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People should not worry about General Kagame’s Legacy

by Joseph Habineza.

Minister Joseph Habineza

Joseph Habineza,
Kagame’s Minister of Sports and Culture

I decided to write on this subject as a reaction to many articles from various papers, especially from the western world where, despite commending Rwandans and their leaders on the just concluded successful ballots, they are speculating about what will happen in 2017.

Always predicting bad scenarios like: President Kagame will change the constitution to allow him seek a third term, he sent his son to a military academy to prepare him for Presidential job, and worst, what I just read in Japan Times on line of August 16, 2010. (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ed20100816a1.html).

“Opposition leaders were banned from the election; the deputy leader of one opposition party was murdered. The three men who remained on the ballot were not considered real alternatives to Mr. Kagame: Critics labeled them “sham candidates.”

First of all, let me talk about those labeled opposition leaders who were banned from the election. In our language there is a saying: “Nta nkumi yigaya” which can be translated as “Everybody thinks He is capable.”

1. Frank Habineza, his deputy and his green party:

Frankly speaking this is just a circus of some individuals, self claimed dissidents of RPF who were not even known in that party and who don’t know the reality of this country, quite disconnected from the people.

I can bet that not only the general Rwandan public but also intellectuals of this country don’t know any of their programs nor their projects.

Just for imitating the western world they wanted to play an environmental card…..
The current government got many awards due to its commitment and initiatives in environment protection ie ban of plastic bags, conservation and protection of mountain gorillas, ….

2. Bernard Ntaganda

To lead a country is not an adventure, you need to be charismatic, have leadership skills and so many other qualities, you can’t be elected on the basis of terrorism or threats.

This man has been heard saying publicly that he has to get on power or he will mess up everything.

“Tura tugabane niwanga ndabimena…..”

3. Victoire Ingabire

How can someone who has been disconnected from a country for more than 15 years claim to know better the needs of that same people? To bring back the ethnic divisionism is cowardly.

Rwandan politics has gone beyond that, surprisingly, there are both foreigners and Rwandans who think that Rwandans are still in the 60’s. Her link to FDLR (a terrorist organization) is not a secret, even UN reports mention it.

For the sham candidates, elections are like any other competition, there are rules and guidelines.

Why should people be scared of an opposition without credentials and accept to compete with political parties that have been in existence for more than a decade.

In history, we have seen extraordinary men and women who are special and who have made a mark on the lives of people in their country, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela to mention but a few. Now it’s the turn of Rwanda with Paul Kagame.

But as other special People, he has his mandate, don’t block his way, let him accomplish it and when time comes for him to hand over, he will do it proudly and will remain forever in Rwandan history, since he will have built a strong state and strong institutions.

When People talk about real alternative to Mr Kagame, what do they mean or what do they want? Why don’t they talk about continuity? Is there any real alternative to peace, stability, development and self confidence that Rwandans acquired under the leadership of Mr. Kagame?

What is your agenda for Rwanda even though you have no mandate to define Rwanda’s destiny?

Mr. Kagame will one day leave power but his legacy will remain, that’s why we should talk about continuity because the revolution he initiated will never stop and all young Rwandans and even Africans will be the flag bearers.

It’s an insult to Rwandans to say that after Paul Kagame, Rwanda will no longer exist. How can a country of more than ten million people lack someone capable to lead their country?

People should know that resilience is characteristic of Rwandans. We can’t experience worse than the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

But Paul Kagame with majority of Rwandans worked hard to achieve and get where we are now. We are a people with passion and determination.

That is why 93% voted RPF, as a sign of appreciation to a leadership that has transformed their lives socially, economically, restored dignity and pride.

For the first time in their history Rwandans are confident and believe in a brighter future.

I believe in my people and I know there are young, energetic and dynamic Rwandans who are working and learning hard and so that when time comes, Paul Kagame will proudly hand over, to them, the baton.

What I am sure of is that, he (Paul Kagame) will never hand over the leadership of Rwanda to people who have no vision for their country, who want to use violence as a shortcut to power, who are not connected to Rwandans.

