In the last couple of days that I visited Europe, I heard: ‘The process of changing the constitution in your country isn’t real – or democratic, because it did not emanate spontaneously from the people’
I even heard Rwandans struggle with it: ‘No! The president, the party, the government, has no hand in this…’
The truth is, nothing is spontaneous in politics – or in democracy; People organize, campaign, spam you with messages; volunteers show up at your doorstep like Jehovah Witnesses, daily! Tracts are thrown about in the street, ads are posted on your cellphone, e-mail, radio, TV; billboards are erected on highways; lobby firms hired and paid millions to influence masses; funds are raised and spent. This is true for presidential elections as it is for passing a contentious bill in parliament or just building a public garden.
Those who dismiss the petitioning ‘because it isn’t spontaneous’ are missing the point, at least as far as Rwanda is concerned. As is their democratic right, people have invested themselves into having those petitions signed. So when they ask you to explain why the process wasn’t spontaneous, they are putting you in a box; then watch you struggle to come out. Don’t accept to be bullied. Instead, smile politely and say: ‘Sorry, when it comes to politics, in Rwanda we aren’t that romantic – or superstitious…’
It would be more worrying if the petitions were spontaneous. Isn’t that how black people are described? A species that acts out of emotions and faith; a primitive people – with animal instincts…
No, the petitions are reasoned, deliberate and coordinated; by interest groups, political stakeholders and engaged citizens. Influential people who have weighed the pros and cons and arrived at a strategic conclusion that it is indeed in their interest that Kagame stays in power. Then went out and won 3.8 million others to their cause. That is how democracy plays out anywhere.
The population has been crystal clear: ‘we like what is happening to our lives, we want it to continue: we want president Kagame to go on as our leader!’ Now they have tasked their representatives to work it out and see to it that it’s done; after all, that is why they elected them: to execute their will. They, Rwandan people have spoken! Not spontaneously, but with genuine cause and deep conviction.
Another remark I heard: ‘Rwandans were coerced to sign the petition.’ Really? If 4000 of the Rwandan elite can pay a flight ticket, accommodation, etc., to go see their champion in the cold of Amsterdam on Rwanda Day, how is it that an illiterate farmer who received a free cow, has healthcare and sends his children to school – all for the first time, thanks to ‘Kagame’, needs to be coerced to keep things that way? Unlike me, the lawyer, not signing on principles after my basic needs are covered, what reasons would he have?
But its possible, if you refuse to sign, people will look at you in a strange way; Yes, you may loose friends, face stigma; Yes it is hard to be eccentric in society; that’s just how life is: in Kigali or in this café in Paris, where I am seated writing this piece; I can’t just shout: ‘I love Muslims’ – anyway, they already look strangely at me for no reason…
The question is: what was the nature of the coercion? Was it mere scorn and stigma, or did it cross the line to be on the illegal side? if yes, then we have a problem; although I and a few people haven’t signed and, save for some broken-hearts we are doing just fine..
Last but not least: Kagame should have groomed a successor. Yeah, if you are talking about his first born Ivan or his siblings. He is Rwanda’s president, not Mister Miagi. The position is up for grabs and there are many grown ups in our country.
If anyone wanted to succeed president Kagame, they should have planned for it in the last 10 to 15 years. Kagame started his campaign 36 years ago, when he joined Museveni to found what is known today as the NRM in 1979. He was just 22 years old.
To be where he is, he has conquered three countries, defied the French, historical Rwandan masters and maintain himself. He has written Rwandan history, at least for the last 21 years – today’s Rwanda is literally shaped in his image – so to speak… None of that was achieved by hazard or spontaneity. Nothing was taken for granted.
So President Kagame says the arguments haven’t matured; he needs more convincing on either to stay or leave. But whatever arguments we come up with, they will not match that figure of 3.8 million people; or the fact that no one else has come forward so far. I don’t expect our next president to be someone who gets lucky because they were in the right place at the right time; there can be only one ‘Goodluck Jonathan’…
So you want to fill the shoes of President Paul Kagame? Oh, are you scared of coming out? Well tough! you’ll earn it, or you can’t handle it!
May those who want to succeed on Kagame come forward: ‘speak now, or forevermore, hold you peace!’