Kigali: Kagame did not choose to be the president of Rwanda, instead it is Rwandans who chose him through a democratic process to lead them, and he did not disappoint. Today, it is the same Rwandans who want him to keep leading them because of his visionary leadership that has turned Rwanda into a prosperous, secure and united country. After close to 4 million Rwandans petitioned parliament to remove presidential term limits, critics especially from foreign countries, have tended to distort facts that the demand for president Kagame to continue leading in 2017, is his own making to cling to power, rather than a wish by citizens, who appreciate his transformational leadership credentials and holding the country together after a violent history and prevailing security threats to Rwanda.
First of all Kagame made it clear that he also supports those who do not want the Constitution to be changed, but he is ready to listen to both sides and get convincing reasons. Blaming Kagame therefore, for what his people want is being unfair to him. I have argued in my previous columns on the uniqueness of Rwanda which seems hard to be understood by foreigners. It is Rwandans themselves who know how they wish to be governed, and on this question they should be left to make their own choices, in the context of their history, culture, self-determination and future aspirations. Let Rwanda’s critics take a tour to Rwanda and talk to Rwandans, as to why they want to make “unpopular” choices. Two simple questions to find out: – Is it true that majority Rwandans want Kagame to continue leading them and why? Secondly, how many Rwandans are opposed to Kagame’s continuity in 2017? From here, then critics can be able to make informed comments and criticisms. However, simple arguments of comparing Rwanda with other countries or Kagame with other leaders African leaders who do not want to leave power is grossly misleading.
Kagame has spent more than half of his life time as a Freedom fighter, a Pan Africanist and a Revolutionary, who has fought against injustice, discrimination, inequality and all other forms of oppression. Being a Revolutionary and a Freedom fighter Kagame, is guided by revolutionary Principles and methods of work, which prohibit self-glorification but rather promote service for the betterment and advancement of humanity. If Kagame wanted to keep himself in power, it means that he would be doing so for personal gains rather than for the interest of the people, a thinking that is contrary to his character, personality, and ideological belief. The wish for Kagame to stay in 2017 is a majority and not a minority demand, which probably defines the Rwandan case as not like ‘other African countries’ where violent protests and demonstrations have been witnessed.
Kagame participated in the liberation of 3 African countries: – Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo, and he never asked for a pay cheque. In the early 1970s, he was associated with The Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) that was formed in Tanzania and fought alongside Tanzania forces to overthrow Iddi Amin in Uganda in 1979. On 6th Feb, 1981, Kagame was among the 27 ‘boys’ who raided Kabamba barracks in Western Uganda, led by President Yoweri Museveni, sparking the Ugandan liberation war that overthrew the dictatorial regimes of Obote and the Okellos in 1986. Kagame commanded the Rwandan liberation war defeating the genocidal regime and stopped the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.His re-organization skills of turning an army that had almost been defeated into a formidable force that overthrew a government supported by external military powers is still a case study among war and military strategists.
After the Ugandan liberation war in 1986, Kagame served as the chief of intelligence in the Ugandan government, a position that would enable him to enrich himself if he was a person greedy for money and fame. Instead, his close comrades at the time praise him for his exemplary discipline; hard work and frugality in use of public resources, a quality that has seen him make Rwanda a country that spends wisely. According to The Global Competitiveness report 2015, Rwanda is ranked 4th globally on proper spending of public resources. A power hungry leader naturally is self-seeking, and self-enriching and very difficult to disassociate such a leader from corruption tendencies. Kagame, is admired for his intolerance to corruption and to date, Rwanda is one of the least corrupt countries on the African continent, and the first least corrupt in East Africa (Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2012-2014). Again in Rwanda, 88 percent of the citizens are satisfied with the way institutions fight corruption (RGS 2014).
During the Rwandan liberation struggle, The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) accepted to surrender conquered territory to create a demilitarized zone, and give chance to peaceful settlement of the conflict, and latter accepted to sign a Peace Agreement with the government in 1993.One African rebel leader at the time said that, “for a rebel force to retreat and willingly give up captured territory is a sign of military weakness”. Other military strategists from the developed world, had classified Kagame’s rebel force as weak, ill equipped, lacked financial resources to sustain the war and also had no known powerful countries supporting it, and had therefore arrived at a conclusion that it was impossible for such a rag- tag rebel force to win the war which was on the other side supported by super powers like France. Kagame against all odds won the war proving critics wrong. The most interesting story about Kagame that demonstrates his lack of power hungriness is that he never installed himself as the President but instead allowed his party –the RPF, to nominate a civilian president. Had he been power hungry, as a commander in- chief who had won a four year tough armed struggle, living in foxholes he would not agree to hand power to a civilian on a silver platter.
From Independence in the 1960s, Rwanda has had failure of leadership, and the country lost fundamental values of Unity, Peace, and development. The dimensions of the intrinsic meaning and attachment by Rwandans on the re-invention and being of Rwanda under the first successful leadership they have had in a life time are hard to understand by foreigners; only Rwandans themselves do and this is why what they do seem strange to outsiders. Kagame is a unique leader who has united the country and worked hard to put Rwanda where it is today. Give Rwandans a chance without external influence to exercise their rights and freedoms, which is what democracy, is all about. (End).
The Express News Rwanda