The New Times (Kigali)

19 September 2012

Rwanda: Success of a National Event a Nightmare for Opposition Groups

opinion

Tomorrow (Friday), Rwandans from all walks of life will converge in Boston to chat on various issues concerning their nation.

The event, that has come to be known as the "Rwanda Day" is quickly becoming a tradition - serving as a strong mobilization tool for Rwandans in the Diaspora.

Even if Rwanda Day is happening for the second time, one of the fruits of the continuous engagement between government and the Diaspora can be seen during the months of July and December.

During these two months, Kigali is flooded with 'Diasporians.' The happening places; restaurants, bars, nightclubs are awash with fellows speaking in tongue-twisting accents and dressed in a manner that is alien to us. You easily bump into a fellow dressed in a pair of snickers, office trousers, a t-shirt accompanied with a necktie and then a fedora hat (the smaller version of the one for herders).

I am yet to see the statistics, but what is certain is that consumption index of some beverages shoots up during these months. Certainly, the 'happening' joints see a surge in their profit margins.

There is an event that has come to be associated with 'diasporians.' It happens on the eve of each New Year and is dubbed 'Happy People. In one corner will be a group with an accent from Uncle Sam's land and in another a group of fellows who have certainly seen the Eiffel tower. Move a step ahead and you find those who have been to Old Trafford or the Emirates or the Camp Nou but equally a sizeable number of those from Coastal areas or the land of rumba.

It's basically an assembly of different cultures, backgrounds, and lingua franca and yet all united by the fact that they are Rwandans with a common language, common history and common culture.

The growing interest of the Diaspora in calling Rwanda their home does not come out of the blue. It's a combination of many factors, of which 'Rwanda Day' comes as a value addition.

But the success of an event like this is certainly a nightmare for Rwanda's opposition groups that have turned into nomads of western capitals as opposed to being constructive opposition figures.

Let me explain this further, using the example of football.

In football, there's what we call "home and away" fixtures. When you beat your rival from your own backyard, you are praised. But when you repeat it during the return leg from its own stadium, you silence the fans of that club.

They (fans) become disillusioned, demoralised and begin to question the coach's technical ability and skills to drive them forward.

Similarly, Rwanda's opposition figures have largely concentrated their business in the Diaspora. They trot from one capital to another, mobilizing support using one ticket of dehumanizing President Kagame.

Naturally, because they are concentrated within these western capitals, one would expect that their influence on the Diaspora is significant. With the kind of noise they make on the radio, the kind of time they waste on the Internet, one would imagine that if they organised a parallel event to that of Rwanda Day (in Boston) they would attract a big crowd.

But to the contrary, they only assemble a handful of misguided Congolese, high on certain substances and hauling all sorts of insults like mad men.

And this is where Rwanda's opposition figures get it wrong. While an event like the Rwanda Day in Boston is a forum where the Rwandan government mobilizes its Diaspora to take up opportunities back home and also keep them informed on issues on the ground, a gathering of any opposition group is about one thing: Kagame, Kagame and Kagame.

While issues of economy, investment and governance take centre stage at Rwanda Day events, any opposition gathering is lost in manufacturing lies and vengeful rhetoric.

You cannot attract any following if your message from Monday to Monday, 24/7, 365 days is driven by misplaced hatred and personal anger. At the end of the day, you risk becoming irrelevant and whatever message you preach is reduced to that of a person seeking self-aggrandizement as opposed to addressing any prevailing concerns.

Therefore, the inability on the part of Rwandan opposition figures to hover above personal attacks will soon leave them in a situation where they call for a meeting only to find themselves addressing walls.

An event like Rwanda Day, where real issues that appeal to the Diaspora are discussed, demonstrates the kind of value government attaches to this segment of Rwandans. It brings out the distinct difference as to who means business and who the joker is. It empowers their voice, evokes a sense of patriotism and makes them feel relevant players in whatever Kigali seeks to achieve.

That is why they will descend on Boston in big numbers from North America, Europe, Africa, and Iceland and ignore any opposing call.

For that, Rwanda Day becomes a terrible nightmare for the opposition figures.

On twitter @aasiimwe

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