Long live Rwanda, her people and her friends.

The author, Joseph Habineza, is Rwanda’s Minister of Sports and Culture.

August 21, 2010   10 Comments

Rwandan Senate’s survey indicates that fear of authorities impacts free speech

Kigali – The deep-rooted fear among Rwandans for those in power affects their ability to express themselves freely – which consequently has an impact on political participation, according to a new national survey by the Senate.

69 percent of those surveyed believe the fear of authority is the major obstacle to freedom of speech and political space, followed closely by the mindset of nepotism and the legacy of Genocide.

The study commissioned by the Senate surveyed a total of 2606 people drawn from two sectors of each of the 30 districts making up the country.

The findings come at a time when government increasingly finds itself under international scrutiny and criticism for stifling the expression of alternative views and lacking a commitment to democracy. At the forefront of this accusation have been Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders (RSF).

The Senate committee and the research agency which conducted the study say the culture of fear has no correlation with government policy or the supposed dominance of the political system by the ruling party.

The researchers, working since February last year, found a majority of Rwandans listing the fear of authorities, a mindset of nepotism, clientelism and corruption, and the legacy of Genocide as the major causes weakening political space and freedom of speech.

A large percentage of those surveyed also listed the unequal strength among political parties as contributing to weak political participation.

The study was on political pluralism and power sharing in Rwanda. Senator Dr. Karemera Joseph chaired the Ad Hoc committee that oversaw the study, while Prof. Anastase Shyaka, executive secretary of the Rwanda Governance Advisory Council (RGAC), led the research.

The study has yet to be formally presented nationwide although it was presented to media on Friday last week and also posted on the parliament’s website.

The researchers explored public sentiments on political pluralism, political space, power sharing and political parties, freedom of speech, democratic principles, and the independence of parliament and judiciary.

For one, the extent of power sharing among all the political parties emerged as one of the campaign issues in the just concluded presidential race. The Social Democratic Party’s (PSD) candidate Dr Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo had proposed to extend it from the national level, where it is currently restricted, down to the village level.

The ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) is not only the strongest of all political parties dominating the political scene, it is also the most well-established, down to the village level. Because other parties’ political participation is restricted to the national level, the unofficial understanding is that the RPF holds most of the political and administrative positions across the country.

In conversations with RNA, Senator Karemera argued that the RPF’s dominance is explained by the country’s history and how it has negotiated it. As he sees it, for now there might be a dominant party but as multiparty politics grow and mature in the country, it cannot remain so.

On the culture of fear, Senator Karemera said anybody with an inkling of Rwanda’s history should not be surprised about this situation, and its impact on people’s perceptions. “When a population has lived under repression for a long time, the first characteristic is to fear leaders,” he said.

Both Karemera and Shyaka, the study’s lead researcher, added that this culture is on the decline as ordinary people get increasingly empowered and integrated in decision-making.

The two also questioned the criteria international organisations use to determine the nature of politics and the extent of democratic practice in Rwanda.

“What methodologies do they [international organisations] use to draw their conclusions?” asked Prof. Shyaka while speaking to RNA about the study.

Dr. Karemera on his part wondered how the same organisations defined political and democratic space. “They use different standards and don’t put into considerations what Rwanda has gone through,” he argued.

Their queries are based on figures the same study provides on political pluralism and political space. Up to 80 percent of all respondents said there was full existence of both political pluralism and political space against four percent who disagreed.

Equally, upwards of 60 percent share the view that political parties and politicians enjoy full freedom of speech and have total political space.

Yet this seeming contradiction between Rwandans’ perception of the obstacles to political space and free speech and the extent to which the two aspects exist in the country will easily be fodder for critics of the current regime.

Already, at a seminar in Nairobi organised by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) to discuss and analyse Rwanda’s pre-electoral climate, and where a presentation based on this study was made, there were concerns “whether this culture of fearing leaders may have influenced the respondents thereby skewing the results and if this culture was a fear of leadership in general or a fear of a particular leader.”

[ARI-RNA]

August 21, 2010   No Comments