Guest reaction to ‘The Last Stand’: ‘Beyond 2017, With or Without President Kagame’, by Kivu Ruhorahoza

Dr. Christophe Kayumba’s opinion in the East African was particularly clever in the way it addressed Fred Mufulukye’s pro-constitution amendment analysis in the The New Times.

You can find both here:

President Paul Kagame once said he will have failed if there was no successor to him, come 2017. He also said, he wished he would be succeeded by a woman. I believe that our president has, for a long time, known whom he wishes to be our next president. In 2017 or 2022 or 2024.

I do not agree with those who predict an inevitable decline or even an outburst of violence in the country if President Paul Kagame steps down in 2017. From July 1994 to 2000, Paul Kagame’s charisma as an exceptional military leader made it possible for him and his political family, the RPF-Inkotanyi, to impose a new way of doing things in the country. Even when he wasn’t the clear Boss, everyone learnt to behave, perform and deliver, because they knew him and the new system he was creating would not tolerate indiscipline and incompetence.

Those were extremely volatile times but the party line and Kagame’s philosophy prevailed. There was a vision, there was discipline and there was Paul Kagame’s charisma as a military leader. Now, President Kagame’s star is shining even brighter after he convinced all the skeptical that he was not only a leader in times of war but also in times of peace.

The vision is clearer, the discipline feels increasingly natural and no longer imposed and the charisma is indisputable. If President Kagame stepped down as President and remained the RPF Chairman, the country would function just fine for the reasons above-stated.

The weak opposition

President Paul Kagame is a formidable leader who does not deserve the weak and mediocre opposition we currently have in and outside Rwanda. Any reasonable and honest political observer would agree that beyond RPF gates, there is an ideological desert. Actually, most “political forces” opposing President Kagame and the RPF, including the unlikely ones, have decided to be driven by a genocidal ideology, revisionism or negationism.

To cut the story short, RFP is the only party capable of taking us beyond 2017. With or without President Paul Kagame.

Mister Paul Kagame, the man

President Paul Kagame never enjoyed the opportunity of being a ‘normal citizen’. He was a refugee, then a young rebel under Yoweri Museveni, then a young intelligence officer for a victorious rebel army still in Uganda, then a rebel leader who stopped genocide in Rwanda; then a post-apocalyptic-type of leader who turned around a severely broken country and finally the father of a nation.

But this current position as “father of a nation”, is the trickiest he could possibly wish for himself. There is a certain vocabulary that President Paul Kagame as a leader didn’t distance enough himself from: “father of a nation”, “godsend leader”…

Yes, President Kagame should have said no to Cecafa being renamed Kagame Cup after he pledged and delivered his personal support to the tournament for years; he should have discouraged businesses from having his portrait everywhere, he should have shouted a loud “NO” to Boniface Rucagu with his Kagame adorned shirts; But he was absolutely right to be firm at many occasions in our recent history.

If president Kagame allows a referendum on the amendment of the constitution on presidential term limits, the population will massively vote for the amendement. But since when does the population get whatever they wish for? Actually, I would not be surprised if the population voted massively for president Kagame to be a ‘President for life’ if they were proposed to.

Because he is massively popular with Girinka, Mitiweli, ARVs, exceptional road networks, women emancipation, electricity, security and so forth. Baturages went from being suspicious of him to feeling grateful to simply being fanatical about him. And us, the lucky, the elite who get to travel and see how it is outside, we see how, as Rwandans, we are perceived and treated with respect; we know…

We carefully avoid coming across as sycophants, fanatics or even nationalists but we know that we get warm inside when enjoying the fruits of the RPF leadership.

If President Paul Kagame lets the RPF and the population push him for a third term, one thing we can be sure about is that he will have to face among other inconveniences some devastatingly petty and malicious questions:

– Can he be a normal citizen like us?

– Can he travel on a normal commercial airline like other citizens?

– Did you think he would refurbish and extend the presidential compound in Kiyovu only for his successor to enjoy?

– Can he sit quietly when the next UN Secretary General or the next US President is in town meeting the new President?

– Whatever he ends up doing, is he humble enough to have a boss after years of being at the top of the pyramid?


Does Rwanda need President Paul Kagame after 2017? Yes, absolutely. Can I imagine Rwanda after 2017 with a “former President Paul Kagame”? Yes, absolutely.

Not because some guy, sent by the Leader of the Free World said we have to respect the constitution, but because it might be necessary to enter a new phase for this nation of ours.

Respecting this awkward limitation is part of the discipline that Rwandans have been taught since RPF took power. It is important to be disciplined as a people. Democratic routines are painful but necessary.

We are lucky to hail from a nation that makes sense. A nation that existed before colonisation  unlike many other countries. Rwanda makes sense as a nation and what unites us as a people is stronger than ever. The Genocide against the Tutsis left us wounded and shaken but we had our shock therapy. We saw what hell looks like and we have learnt. There is so much to lose for us and whatever happens after 2017, I count on popular wisdom to not jeopardize what has been achieved.

The exceptional situation we are in right now is that Kagame can leave the presidency but not necessarily power. AFITE IGITSURE. Another simple truth in my opinion is that Rwanda needs RPF after 2017 because it is the only political force with the necessary maturity and the necessary authority to help the country really close that chapter opened in October 1990 and guide the Rwandan Defense Forces in transitioning to a republican army.

So who is good enough to become our next president, should President Kagame decide to step down? My friend Gatete proposed Dr. Donald Kaberuka; He is definitely a capable man with the right stature.

But let us not forget Mrs. Valentine Sendanyoye Rugwabiza, our current Minister of East African Affairs. She seems to have the right competence, the right international contacts and she oozes charisma. There are others including Dr. Richard Sezibera, etc.

President Paul Kagame might stay or step down in 2017. Whatever his decision, we know what is expected of us: support the (new) president in his job, remain loyal, work even harder to prove wrong “abadutega iminsi”…

Kivu is an internationally acclaimed Rwandan film director, writer and producer. He has just produced his second feature: “Things of the Aimless wonderer” (2014), a film about the sensitive topic of relations between “Locals” and Westerners. A film about paranoia, mistrust and misunderstandings. It was officially selected to premiere in Sundance Film Festival in the New frontier program. Kivu gained international acclaim for his feature film Grey Matter which won the Jury Special Mention for Best Emerging Filmmaker at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and the Ecumenical Jury special mention at the 2011 Warsaw Film Festival. He also won the Grand Prize of the Tübingen French Film Festival, Best Director and Signis Award of the Cordoba African Film Festival and the Jury Special Prize of the Khouribga Film Festival in Morocco. More on Kivu here

Posted 13th February