruled on its constitutionality.
I find it mind boggling that, in this day and age, US politicians are still debating the merits and demerits of mandatory healthcare for uninsured citizens.
I mean, even in Rwanda, with our minuscule GDP, we have managed to insure the vast majority of our citizens. But what really confuses me is that this disagreement and political posturing has gone so far. I mean, who in their right mind shuts down the government?
We are taught that the US model of government, with its ‘checks and balances and governing versus opposition party system’ is what we all should aspire to. Well, I think that that is simply untrue. Its system has morphed into an uncontrollable, out of touch monster.
They cannot pass anti-gun laws despite the fact that victims of gun crimes are reaching catastrophic levels. This latest issue is just a symptom of the larger malaise.
What really grates is the fact that no one can do a thing about it. It’s just become too big and complicated. Politicians seem like they care more about making political points than actually governing.
In Rwanda, the ruling party works WITH not AGAINST the opposition parties (and vice versa). While this rubs some people the wrong way, antagonistic politics simply doesn’t work. At least in my opinion.
I cannot even imagine a situation where such a shutdown would occur in Rwanda. And still we are the ones whose democracy and governing methods is put to task. I think it should be the other way around.
Sunny Ntayombya is a journalist with The New Times and currently a post-graduate student in China