Rwandans warned not to forget lessons from their recent history

Most societies, if not all, are ruled by a relative small minority, legally entitled or self-imposed, which does everything to hide from citizens the true picture of issues. The group, whatever is its official ideological affiliation, goes as far as brainwashing its subjects using public propaganda techniques to retain political power among its members.

As an illustration of the small size of such elite, out of the more than sixty millions of British citizens, less than 1 per cent cares enough about politics to join a major political party. Close and sometime part of that same elite, another much smaller group of people with special interests navigates around seeking to further their advantages and privileges.

TV programmes, newspapers’ editorials, policies in all aspects of national life are consciously or automatically guided by the same tendency of preserving interests of that broader but still small group. Mechanisms are put in place to distract the general public from finding time to reflect seriously on real underlying causes of problems they are faced with.

As a consequence, effective solutions which could become sustainable are not given space to emerge. Such situation prevails, with only contextual differences, in both developed countries and those said to be aspiring to become.

There are individuals who argue that developing countries should not put high their aspirations for democracy, rule of law, and other societal values that most of us, and sometime wrongly, associate with the West.

The argument is that, since it took to Western societies several centuries to get where they stand today, there shouldn’t be any strict comparison between totally diverse countries which have followed historically different economic and political paths.

Though I can agree at some extent with such assertion, especially on the issue of not copying blindly from others, my disagreement relates to any acceptance and apparent tolerance of endemic corruption or widespread abuses of human rights in some dictatorial regimes.

The fact that they are [or have been for far too long] at an early stage of incorporating for example mechanisms of government’s transparency or respect of human rights could not be an excuse. But the most controversial issue which appears unacceptable is the legitimacy provided by the international community, i.e. the West, to these dictators.

What legitimises a political leader?  Is it the fear or trust that their personality mirrors in the face of those they lead? In the situation of Rwanda, it could be said [even with some reserves from a relatively small fraction of Rwandans] that Gregoire Kayibanda, the first president of the country after its independence, was the only leader who got into power with the full trust of a majority of his compatriots. Why him and not any other?

Through his social and political actions prior to becoming entrusted to lead, he had developed an understanding of Rwandans and followed important values that most of them could feel associated with. His professional career and the way he got into power put high his credentials among most Rwandans of that time to lead them. His final years in power were unfortunately a different story.

Learning from Rwandan recent history of indescribable atrocities and extreme abuse of power of Paul Kagame, strong man of the country since 1994, how does a radical change from past and current political path could be possible in the country’s leadership?  This is an important question present generation of Rwandans, aware and able to understand objectively their country’s social and historical context should seriously reflect on.

Given the fact that those who, at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, sought without much success a significant shift from politics non conducive to a sustainable future for all Rwandans, there are today premises that any solid political outlook should have to expect some credible change from the past.

  • Need for professional politicians. Rwandan society should break the cycle of promoting into politics people without traceable past at the service of their compatriots in different capacities. It could be opposed to this premise that the reason of past and ongoing situation has been the absence of different and independent political parties.  This is effectively the reality of Rwandan politics that every compatriot should contribute to change. Without professionals in all areas of national life, and particularly politics, Rwanda will hardly improve socially [put aside RPF propaganda about Kigali development in terms of buildings]
  • Ban for military and rebel leaders from politics. Without a strong democracy where exist different powers controlling each other,  Rwanda needs to resort to banning military and rebel leaders from entering politics. From the country recent history, any leader who emerged from these ranks has demonstrated excessive concentration of power and authority into their hands at the expense of their compatriots. This has appeared incompatible with the right distribution and exercise of powers. It also led to abuses of all sorts including genocide and crimes against humanity inside and outside the country, ongoing unchallenged injustice and oppression of the population.
  • End of discriminative policies. It wouldn’t be totally erroneous to affirm that the social revolution of 1959 and genocide of 1994 were both the results of discriminative policies towards one particular fraction [or all ethnic groups inclusively] of the Rwandan community at each time. Policies of genuine access to opportunities for all should guide from then on politicians who aspire to avoid situations that lead to national tragedies. An independent commission for equal opportunities should be established to monitor and report regularly on the performance of politicians with regard to discriminative policies in all aspects of national public life.
  • Creation of a commission for truth and reconciliation. Moving on without seeking effective justice and sincere forgiveness [as opposed to forced or fabricated such concepts as this has been the case under Paul Kagame’s regime] can only be postponing a time bomb. With policies and practices that the RPF regime has developed to rule the country since 1994, where impunity and silencing dissent voices prevail, it is a matter of time for another national tragedy. Those inside the current Rwandan bubble may not see beyond their immediate comfort to appreciate rightly the wrong path the country is heading. It would for example only be through the recommended commission for truth and reconciliation that Rwanda could be exempt of politicians with a criminal past.
  • Guarantee of a strong and independent civil society. Some say that development can happen without democracy [that’s one of Paul Kagame’s statements]. But by only looking around, most countries which managed to improve significantly the living standards of their citizens got there by allowing them to express themselves more freely. Political change is brought about by many elements including contribution from a vibrant civil society. Sustaining that vibrancy is critical to strengthening the changes sought after. As a lesson, for example, those [activists, opinion leaders, independent news sources about Rwanda, scholars, non governmental organisations, etc] today seeking change in Rwanda should not stop their actions once it happens. They shouldn’t wait ten years or more to notice that they have backed the wrong change. They should today and tomorrow remain relatively independent and neutral, and not become the change they seek by leaving a void in the position of assessors they occupy.

Thus Rwandans, you are warned. Don’t forget to learn from what you went through personally, or your people. A country is nothing without its people. You carry its past and recent history. If you seek a better future for your country, these important lessons should from now on become the foundation of a different nation where all our children [Hutu, Tutsi and Twa] could feel equal and only separated by their own abilities.

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