Paul Kagame
Paul Kagame

By Gerald Mbanda

Three years ago, I attended a parliamentary session in an African country where Honourable members of parliament were debating corruption related matters. Some of the members in the house were being accused of working with drug cartels and involvement in mega corruption scandals! One Member of Parliament took to the floor and said, ?unless our country borrows president Kagame to lead us, there is no way we are going to get rid of corruption in this country?. This came to me as a surprise being said by a member of parliament in a country that had a sitting president. As a Rwandan I realized that President Kagame was not only admired at home for his resolve to fight corruption but in other countries as well and the fight against corruption is simply one among the many achievements of president Kagame?s leadership.

Paul Kagame
Paul Kagame

Today, Rwandans and foreign commentators are engaged in a debate on whether Kagame should continue to lead Rwanda or not come 2017, when Rwandans will hold presidential elections, when Kagame will have served two terms provided by the current Constitution. Many Rwandan voices than before, are now calling for the removal of term limits provided by the constitution to allow president Kagame to stand again for election. Those who support the removal of term limits see in Kagame an extraordinary person who has moved Rwanda from an almost failed state to an amazingly fast developing and progressive country on the African continent in less than 20 years.

If democracy is about the will of the majority people, the voices that are calling for the constitutional change to remove term limits are so far much bigger than those who are against. Recently, presidentKagamesterned his critics when he publicly declared that he is on the side of those who are against the constitutional change, to remove term limits to allow him to stand for election, unless he is convinced beyond reasonable doubt as to why such change has to happen.
PresidentKagame?s statement of not supporting the constitutional change was like voting against himself when majority Rwandans have expressed their overwhelming satisfaction with his leadership credentials and would therefore like him to stay on come 2017. In other words, president Kagame is willing to listen to both sides, of the debate and the sidethat carries the most logical and democratic reasoning, will convince him to make an informed decision.
When the debate to remove term limits from the constitution began some time last year, Kagame?s critics were quick to judge him that he and his partythe RPF were behind the move adding that this was a common phenomenon with many African leaders. In a recent press conference, Kagame showed his stand to be against the constitutional change instead preferring to retire into private life.
The constitutional change debate to remove term limits to allow president Kagame to stand for re-election in 2017 was not started by Kagame, or his party the RPF, or by RPF intellectual cadres, but simply by the common people, when the president was on routine country tours. What does this mean? The removal of term limits debate is demand driven by the common people for the value and leadership credentials they treasurein their leader through what they have been able to achieve individually and collectively as a country.By presenting this demand, the Rwandan people are exercising their democratic right as the authors and custodians of the constitution, which in its article 2 clearly gives them authority through a referendum or representation to amend any part of it if they so wish.
Critics of Kagame continuity after 2017, again question if there are no capable Rwandans who can replace him. The common people, who started this debate, have shown strong reasons why a capable and visionary leader with a great leadership score card cannot just be changed for the sake of change. Rwanda?s index for Peace, security and stability is far higher than other countries on the continent that never experienced war and genocide. Majority Rwandans have confidence in president Kagame and are assured of security of their lives and property, and therefore, do not want to gamble by having un- untested leader whose performance expectations would be unknown.
Testimony of over a million Rwandans who were lifted out of poverty in less than 20 years is evidence ofpro-people economic policies enacted by president Kagame?s government, while both at home and abroad, majority Rwandans have been instilled in the spirit of Rwandaness and self-worth contrary to previous regimes that practiced politics of discrimination. Such a leader cannot be changed for the sake of change, the citizens argue.
The Rwandan positive change in many aspects did not simply happen by accident or chance. Kagame?s leadership model is credited for all the successes against all odds that have taken place. The fundamental question majority Rwandans are asking is whether such an extraordinary leader can simply be let go!Kagame has selflessly served his people and the people have expressed their appreciation for the enormous achievements under his leadership and have requested him to stay. However, those who thought Kagame will automatically endorse their wish to stay in 2017, theyshould rather know that they still have another job to do to convince him.

Source: Gerald Mbandais a Media and Political commentator
Based in Kigali-Rwanda.
Email: [email protected]

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