Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

25 December 2012

Rwanda: RPF's Legacy of Unity Cannot Be Undone

editorial

The RPF's silver jubilee has come to a close, and what a celebration it is has been. Across the country, and among the diaspora, Rwandans celebrated the party that not only stopped the Genocide against the Tutsis, but has also been the main engine of the country's recovery and stellar development over the last 18 years.

They did not do this alone, of course. When they chased away the genocidal Habyarimana regime in 1994, it would have been easy for the RPF to ban all other political parties and impose one-party rule. Some would argue that that would even have made a lot of sense.

Yet that was not the RPF's vision. From the start, its leaders understood that the new Rwanda should be inclusive, open to all its citizens. That is of course related to the party's origins, having been created by people living in exile, who were not only treated as second-class citizens in the countries where they lived, but also excluded from returning home. "There is no room for you here," the Habyarimana regime told them. They vowed to prove him wrong.

And so after the liberation struggle, they reached out to other political parties to form a government of national unity, promoting a shared program of recovery and development. They made sure that justice was done to those involved in the Genocide, but also that once those people had served their sentences, they were free to live in the country and should not be harassed. The only ones for which the RPF had no room, were the intransigent people who wanted to maintain the old order of divisionism.

Foreign observers will often say that the regime in Rwanda is in fact a one-party rule. During the 2010 presidential elections, for instance, they accused the candidates running against President Kagame of being just straw men who were there for show.

At best, that attitude just shows their ignorance about the reality in Rwanda today. It is true that the programs of the four presidential candidates were quite similar, but the reason is of course that they were all building on the same program that had been implemented in the previous 16 years by a coalition government in which their respective parties participated. Since that program was the result of a collaboration across the political spectrum, there was little radically new they could propose.

That legacy of unity and inclusiveness is without doubt the RPF's biggest achievement, because it constitutes the foundation on which the country's economic and social development has taken place. And while it may not please the intransigents, that legacy cannot be undone.

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