It seems as if right is wrong and wrong is right if one is to go by a recent editorial opinion by The Economist regarding life in Rwanda today. In a long slanted opinion, skewed reporting and analysis to make an indecipherable mix, The Economist writes in glowing terms about Rwanda’s socio-economic achievements under President Paul Kagame and then proceeds to conclude that the citizens are unhappy.
This conclusion is not supported by facts so glaringly presented in the same story. It would appear as if Rwanda’s sins are exactly what many countries lauded as democratic and free, would wish for.
By its own reporting, the magazine notes the peace and stability that President Kagame brought to Rwanda following the horrific genocide of 1994.
Peace and stability are good – and many countries yearn for them. Strangely, the article says that does not seem to be the case for Rwanda.
It describes it as a police state. How false. Which police state has 11 active political parties? The article insinuates that the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front is dictatorial because it has held power for all the years after the genocide.
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If the RPF is a dominant political organisation in the country, it is because of its good performance. In Rwanda, there are multiple avenues through which citizens hold their leadership to account.
The National Leadership Dialogue (Umushyikirano) is a forum where citizens interact directly with the top leadership through televised meetings, with live call-in and short messages (sms) facilities and all major social media platforms, which they use freely.
They ask all sorts of questions which are answered instantly by the President and his team. Then there is the office of the Prime Minister tasked with following up issues raised during Umushyikirano but whose answers were not immediately available. President Kagame is known for making time to go deep down in villages to meet citizens in what his office calls Citizen Outreach.
These gatherings are known to cause fear among Government officials since citizens use this opportunity to raise issues that are of concern to their well-being and at times expose some officials who have not conduct their duties to the satisfaction of the people.
Another accusation is that the media in Rwanda is stifled. No evidence is given to support this claim. Yet under the leadership of President Kagame, the media grew from one TV station to the current 16. Radio stations increased from one to 34, newspapers grew from zero to now 34, whereas news websites grew from zero to over 80. Are these a people stifled?
The countrywide unrestricted rollout of internet access has made it easier for everyone to get across their opinion, even without having to go through the traditional media channels.
RPF liberated Rwanda from the genocide and today it is presiding over Africa’s fastest growing economy. How can this be wrong? There is also nothing wrong with a dominant party, if it is there by the free will of the people.
How many parties, for example, have ruled Britain or the United States over the last 200 years or more? Not more than two.
In December 2015, Rwandans decided to revise the Constitution to allow President Kagame to run for another term. It was their right to do so, just as it was the right of the people of Britain to remove themselves from the European Union, just a few months ago.
Nobody even suggested that Britons were coerced in that decision. Why should anybody insinuate that this was not the case with Rwandans?
We must discard the neo-colonial mentality that nothing can be done well by an African people if it has not been thought for them by the West.
- The writer is the First Secretary of Rwanda High Commission to Nairobi. Twitter @KimKamasa