The World Should Give Rwanda A Chance, Just One Time
The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have triggered a constitutional change to ensure law enforcement and security personal are equipped with the right legal tools to prevent future killings.
The constitutional change was a normal reaction to address a specific context France is facing. So, constitutional change per-say is a normal process in the Western world. The question then becomes, why is it reprehensible when it comes to African countries?
One could argue that altering within the constitution the limitation on the number of mandates for the head of state is what is reprehensible.
But this argument loses all its meaning given that the number of mandate allowed to be a head of state (or head of government) is not a measure of democracy.
For those who argue otherwise, they would be implying that Germany is not a democracy given that Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany was in power from 1982 to 1998 and the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from 1973 to 1998.
The same would apply for the Great Britain which also had Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990.
This also applies to President Franklin D Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, who won a record four elections and served from March 1933 until he died in April 1945. Who knows, maybe he would have continued serving for more years.
The US congress passed the 22nd amendment limiting the Presidential term in March 1947 and this was only ratified in February 1951 by 36 states out of the then 48 member states.
It is unfortunate that government systems or social contracts analysis in African countries are simply limited to a debate around the number of mandates allowed to the head of state.
It is even quite insulting, given the continued challenges of African countries to assert their role as world players, while recovering from the scars of slavery and colonialism.
There are no excuses for a leadership that kills its people, encourages corruption or that does not provide the needed environment for growth.
Those are countries where the civil society revolts against its leadership, which obviously represent a minority only kept in power through corruption, abuses of office, despotism and â€œclientelismeâ€.
This is a stark contrast with a country like Rwanda that rose from ashes to become one of the most progressive countries in Africa, with a growth rate of about 8% in the last seven years and heavy investments to ensure that its population benefits from healthcare, good education and other vital infrastructure.
In 1994, the genocide against the Tustis, coupled with the killing of Hutus in opposition or those opposing the genocide by Habyarimana’s regime, left a traumatized population with a complete destruction of the social fabric.
Rwanda had ceased to exist as a nation.
The country had to dig deep into itself to create the right leadership, the right balance between the judiciary, the executive and the legislative to ensure that the nation was rebuilt.
A naÃ¯ve eye would think that this was an easy process. However, Rwanda had to surmount the challenges to reach where it is today.
From 1994 to 2000, Rwanda fought to keep the integrity of its territory.
The France leadership then, as a coloniser, allowed itself to control part of Rwanda in what was called the Turquoise zone, where it provided to the genocide forces an escape route.
Rwanda then had to fight to create a balance between all political forces to reach a consensual and inclusive political system.
More than half of the population was in refugee camps taken hostage by the same defeated army that had organized and executed the genocide. President Paul Kagame was the Vice President and Minister of defense.
His focus was far from being President but rather on assuring the integrity of the Rwandan territory, the return of peace and security, the return of refugees, the integration of defeated army.
It proved, however, too difficult for the then President Pastor Bizimungu who was torn apart between nation building and self-promotion as well as the lack of leadership to bring all parties to the table for national rebuilding.
Thatâ€™s when the RPF congress requested Kagame to become its Presidential candidate for the 2003 elections.
Since then the country has not only been peaceful but also very prosperous. With a school enrollment rate of over 90% and a health insurance provided to most of the population, Rwanda is a new bed for various social innovations propelling its population out of poverty into the lower middle class.
This call for a new constitution, which will be voted for in a referendum on December 18, reflects the maturity of Rwandans who want to continue this growth they have benefited from since 2000.
The world, like it has to other developed and stable nations, should give Rwanda a chance to build its democracy. After all, Rwanda is nation of over 1000 years old that had had very efficient indigenous governance systems.