Person voting

On the 3rd and 4th August 2017, Rwandans will vote to elect a president among three competing candidates; Philippe Mpayimana, an independent, Frank Habineza of the Green Party and Paul Kagame of the Rwanda patriotic Front (RPF).

The campaign period is on, and the mood is of excitement and jubilation, which is done, in a calm atmosphere.

This kind of peaceful campaign mood with no violent demonstrations and stone throwing supporters of different candidates is again rare to find in political rallies across the continent.
Eight political parties unanimously decided to support the RPF candidate Paul Kagame, rather than fielding their own candidate; a decision that is very rare to find in multiparty political competition.

By having many political parties in the country endorsing the RPF candidate is a sign of confidence in the ruling party and its candidate Paul Kagame, for transforming Rwanda from almost a failed state and a country of pity and sympathy because of genocide, to a prosperous nation that others want to learn from. Rwandans have learnt the hard way through a harsh history of planted seeds of division brought by colonialism and perfected by post-independence governments.

As Rwandans are in the mood of elections, western human rights organizations and some media outlets have engaged in releasing ‘reports’ castigating an ‘atmosphere of fear’ and all sorts of allegations against the government of Rwanda over human rights abuse. However, the reports and allegations are not new, but old recycled claims all the time. Secondly, the timing of the ‘reports’ during a period when Rwanda has a big event like this has also happened over the years especially during the commemoration of genocide against the Tutsi. The question here is who, why and what are such reports meant for?

The allegations of human rights abuse are seen as meant to discourage foreign countries from supporting Rwanda, but the allies of Rwanda know very well how efficient donor support is put to good use.

Secondly, the deliberate and persistent use of the wording, “The Tutsi led Government’, is intended to resurrect divisions among the Rwandan people and to hate their own government, and the authors think that the negative reports can affect the way people will vote and resent the ruling RPF led government. Over the years, such reports instead of discouraging citizens, they have encouraged them to work hard and have confidence in their government because of the tangible achievements they see, and transformational leadership they cherish.

Rwanda, contrary to what detractors say, is one of the most well governed country in Africa, and where public and private institutions function efficiently; not to mean though, that they are perfect. Institutions Like Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) constantly receive delegations from across the continent on a learning experience on how Rwanda manages to do things the right way. Rwanda is a role model in Africa and in the world on inclusive and accountable governance, control of corruption, ease of doing business to name a few.

With 64% of women legislators (highest in the world), Life expectancy risen from 45 to 65 years; in the last two decades, infant mortality rate has dropped by 70%; per capita income has increased 60%; over a million Rwandans have been lifted out of extreme poverty; more than 90% of children under 12 go to school; and more that 90% of the population have universal insurance medical scheme.

These are no mean achievements for any country, in Sub-Saharan Africa, let alone for Rwanda which has emerged out of threats of a failed state. The figures above stand more for human rights than mere rhetorical claims.
Rwanda is a country that has re-invented herself from the rubbles of ashes.

With the resolve to avoid a repeat of the past and build a new, united and prosperous Rwanda, a ‘marshal plan for Rwanda’ was crafted through what was known as the Urugwiro debates that took place between may 1998 and March 1999. Rwanda’s unique history made her learn quickly how to find home grown solutions to her problems from within, after abandonment by the International community in 1959 and again in 1994.

It is in these debates that politicians, religious, civil society organizations leaders, senior citizens and opinion leaders, resolved to adapt a home grown consensual, pluralistic democracy founded on power sharing, national unity and reconciliation as opposed to confrontational politics.

Rwandan political campaigns and elections are peaceful because of deliberate unique political choices made following lessons learnt from past ba politics of violence, division and discrimination. Foreign critics may call it lack of credible opposition or whatever they want, but as long as it is the choice Rwandans have made, it serves them better than a violent ‘credible democracy’.

While the one size fit all democracy remains a fallacy, Rwanda’s unique choices demonstrate that each country can have her own form of democracy tailored on the local context. We have seen examples of democracy in the developed world, where a candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner and rules majority people who did not elect him or her. This is how diverse democracy can be. Rwanda’s home grown solutions not found elsewhere, the resilience of the Rwanda people to succeed against all odds, coupled with committed visionary leadership has made Rwanda an admirable country among peers that it is today.

Rallies of the political campaigns, show incomparable difference of the number of supporters.

The RPF rallies attract hundreds of thousands of people, while its competitors who are political little known and political novices in the arena receive visibly few numbers. The reason is clear. The RPF is a liberation movement that has built its membership base since 1987, and its armed wing the RPA fought the war of liberation commanded by Paul Kagame who stopped the genocide and united the country more than ever before.

These credentials alone, before talking about post genocide reconstruction and development, make Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) have majority support even in years to come. The question about the elections therefore, is not whether the RPF and its candidate Paul Kagame will win the elections; the win will be a land slide victory and the valid question is, by what percentage!

In the past presidential elections, foreign critics have again grumbled about the high percentage win by RPF. The Rwandan spirit is different from other parts of the world where voter turn up is low. The people take voting as a personal duty and responsibility responsibility and all eligible voters, except the sick, make it to the polling stations early and the stations are closer to the people hence a very high turn up of voters. Important to note too, is that Rwanda’s elections are locally funded and materials used are made in Rwanda, reducing wasteful spending of tax payers’ money.

Gerald Mbanda
Head of Media Department, Rwanda Governance Board
Twitter: @GeraldMbanda