Never mind, Rwanda’s model is not for Export

Monday February 18 2019

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Rwanda's ruling RPF Inkotanyi Parliamentary campaign. PHOTO | FILE 

GERALD MBANDA
By GERALD MBANDA
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I read with interest an opinion by a Professor of Democracy at the University of Birmingham Nic Cheeseman, in The EastAfrican of February 9- February 15, 2019,titled; Never mind human rights, Rwanda’s model won’t work anywhere in Africa.

The article lacked evidence on claims of human rights violations, and  trying in a way  to bias readers that although Rwanda has made impressive  progress as a well governed country, other African countries should not emulate it, but  instead should follow the Western model.

First and foremost, Rwanda’s model is homegrown and citizen centred based on contextual realities related to the county’s history, culture and aspirations of the citizens.

Rwanda is not in competition any other country, but competing with her-self, in the lost time of decades of bad leadership and underdevelopment.

The genocide against the Tutsi where the country lost over one million people who were the human capital for development brought the country on the   brink of a failed state!
Rwanda’s model serves the interests of the Rwandan people and is neither for sale nor for export.

However, many in Africa and beyond eager to know or impressed by the Rwandan model, have visited the country on fact finding study tours and experience sharing. 

The Democracy professor seems to rely on what other people say, than what he has established on his own.

Let us look at the statement claimed by Professor Nic Cheeseman that, “The Rwandan system therefore involves compromising democracy for the sake of development”. The question here is what democracy is the professor referring to?

Stereotype

This is one of the problems of the Western stereotype that African countries cannot have their own form of democracy, but to copy and paste what the West does; short of that, there is no democracy, no human rights, no free and fair elections and so on.

Democracy is not a one size costume to be worn by all. The choices are numerous and therefore, Rwanda under the leadership of Kagame has found what fits best that is home made.

The Rwandan people are happy with their choice of leadership and their form of democracy that is consensual and non-confrontational. The West considers this type of organized democracy rather boring because what is perceived as ‘real democracy in Africa’ should be defined by protests, violence and bloodshed.

These are evil consequences of the divide and rule colonial legacy.  Outsiders have the freedom to make comments but they cannot dictate or make choices for Rwandans. 

Global political dynamics, show that from Washington where the US has experienced the longest government shutdown in history, to London where Prime Minister Theresa May,  has suffered a historical 230 vote defeat in the Brexit deal, the Western liberal democracy is in limbo and disorganized.

The reality is that Western countries developed a complacent attitude while new forms of democracy and economic development models are emerging from developing countries.

Western scholars like Professor Cheeseman are simply stuck in denial for the systems they serve to keep relevant. As long as the West does not take control of the affairs of African countries, they will always find reasons and ways to discredit or disrupt their achievements.

Critics

On claims of violations of human rights, Professor Cheeseman does not mention any single case that critics use as an  example that,  “puncture Kagame’s image”, as he coins the word. Kagame’s image cannot be defined by what critics say, but what he does. The achievements Professor Cheeseman admits that have been realized by Rwanda under Kagame’s  leadership, contradict the assertion. 

It is natural that every government has critics. Even the most divine government in heaven faced unfair criticism by Lucifer and took with him one third of the angels from his creator. Believing what critics say without evidence renders arguments by the Democracy Professor biased.    

In the last 25 years, Rwanda has issued 900 arrest warrants for genocide suspects and the majority of them are enjoying the comfort in Western capitals. In Britain where Prof. Cheeseman lives, there are four genocide suspects under indictment, and their extradition has been denied under the claim of Freedom of expression.

The Democracy Professor chooses to ignore such violation of the rights of family members of the victims of Genocide who are waiting for justice. The refusal by Western countries to cooperate on genocide fugitives is as well in contravention of international law, but never mind; that they are the champions of democracy and human rights!

If lack of freedom of expression Rwanda and Kagame are accused of represents giving a platform to genocide perpetrators, revisionists and deniers; the writing is clearly on the wall.  There is no apology or compromise for lack of such space.

Kagame and the RPF/RPA, single handedly stopped Genocide, when the world looked aside. His government has put citizens’ wellbeing at the centre of development and millions have been lifted out of poverty. 

More than 90 percent of Rwandans are enrolled under universal health care reaching the poorest of the poor, to access affordable medical services.  Drone are being used to delivery blood in remote areas to urgently save lives in danger.

Infant mortality rates are at the lowest and life expectance has doubled in the last 25 years currently standing at 68 years! These and more, are the scientific indicators of a government concerned with the citizens basic human rights.

President Kagame was selected by his peers to head the African Union reforms based on his transformational governance credential at home and Rwanda many international governance think tanks have commended the Rwandan model.

Western scholars need to spend  time to explain to the rest of the world why their own model of democracy has failed and the risks involved for other countries to emulate it, and also make efforts to learn how  there are emerging successful models that are  not cloned from the West.

This will help the West and African societies to learn and complement each other rather than pulling legs of the weak countries struggling for self-reliance. 

Gerald Mbanda 

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