Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

25 December 2012

Rwanda: RPF Has Made Rwanda 'Better Than Ever'

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) will always follow the ideological line which places country, institutions and systems above any individual or other interests. According to President Paul Kagame, this ideology fosters open debate and continuous dialogue, embracing divergent ideas from all members and sections of the society towards consensus and a shared vision.

The President reiterated the commitment on December 20 while addressing thousands of Rwandans and guests who gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the RPF-Inkotanyi at the Amahoro Stadium.

"At 25, the RPF is as old as a generation. People born around the time it was formed are now adults," the President said. "Unlike them, however, our party did not have the opportunity or privilege to go through the normal stages of growth - the RPF was forced to run before we could barely crawl because circumstances required it."

Obviously the Head of State evoked the liberation struggle that he led until 18 years ago, a struggle undertaken with the objective of fighting bad governance that characterized Rwanda's history in the post-colonial time and to solve all the problems that resulted.

For Kagame, who is also the chairman of the ruling party, it's only under the RPF leadership that the country has become better than ever thanks to significant progress in resolving many of the complex challenges facing Rwanda against overwhelming odds. "For sure, the country is much better off today than it has ever been," he said. "Even in the most hostile environment, the RPF did not lose focus and, together with the people of Rwanda, continued to make enduring contributions to the improvement of their livelihoods."

Bad governance in the post-colonial era, scholars say, made it imperative for some African countries, including Rwanda, to start liberation struggles decades later in search of socio- economic transformation. Until today, heated discussions on how to win the transformation battle on the continent are the order of the day among policy makers, scholars and civil society activists.

In Rwanda's context for instance, Kagame said that the RPF was created in 1987 to correct the effects of several decades of misrule and restore respect for the sanctity of life as well as reinstate full citizenship to all Rwandans, including those exiled in neighboring countries.

"The RPF was always driven by the desire to reunite a fractured country and build a nation in which all Rwandans could live in dignity and freedom," he said.

Thousands of Rwandans had been denied their rights to live in their country since 1959 when the country was preparing for independence, and the exiled regained their rights when the RPF's army wing won the liberation struggle in 1994 after stopping the Genocide against Tutsi.

Sustainable gains

The liberation through armed struggle was the last option, but it cannot in itself sustain gains in order to achieve the intended transformation, according to scholars, civil society activists and policy makers from the African continent and beyond who gathered last week in Kigali in a one-day international conference on liberation struggles themed 'Inclusive Governance, Prosperity and Dignity."

"Military victory is just a battle, but it's not enough to bring about mutual cooperation, unity and other solutions," argued Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of Rwanda Governance Board (RGB). "After the liberation battle, the struggle continues. That's where the RPF intake has to be a lesson in the context of transformational leadership."

The conference was organized by the RPF as a part of its silver jubilee activities.

In Shyaka's opinion, it is very important to know about sustainability of those gains in order to move on successfully rather than coming back to endless conflicts that hamper the socio-economic progress.

"If you look across the whole continent where we have heard wars and conflicts, it's when we lose momentum of consolidating gains that we lose the struggle and start liberation again, and we come back to circle of conflicts," he noted, adding that there is a need to keep in mind the policy consistency and coherence plus their sustainability implementation.

For other scholars and activists, the continent should correct mistakes of the past by putting in place a visionary leadership that serves the interests of the whole population if the aim is to build prosperous nations.

"Whatever happened to unite Africans, will now divide them, if visionary leadership with clear policies that benefits the masses is not put at the forefront of African leadership," pointed out Jenerali Ulimwengu, a political commentator and a civil society activist based in Dar es Salaam. "It's now the time for Africa to rise and define her own journey."

But questions remain when it comes to defining the journey and make it sustainable since it is apparent that there is absence of Africa on the table of decision making. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, there is no other option than being resilient and assertive, but not aggressive.

"If we are not invited, then we have to find a way to crash the party because we have to be there," she confidently told her colleagues. "There is no other way for our process of self-determination to move on without being heard and being visible. Nobody should speak for us."

Home-grown solutions

The shared point in the process was that there is a need to strengthen ties of old and new partnerships with other African movements and political organizations that are working to make Africa a significant global player.

Senator Tito Rutaremara, one of the main ideologues of the RPF, observed that the right approach should be to start by strengthening regional partnerships and then get the African continent focused on its own interests.

To make it a sustainable process, suggested Col Dr Joseph Karemera, one of the RPF's commissioners, Africans should stop the practice of "copying and pasting" from the western world and start focusing more on home-grown solutions. "We need to have diagnostic capability in our societies and proper descriptions for problems we see," he observed. "We have to believe in home-grown solutions because many struggles fail because they get descriptions from America and Europe disregarding their home-grown solutions."

Prof Margee Ensign, the president of the American University of Nigeria, reiterated the potential of home-grown solutions in the process by giving Rwanda's successful examples of mutuelle de santé, nyakatsi eradication, imihigo, gacaca, umuganda and ubudehe among others, that helped Rwanda, under the leadership of the RPF, achieve tremendous progress in the battle of socio-economic transformation over about two decades.

And President Kagame, talking a day later at the RPF's silver jubilee, spoke along the same lines. "Let our celebrations today remind us of how far our country and our continent have come," he said. "Let this important milestone reinvigorate us for what lies ahead because the struggle for dignity and prosperity of Rwandans and Africans as a whole is not yet over."

In that context, he called on youth to also take their responsibility. "This generation, the youth of RPF and Rwanda, must now be prepared to assume their responsibility and take our country to the next level," he urged youth. "The foundation for true transformation has been laid and the opportunity to build on it must be seized."

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