To put this article in perspective, I would like to quote Voltaire the French writer who said: I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend […] your right to say it.
In the same vein, this was written in reaction to a set of articles titled: change in continuity (Parts I, II, III, IV, etc.) with which I fundamentally disagree! I tried to put my disagreements in the New Times’ comments rubric, but after a couple of unsuccessful attempts, I got it that not everyone can comment…
So having read all the articles, the first thing that comes to my mind is, maybe President Kagame should change the constitution and remain in power indefinitely after all. Because if the most educated people in our country believe that we cannot find another Rwandan among the twelve millions to do a good job, then we are seriously in trouble. But this is where I disagree with the writer of those articles.
I have been reading a little about Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Uganda lately, and what strikes me about what their dictator presidents have in common, is that they truly believe that they are the only God anointed leaders who can rule their countries; no one else can. But how can we blame them, they have been reading articles like those in the New Times; told by their advisors over and over again that it is only them, that they ended-up believing it. But of course their advisors would tell them: let’s stay in power! They are advisors to the president, what do you expect of them? By telling the president: no, you should leave power, they would no longer be presidential advisors; they would be doing themselves out of the job.
Another wild one is: let us ask the people what they think… ha, now, we all know that masses are easily influenced, and how controversial campaigns get messy, and you also know how the president is popular among people. Besides, it is not that we are tired of our President; we do love him and believe he is doing a great job. No one is actually against him, but the main reason why we love him is because he does not abuse of power!
The question is not: do you like President Kagame or not; the question is do you respect the constitution or not; are you for peaceful transfer of power, or you want power abuse.
Finally the argument saying: our president is good, let us keep him beyond his mandate is short sighted; when do you expect to change a democratic president? When he starts abusing power? When he dies? What is the best time for a good president to leave? Any athlete will tell you that it is good to retire while you are on top, then your legacy lives on and people look up to you. If president Kagame leaves in 2017, peacefully, democratically; him and his ideals will be highly regarded within the Rwandan society; he will be an inspiration to the shape of our future.
If he is removed in the next 25 years, he will be remembered like the way Mugabe, Mobutu & co, will be remembered…
Now here is one of his advisors, advising him to abuse power; is it really a selfless advise in the benefit of all Rwandans, or is it in his own benefit? He could genuinely believe that he is doing the rest of us a favor, but I would like to point out that under President Kagame’s term, he may have benefited a bit more than other Rwandans… so his opinion needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Now I do respect when a man is trying to protect his hard earned gains; what I do not respect, is his tactics of instilling fear among Rwandans and say, if President Kagame is no longer President you are finished! Here are a few examples: “… these truly young institutions will collapse after the architect is gone; …any disruption in the process is bound to halt the process with dire consequences to our country” (Part IV). This is not healthy and it deters the debate and undermines democracy.
I also do not agree with the way he amalgamates what he calls westerners giving lessons to Africans (Part III), with the fact that an incumbent should leave office at the end of his final constitutional term. Normally the practice should be automatic, if it is not, then the people emphasizing it do actually have a point, which is proven by the writings in new times! Normally I could be here discussing other matters in our country, but I am writing on this; I thought this issue was settled by our constitutions; obviously I was wrong, I am disappointed…
I would imagine that the task that was given to RPF cadres was to think of what should be done to consolidate the achievements of President Kagame; After, he has left!
Here are some possible options:
– Should we shorten the mandate to five years so that we can quickly get rid of a potential dictator, peacefully through elections?
– Should we reduce the powers of the President and give them to the courts, or to parliament, so that checks and balances can be consolidated and the constitution protected?
– Should we increase the powers of the Prime Minister and have a power sharing arrangement between the President and the head of cabinet?
– Should we draw a shortlist of potential successors, hold party primaries ahead of time, so that the chosen RPF candidate could be groomed by President Kagame for his remaining tenure in office, etc.
This was the topic of discussion. Now if your answer to this is, let’s do none of the above, instead let’s change the constitution and maintain President Kagame in power, then replace him later with his wife; what kind of advice is that, advisor?
Have you looked at Mandela lately? How does that protect us when President Kagame is 100 years and nothing has been imagined beyond him? Why would a congress of party cadres meet, debate for days, if they are going to come up with the easiest, weakest of all suggestions?
Furthermore, it is disrespectful to the Rwandan people to say that no one else can be a good president; speak for yourself! For the last nineteen years we have been watching President Kagame’s leadership style, listening to his preaching about Agaciro, hard work, integrity, ambition; where were you? Rwandans can make mistakes yes, but we are also capable of learning!
President Kagame believes in Rwandans, he believes in party cadres; that’s why he gave them the task of crafting of a solution to the challenge ahead; now if their answer is: none of us is worthy of serving oh Lord!, what is it that his leadership would have achieved?
To avoid all confusion, let me make it clear that Yes! There are other Rwandans who can be good presidents. Your assumption is disingenuous! You are wrong to think that president Kagame is irreplaceable. By the grace of God he is still going be at the core of Rwandan politics for many years to come, but his leaving of power at the end of this term is actually a healthy thing for our country. It is going to surprise many, it is going to disappoint many, leave many anxious, but it is also going to set democracy standards of the highest level for our country.
Our army is strong, our country is peaceful, our institutions are strong and in the next four years they will be even stronger; most importantly we the people of Rwanda are mature enough! No Armageddon is going to befall us when President Kagame leaves office. Like I said in my last article, he is not going away or dying; he is just stepping aside and inspire the continuation of what he started.
Please let us refocus the debate and make use of our time in a meaningful manner to continue defining our future, thank you everybody for contributing to the debates.