Hands off our generation: the only way is up

TODAY’S EASY access to mass communication mediums such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube means that every single one of us is capable of relaying whatever information they deem appropriate to millions of recipients worldwide at any time. 

TODAY’S EASY access to mass communication mediums such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube means that every single one of us is capable of relaying whatever information they deem appropriate to millions of recipients worldwide at any time. 

To say the least, I have no problem with that. I believe in an open society where individuals are free to disseminate information for purposes of education, information, governance, entertainment, and so on. 

Also, I agree with the idea of encouraging people to have access to various forms of information mediums to enable them to arrive at a more balanced and informed conclusion. 

However, what I have a problem with are the increased attempts by political opportunists who continue to deploy psychologically manipulative techniques to exploit the nature of some young Rwandans who have access to these mediums. 

The techniques that are often deployed are deceptive and exploitative and serve no real purpose in terms of advancing the livelihood of these young Rwandan men and women. Allow me to explain what I mean by this.

About a week ago, I received a YouTube link from a friend. It was late in the night and I decided against opening it – I left it for the next day. When I finally opened the link, I was greeted by a youthful gentleman who appeared to be well-spoken and so I proceeded to listen.

In a video that is over twenty minutes long, the young gentleman appeared to start by calling upon young Rwandans to engage in a dialogue about the problems Rwanda is facing. 

Initially, he suggested that he was encouraged by the idea that there are many young people out there who feel the need to expose the things that are going on in Rwanda, as well as to speak for people who don’t have a voice.  What is the problem with that, I hear you ask?

Well, if the young man’s video had ended there, I would not have had a problem. 

It did not. In a nutshell, he argues that the progress that Rwanda has posted under the leadership of RPF over the years in terms of providing millions with access to healthcare; education services to millions of children; improved infrastructure; and presided over a stable economy, are all insignificant in the absence of democracy, freedom, and justice. 

His video is not an isolated case; there are hundreds of them from other users. So, let us for one minute consider their argument. 

Twenty years ago, Rwanda was in ruins, the country was considered a basket case by many who also thought that the country would be trapped as another lawless nation that required the protection of the United Nations or the African Union, much like Somalia twenty years ago as well as today. 

The political establishment was all but gone. The state coffers were empty, and Rwanda’s civil service was non-functional. The private sector was no better case. 

Hospitals had become places where dogs occasionally strolled for a meal. Schools were empty buildings, and those that were open instructed pupils to sit down on the floor and wait for a teacher who may or may not show up. 

Similarly, the thought of having a functional economy was a distant dream – where do you start?  As for the political process, how do you deal with a broken society?

How do you convince a people that in order to move forward we have to unite and reconcile in a short space of time? Remember, there is no proven formula.   

Fast forward twenty years later; Rwanda is one of the few countries in the world that provides access to healthcare to its citizens through a Community Based Health Insurance initiative; Rwanda has increased access to free basic education for millions of children; women are running Parliament at a staggering majority of 64 per cent, the highest in the world; it takes only hours to register a business as opposed to days and even months in other countries; Rwanda has a zero tolerance to corruption, which has earned her worldwide recognition; Rwanda continues to keep peace around the world, including in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Haiti.

Now, I do not claim to be a political connoisseur, but, for argument’s sake, can anyone in their right mind point to any country with similar historical events to Rwanda that has performed better? 

Perhaps there are some genuine points to pick up from the young man’s YouTube video. We still need improvements in our democratic systems much like we need improvements elsewhere. 

However, the fact of the matter is, I have yet to come across any sensible person who believes that Rwanda’s democratic, freedom and justice systems are completely developed or established. In fact, there is more work to be done and Rwandans are learning by the day, strengthening what works and amending what does not work. 

What is ludicrous, however, is that more people on social media platforms feel the need to manipulate the minds of young people with calls to rise against the very establishment that has offered them opportunities to dream and dream big. 

Luckily, I am also confident that today’s young generation understands the difference between false calls intended to confuse them that Rome was built in one day (it wasn’t), and genuine calls that first provide the necessary education required to make sound judgement; healthcare to keep healthy and able; all with a simple message: go on, dream big and shape the Rwanda you want to live in. 

The writer is a UK Parliamentary Intern and holds a Master of Science in Public Services Policy.

Twitter: @Jsabex