Opposition in Rwanda: A failure of leadership

Opposition in Rwanda: A failure of leadership
Opposition in Rwanda: A failure of leadership

Africa-PressRwanda. On this day, April 13th, Rwanda remembers politicians killed during the Genocide against Tutsi for opposing the extermination of Tutsi.

They include high ranking civil servants who opposed the Government they were serving and the most prolific opposition figures.

The internal democratic leaning political class was wiped out in what appears to be a coup d’Etat, allowing the genocide to unfold.

A good politician, regardless of the political orientation, arises out of a social movement to improve a country. It does take experience, talent, and hard work to understand the complex factors underpinning the socio-economic growth of a nation.

By wiping out the entire democratic leaning political class in Rwanda, the genocide forces attempted to also root out democracy in Rwanda. Hadn’t it been for the Rwanda Patriotic Front, there was nobody after the Genocide with the craftmanship to steer the affairs of the State.

In the 100 days of the Genocide against Tutsi, the Genocide Government had demonstrated how it understood politics: the mobilization of the most basic and cruel instincts.

Leading without social capital

Today, people branding themselves as opposition are a far cry from the politicians killed during the Genocide or the young intellectuals from the Rwandese Patriotic Front.

This is partly due to the interrupted natural growth of a political class over centuries or says decades. But the irresponsible posturing cannot be alone excused by the lost decades in our history.

There is clear pattern of how opposition figures have continued the Genocide-era mindset of denying Rwanda of her social fabric.

They don’t see Rwanda as an idea of a nation but as the sum of particular interests. These interests are not organised around economic or social interests but around the weaponization of individual grievances.

They then profess a sort of bing-bang moment in which those grievances can disappear instantly by a change of leadership. Some even go as far as suggesting magic arithmetics, whereby Rwf12 million would solve all problems.

But Rwanda’s political space is a densely woven social fabric. To get where we are, it has taken modern Rwanda, discussions from village to village, from Gacaca to Ndi Umunyarwanda.

The dialogue continues by the people, amongst the people and for the people. The irony is that the opposition claims to liberate people from political oppression by portraying Rwandans as ever-passive people incapable to organise themselves, incapable of independent thought, unable to form their own opinion.

By advancing this, they are insinuating that Rwandans can’t choose what’s best for them. They are practically insulting their potential voters. The dialogue approach has increased accountability and involvement of everyone in the decisions that we make as a people.

Internal competition informs external competitiveness

Does constant dialogue mean the absence of opposing views? No, to the contrary, the quality of our internal competition informs the quality of our external competitiveness.

Having a weak political debate exposes us to the risk of not understanding the world we are facing because we are entertained with irrelevant issues.

The fact that Rwanda was able to grow from an example of a failed State to an example of how things can be done, is precisely because there were heightened internal debates on what choices the country should take.

The lack of leadership skills can lead people to think that the outcome of modern Rwanda is a yesmen show. Whoever led a group of people knows better: people perform best when there is buy-in.

This buy-in is a result of social capital built over the years. The worrisome trend is that the current opposition figures assume the absence of social capital.

The blindness to the socio-economic continuity of the Rwandan nation is intellectually not very far from the attempt of annihilating Rwanda, which the genocide against Tutsi was.

If you cannot see what has happened in the last 25 years in rebuilding the nation, then you are unfit to lead because you are denying existence to the very social fabric you pretend to represent.

The ability to lead

We should be organised around ideals and purpose to master concrete challenges. For that we need a critical mass of people who privilege better social outcomes over their individual interests.

How can this be achieved? By abiding to our mantra of mutual accountability with imihigo as our yardstick. Does this mean we have to agree on everything?

No precisely, we need to differ on who has the best ideas and capacity of implementation (guhigana) not who has the lowest standards in achieving cheap popularity.

For such critical mass to emerge, there needs to be a deliberate effort to organize competition and selection (itorero) around meritocracy. Having a pool of leaders across sectors is a national resource.

In every country of the world there is a system to nurture future leaders usually around good schools, universities and youth leagues in political parties. Why should it be different for Rwanda?

Truth be told, this system can be flawed with bias and detachment from the overall population as we are seeing in some parts of the world. While the principle of selection is good, the practice of it should not end up in discrimination.

Fact remains that if we leave the selection of leaders to hazard someone else will organize for us. The experience shows that they pick the people with the least integrity, and we have had enough of charlatans.

We are entering a new phase of our country’s development. For the first time in our modern history, there is a young generation that can access to trans-generational capital or assets.

For the first time in our modern history, our country is connected nationally, regionally, at continental and global levels. We are entering the global economy as last in the race but with materializing ambitions around tourism and innovation.

By the year 2050, Rwanda will have to transform her economy from land-based activities, such as agriculture and mining, towards a knowledge-based economy. Anybody wanting to represent Rwandans should start representing us in front of these challenges.


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