7 August 2017

Rwanda: President-Elect Kagame Deserved It

Photo: New Times
A polling station in Kigali.

Following presidential election held August 3 and 4, the president-elect Paul Kagame swept to a landslide victory, securing a seven-year term.

On Saturday, the National Electoral Commission released the preliminary results after tallying all the votes cast, in which Kagame garnered 98.6 per cent of the vote.

His competitors, independent Philippe Mpayimana, garnered only 0.73 per cent and Frank Habineza, of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, 0.47 per cent.

President-elect Kagame deserved it, without any doubt, and the landslide victory hasn't come as a surprise to many; it was highly expected due to two important reasons.

First, Rwanda's tremendous achievements - that make Rwanda what it is now - are largely thanks to his selfless determination to turn things around.

Given the country's horrific episode of 1994 that culminated into the Genocide against the Tutsi, the country needed a leader of such calibre.

Indeed, the country needed a tough leader to champion the tough choices that were needed to put us back on our feet, starting with reconciliation, given the fragmented society we had at the time, as well as bringing perpetrators of Genocide and other international crimes to book.

Additionally, no one doubts about his [Kagame] visionary leadership. A leader who is ever committed to transforming the lives of citizens. This election outcome vividly reflects who Rwandans thought is the right person for the job.

The will of the populace has been constitutionally manifested. I want to believe that, whether from outside or inside the country, whoever is concerned with election results will have to respect the choice of Rwandans.

Citizens had good time to judge the presidential contenders against their campaign manifestos.

Personally, I had a feeling that presidential contenders were judged against the need to implement key national programmes, such as Economic Development and Poverty Strategy (EDPRS II), which depict collective national interests and aspirations of Rwandans.

These include: 'rapid economic growth to middle income status; increased poverty reduction; more off-farm jobs; more urbanization; reduced external dependency; and Private sector as engine of growth'.

It doesn't, however, imply this is the exhaustive checklist, but provides fundamentals anyone could wish for in turning things around.

Looking carefully, for example, the campaign pledges of RPF-Inkotanyi perfectly tallies with the national agenda for economic development, social welfare, and good governance as well as justice with an aim of transforming Rwanda into a knowledge based economy.

To sum up, President-elect Kagame's campaign pledges include promotion of well-being of Rwandans, quality education, promotion of women's and children rights and strengthening of social protection programmes for vulnerable Rwandans, and strengthening unity of Rwandans, urbanisation, increasing agricultural production among other areas of focus.

And, these are the pillars of quality life.

This is equally well captured in Kagame's words; I quote, "Even seeing where we have come from and where we are and the progress that has been made in between, I know we can make more progress and we can strengthen". "Beyond 2020 we should have gained middle-income status and continue to move higher in terms of prosperity."

Today, using technology to build knowledge economies is the axis of transforming lives of people. Rwandans would wish to see the president-elect harnessing digital transformation, among others.

No doubt digital transformation is the fulcrum of innovation, inclusiveness, and sustainable growth, which can contribute to poverty reduction. It is recognised that ICT plays a crucial role in modernising and increasing efficiency and effectiveness in terms of service delivery in both public and private sectors.

Equally, it promotes better access to financial resources and services and a more entrepreneurial friendly environment.

Though ICT isn't a panacea, it is one of the key drivers to modernise the general welfare and way of life. Importantly, it fosters favourable conditions for the development of the digital economy and recognise the need to ensure effective investment and innovation.

It is important, however, to empathise that harnessing ICT isn't a new thing but to keep up its enhancement. This commitment will, of course, enable citizens to enjoy the benefits of ICT. Currently, the country's pace in terms of enhancing the use of technology is considerably promising.

The second most demanding task is to increase employment opportunities that can absorb the large cohort of youth that is graduating to enter the labour market. The high unemployment must be addressed as the youth continue to grow more and more.

A well-functioning labour market contributes to inclusive and cohesive society and resilient economy. As earlier noted, digitalization offers, among others, the opportunity for creating new and better jobs, while at the same time raising challenges regarding skills, social protection and job quality. Therefore, it is imperative to educate and train the youth with employable skills to broaden their future work skills.

In a similar way, enhanced equal access to labour market, quality employment and financial services for women and men as fundamental for achieving gender equality and full realisation of their rights as well as a prerequisite for socio-economic development.

In Kagame's speech following release of partial election results, he said "this is another seven years to take care of issues that affect Rwandans and ensure that we become real Rwandans who are [economically] developing".

The writer is an international law expert.

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