22 September 2017

Rwanda: Democracy, Is That You?


On Tuesday September 12, 2017, the Guardian, a leading British newspaper, published a long article, in which it blamed Tutsi for their own massacre.

'There is a fundamental difference between the Rwanda genocide and the Nazi Holocaust', the Guardian proclaimed, 'a rebel army of mainly Rwandan Tutsi exiles known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front, or RPF, had invaded Rwanda while no Jewish army posed a threat to Germany'.

That Tutsi were systematically killed for 31 years, long before the RPF was even formed; that the RPF was a non-tribal movement; precisely created to fight tribalism and effectively comprised of Rwandans of all backgrounds across its leadership, are both simply ignored by the Guardian's story.

Only three days later, on September 15, 2017, the British High Commissioner to Rwanda was publishing a blog, in which he too declared, after the usual half-hearted praises, that he 'personally saw irregularities with the counting of ballots and vote tabulation during the recent presidential elections in Rwanda.'

That British media promotes revisionism of Genocide against the Tutsi is nothing unusual. That the British High Commissioner finds courage to lecture us on honesty and transparency in the same week, was astonishing.

Whether that was an English-styled 'counter-fire' is unclear. What is clear, however, is that the world never learns.

This coordinated pattern is all too familiar for Rwandans. We still vividly recall that, while one million of our people were being massacred, members of the UN-Security Council, one of whom the High-Commissioner represents, coldly debated pointless democratic concepts, much like the ones the ambassador discussed, a month past peaceful elections which ended in popular celebrations; a rare outcome in recent sub-regional and world's politics, including his country of origin.

We Rwandans do not need his praises of our system. It is our system after all and we are the ones who set it up: thousands of years before the self-claimed 'discovery of Africa'. We did not wait for Britain or anybody else to live our lives.

They are free to benchmark our governance model to theirs for self-aggrandizement, but that is not our concern. Like our President says to them repeatedly, 'we do not need to convince the West that we are democrats'

Invited to a 'conversation' on the margins of the UN General Assembly just the other day, the moderator, Rick Stengel, asked him: 'Mr. President, how do you win 98% of the vote? 'Well, how do people win by 25%?' the President replayed, highlighting the inherent flaws in dogmatic conceptions of democracy...

Our Constitution is clear: Section 11: 'Rwandan culture as a source of home-grown solutions' stipulates: In order to build the nation, promote national culture and restore dignity, Rwandans, based on their values, initiate home-grown mechanisms to deal with matters that concern them.'

The High Commissioner would have made a useful contribution having spent the International Day of Democracy, soul-searching British media's assumed role of Genocide revisionism; he spent it grading our levels of democracy and sharing misplaced thoughts on long gone elections.

After exile, ethnic strife and the Genocide against Tutsi - that British media tries so hard to deny, we have been working towards reweaving our torn social fabric.

We have young people to teach our culture, adults to unite, a Rwandan nation to rebuild. As we do that, we couldn't care less what others think of our 'western-ness'...

Rwandans aren't unaware of the prevailing governance crisis in the region and in the world and, like their German counterparts, they know how privileged they are to have had such a rare good leader thus far.

For intellectual sanity, a British High Commissioner should have acknowledged that, at the very least...

In all this, one is left wondering whether the last threats to our reconciliation journey aren't foreigner's guilt and narcissism, all disguised in 'democracy' activism.

Albert Rudatsimburwa is the Director of Contact Media;

Gatete Nyiringabo is Senior Research Fellow in a Rwandan Think Tank.


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