Kagame and Netanyahu
Kagame and Netanyahu

The visit by the Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Rwanda this week on 6th July 2016, was remarkable in a way that Israel and Rwanda are hundreds of miles apart yet the two countries share a bitter history of Holocaust and genocide against their people. Furthermore, those who committed the holocaust and those who carried out the genocide and their sympathizers share common traits: Denial of what they did, distorting history and protecting the perpetrators.

Kagame and Netanyahu
Kagame and Netanyahu
While addressing a joint news conference in Kigali, President Kagame mentioned that, “given our tragic histories, we have been shaped to see and do things in a way that gives priority to our people”. Rwanda and Israel learnt the hard way to defend themselves rather than waiting for external intervention. On the other hand, Israel Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Rwanda and Israel cannot afford to outsource safety and security which is an important measure in ensuring security of the people and territorial integrity of their nations.

I have always argued that countries like Israel and Rwanda with tragic history of Holocaust and genocide cannot be considered as normal countries where these horrors have not taken place. Such countries have their own ways of interpreting issues, safeguards to protect themselves against a repeat of the past with self determination and resilience against all odds to overcome the bitter past and make deliberate choices of building secure and prosperous nations. Some of the choices made by countries like Rwanda based of their past experiences may not be popular to outsiders in the context of “the globalized democracy”. Western democracies which usually preach their own democratic choices as universal and supreme have shown less or no tolerance to allow countries especially in the developing world, to make their own informed choices on how they wish to govern themselves. Interestingly, the ‘big brother countries’ developed their own choices of democracy and governance without external pressures on them. The big question is why do they feel they have the right to determine the destiny of other countries and people?

The biggest disappointment and hypocrisy though, is when these Western “models of super democracy and human rights defenders”, become safe havens of genocide perpetrators and deniers, and one wonders whether those who were killed had no right to live or their surviving relatives do not deserve justice.

President Paul Kagame and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded the world that Rwanda and Israel stand firm in the fight against genocide and Holocaust denial, hate speech and genocide ideology. ”Genocide and Holocaust deniers continue to be there, we cannot wish them away. You have to put in place ways and means to make sure that you do not let it pass, you deal with it upfront”, the Rwanda leader said. The Israel Premier Benjamin Netanyahu said that the truth has to be told to avoid distortion of history intended to deny that Holocaust and genocide did not happen. When prominent media outlets in the developed world are used as mouth pieces of genocide deniers you realize the unfairness and double standards of the gospel in the name of freedom of expression and of the media.

What we see in countries like Rwanda and Israel that faced genocide, and Holocaust is the way they conduct their affairs in not business as usual manner . They are conscious of their choices, take ownership of their development strategies to find workable solutions to overcome challenges rather than looking and waiting for foreigners to solve their problems. Second, is the betrayal and failure of the international community which has made the countries develop high capacities to defend themselves, and to be their own development and governance models rather than being copy cats of things that are not applicable and favorable to their needs, challenges and aspirations. In this direction, Rwanda has become a champion of applying own home grown initiatives to tackle her political, social and economic challenges, and this has registered remarkable accelerated development and progress admired both at home and beyond.

From a country almost at the brink of a filed state 22 years ago to one of the best performing economies on the African continent and one of the most secure countries, and a reconciled society after decades of divisionism. This is the reason why more than 90% of Rwandans voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to keep the man behind Rwanda’s rapid transformation as their leader- Paul Kagame. When some foreign voices said they were disappointed by the referendum results to keep Kagame, majority Rwandans who exercised their freedom to ask him to stay were disappointed too, because the few foreign voices did not want to respect their democratic right. Rwandans have therefore, been shaped by history and experiences to be accountable to themselves in the first place and not the wishes of others.

Gerald Mbanda is a journalist and Pan Africanist
Based in Kigali Rwanda
Twitter: @Gerald Mbanda

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