The Dream must go on 14th February 2013

My fellow compatriots, I am not home but I hear that a debate has been initiated on the future of our country beyond 2017, and particularly the question on whether the presidential term limit should be changed to enable our beloved president to stand for another term.

Although I am not formally a member of the RPF, I would like to give my contribution to this issue. This debate is healthy indeed, because from it will emerge the foundations of a strong, stable nation that will be set on an unstoppable development trajectory for us, but also for our children and their children.

Rwanda is an extraordinary country of which I am so proud; I am so proud of our beautiful hills and mountains, I am so proud of you my brothers and sisters, of your sense of purpose, your hard work, your sense of integrity and maverick perfectionism. Your performance is an example to our region, our continent and beyond.

You make my life easy when I am giving an opinion on post-conflict turnarounds, good governance, the fight against corruption and effective poverty reduction strategies among other africans;

You inspire me to lead and set the example to my fellow Africans wherever I go, because I know that that is expected of me; I know that I am not anybody: I am a Rwandan! And for that I thank you.

It feels good to be Rwandan, it is exciting to see development unfold before your eyes and to know that you are a part of it. The one year that I am spending in school in South Africa feels like a century. I miss my country so much, and when this is over I will not spend an extra day here, I long to see Kigali…

All thanks go to our beloved president! Not a day passes, without which I thank God for him. After the suffering that we went through, we deserved someone like this. A selfless inspired leader, a principled man who makes us different. He challenges us to be better citizens, to go beyond ourselves and shine. Oh God, so many African countries could use Kagame even for a year, but we are privileged to have him and we thank you.

I don’t know if it has been done before, but as a citizen, I would like to solemnly thank our president for what he does for us, for loving our country and for leading his life as an example of hard work and integrity. As a shepherd, he does not live us behind, but challenges us all to do the right thing, advance and prosper.

In the same vain however, when I look at our current political situation, I see that what protects us today is not our constitution, it is our president. He once said in a meeting that he was the shock absorber that stabilises and prevents us from feeling  external shocks; but he is beyond that, he is also the pacifier and the referee of internal dynamics; he is very clear about the choices to make between principles and relationships.

No one I know of has done wrong in his name; many have tried, but he has distanced himself from them. Many have also attempted to put themselves above the law, above the constitution, but he has called them to order. That’s why today we are equal, that’s why we are free…

Unfortunately a man can only live for so long; he will not always be there… and when he goes, we will need that constitution to be strong enough to protect us, and by us I mean future generations. A person like Kagame comes around just about every two generations, if he ever does. So his responsibility – our challenge, is to ensure that he leaves behind a stable and civilised society, based on unshakeable constitutional values. Values of equality, values of democracy, values of justice! If he leaves office comes 2017, that’s exactly the precedent that he will have set: one that no Rwandan, not even him shall put himself above the constitution.

Having said that though, I can understand why Rwandans would like him to stay; they haven’t seen a man like that before, they haven’t experienced a president who would lead them well, and not be tempted to cling on to power. But times have changed; in this era where even queens voluntarily abdicate while they are still strong, where popes resign before death, changing the constitution to stay in power indefinitely would just be non-progressive and primitive…

My fellow Rwandans, please remember that President Kagame served Rwanda, probably more than ever, when he was not yet president. As a young adult, he gave out his life in the struggle to liberate Rwanda. As the head of the RPA he put an end to the Genocide, as vice-president of the country, he laid the foundations of the progress that we are enjoying now.

Leaving the presidential office in 2007 does not mean that he will go now on a long vacation and forget about us. In fact, I am sure he will promote our interest better as a president who liberated a country, served his term, stabilised the country, set it on a firm development path and peacefully relinquished power in a peaceful and transparent process. Who has ever done that before?

I’ll tell you: Mandela has done it; Nyerere has done it, Senghor has done it. Those are the African heroes that people speak of. In my opinion Kagame has done much more than them already; so he deserves if not more recognition at least the same.

He deserves that Nobel peace price, that Mo Ibrahim Award and we Rwandans; we deserve to be respected. Estaphania Fallas, an IMF staff who recently visited Rwanda and was truly touched by the Rwandan people argues that Rwanda has been ordained as a lighthouse to help guide the African continent towards a brighter future. I always feel that we are special people, that we are meant to set the exemple in Africa, and I leave for you to guess who instilled that in me and in Rwandans of my generation…

And again, I don’t know if you have noticed, but his aspirations are beyond being a Rwandan president; his work lately has not been about Rwanda only. Think about it: his messages of self reliance, of taking our lives and our future in our hands, his teachings of human dignity, his championship of the MDGs and the ICT? This is beyond us; it’s a message of all peoples of the world struggling to affirm themselves. People as far as South America are finding solace in his preachings, let alone the youth in Nigeria, who are so motivated they are almost stilling him from us! This is a man of his time, he has more message to give, a ministry to prophesise; we, are just the privileged ones, blessed for being the ones from where he belongs… His deeds are our pride here in the Diaspora: “you come from Rwanda? ah how is Kagame? I love that man; that man has transformed your country; I would like to come and visit…” Not everyone hears comments like that when he is abroad; certainly not rwandans right after 1994…

Now my request to you is let him serve the purpose that God set him to, and you will find you space therein. Thanks to him, we are now a mature, strong and civilised nation with strong institutions. And we will be even stronger by the time he finishes his term. To quote Obama: “Africa doesn’t need strong men, it needs strong institutions”

What Kagame represents to me and to the youth of this continent, is not just a man, slim tall light-skinned man, president of a small African country; Kagame is an idea. He once said: “There are some who are scared by unity and by building a country on the basis of ideas.” Him amending the constitution and staying in power due to “public overwhelming demand” would undermine exactly what he stands for: the Idea of greatness…