My friend Eric’s sister was categorical on TV: ‘mvuye mububiligi, ndatashye, none ngo mugiye guhindura Kagame?! Ubwo se nje gukora iki?’ (I leave Belgium, I come home, and you want to change Kagame! What have I come to do?
– Ndahita nisubirirayo kabisa! If that’s the case, I’m going back!
Watching the press conference the other day, I found myself getting excited for a moment, when the president said that he espouses a school of thought that I have been advancing for a while; that of constitutional orthodoxy. Saying that those rooting for change of the Rwandan constitution have not convinced him beyond reasonable doubt. But of all the things he said, I retained one in particular: What is the problem? Why is this question relevant at all?
Kagame has been consistent; he has said it several times that he will leave. At no occasion has he implied that he would be staying in power further than constitutionally permitted. So what exactly is the problem?!
What are we getting excited about? Elections are supposed to be an opportunity for me and you, to make a change in our respective lives – for the better; elections are supposed to be for us. Not for one Tom, Dick or Harry, who will be moving into a bigger house and drive a bigger car; with his wife/husband and children. Elections are supposed to change the lives of the many, not the life of one individual and his clique. They are supposed to serve the electorate, not some distant powers across the sea.
If elections can’t change your life, then they become a theater; a time wasting trifle of casting a piece of paper into some box.
We still have part of the population that will pack and flee to Burundi, because some rumour has led them to believe that the RPF has brought a mill, to ground all Hutus. That’s who we are dealing with. While the president is forced, at times to ‘feed the monkey’ – the lobbyist – and the small Kigali elite, saying: ‘Yes I will leave’, he always cushions that with: ‘of course you can convince me otherwise’.
What lobbyists want him to say however is: ‘Ok Rwandans, in the next two years I’m out, y’all are on your own! Or ‘Ok, I have decided that the person who will replace me is Kalisa, or Karangwa…’ NO! We don’t want that!
It’s like a father who sees the end of his contract approaching and is forced to explain to his three-year old son that he will soon be going to bed hungry; because it is the truth. The three year old will be traumatized for no reason – I know Rwandans are not three year olds; but Kagame isnt our father either, so don’t even start…
We don’t want him to get excited and worry people; just like he is not going to willingly make himself a lame duck for the two remaining years; we can’t afford that luxury. We want elections to be almost a non-event. A day like any other. Not a day that holds us all hostage for three, four years ahead; holding our breath, writing, debating, feeding into euphoria, while in some places people might die.
The lady who said she was going to throw herself in the Nyabarongo River should be appeased. The soldier who plans to defect; or my friend’s niece who wants to go back to exile; likewise: They matter! They are the majority of Rwandans; Not the handful of Kigali elite, who care about holding late-night debates over a glass of wine, with their visas ready for when things get real…
We are dealing with the Rwandan population here. Unlike what international reports say, political debates are for the elite, not the masses.
In 2003 I asked my late grand mother: Tate, kuki watoye Kagame? (Why did you vote for Kagame); ‘Erega n’umwega mwene wacu’ – he is a Mwega like me; she responded. But who can blame her? My grand ma reads no political manifesto, she has no civic competence. The only frame of reference she had, was to find something that drew her close to a candidate; in this case it was a democratically irrelevant criteria. But it is not true for my grand mother only: everyone knows that in Kenya: Luos vote Odinga, Kikuyus for Kenyatta and Kalenjines for Ruto; and that irrespective of their alleged crimes.
Alas, we seem to have made some progress from my beloved Tate days. A week ago my friend was driving in Nshili, with his white pick-up. Now villagers there know that white pick-ups are for authorities: A woman stood in the middle of the road, with her hands up in the air, dancing Kinyarwanda and stopping him at the same time:
– Nari naragushatse, nari ngutegereje! I have been waiting on you!
– None se uranzi? Do you know me?
– Ndakuzi ni Kagame wagutumye. I know its Kagame who sent you; go tell him that me I am a Hutu woman, my husband committed genocide, he is in jail. So I never expected to receive a cow. But tell him I received one and it has given birth; tell him my children are going to school for free; tell him I don’t want to loose any of that; tell him I do not want him to go!
– My friend had the reflex of not explaining to her the gist of Article 101 of the Rwandan Constitution – or that he was not an authority, nor a Kagame envoy; he simply said: ‘Yego Ndamubwira rwose’ (yes, I will tell him)
Lest, she would have probably gone to pack-up and lead her cow and its new baby into the DRC. Like that happy lady, a black person in America doesn’t want Clinton or Bush or Obama; he wants the police to stop shooting at him for sport, while he is taking a walk. They shot at him during bush, during Clinton, even while a fellow black was president. So for him the question of who is in power doesn’t arise…
But that’s what makes Kagame a polarizing figure for the rest, and a godsend leader for us. One who pays little attention to protocol and good offices; one who has had only one thing to care for; The betterment of the Rwandan people; the rest being what it is supposed to be: Subsidiary.
By the rest I mean lobbyists: the international community, some civil society, political parties, international media, the church, etc.; those that have, with the help of some of our leaders, maintained us in oblivion for the last two hundred years.
Who funds them? Those who feed off chaos: gun-makers, phone-makers, oil companies, religions, charities, humanitarians; those who push their governments, the UN, to make demands, take actions, regardless of the consequences. So, for a printed-paper, a photo opportunity to satisfy some readership, some electorate in their countries, people elsewhere are loosing their lives; Now, I am afraid the question to Kagame is being pushed by them.
It is very easy when you don’t take responsibility; when you do not have citizens to protect. If you do however, it isn’t.
Look, some of us want the constitution to remain unchanged. But whatever comes, we should not forget what is essential; the stability of our country. Ideally we can achieve that and still have our presidents routinely replaced. But we shouldn’t pay any price for a constitution; which by the way, has been amended countless times.
I have been, for long, advocating for civil society, and donors to do no harm. I wrote a book about it. But a book, a blog, a speech, is not worth Rwandan lives.
Let’s stop parroting ‘democracy’ here, ‘democracy’ there, for we were not there when it was created. Look, I have a degree in ‘democratisation’. and I can tell you this much: democracy is an abstract concept at best. And at worst, it is a meaningless mantra, repeated by western powers, to justify their injustice towards Blacks and Arabs.
We should rather think of what works for us, because even those who created it are not unanimous about what it implies.
Americans seem to have chosen presidential dynasties; the French will soon have to choose between a pseudo-monarch – Sarkozy, or a fascist party – The National Front; while the rest of Europe has chosen to keep their monarchies, to maintain peace; etc.
What we should learn from them though, is that they conduct elections smoothly. For them, and that is the secret, the most free and fair elections are not the ones where the best leader takes the day; but the ones where the day after elections, people go to work, shop and school. Where business goes on as usual; it is not about what is true, or untrue; the truth is overrated; so is democracy – ask Assange, Manning and Snowden…
In our turn let’s let Kagame do his time; we envision Belgium: Where who leads is so trivial that they are able to go for more than a year without a prime minister and people go about their businesses like it’s Tuesday.
Media can wait to break the news; for now, let them speculate. In his legendary humor, Museveni once remarked when asked why he waited for so long to allow private TV stations: ‘you cannot organize a big party, when the floor is freshly cemented.’ Like him, we are dealing with a people; a nation; a fragile one at that; so caution is of essence! Every Rwandan life counts; democracy can wait. – Ntimugakunde byacitse…
Note: If you read this and you get me wrong: it’s your problem! Abo mbwira bumvise
Posted 17th April