Rwanda’s government recently convened a special meeting to take stock of its achievements.
There were varied reactions, especially online, as the country’s Wanjikus and ‘hustlers’ got a chance to put long-serving President Paul Kagame’s regime on the carpet.
During the recent Umushyikirano (national dialogue) day, citizens questioned - without fear of reprisal - some of Kagame’s actions and inactions, and he startlingly gave forthright answers.
Kagame has remained a man for all seasons, admired for his wit and deeds. For the last 20 years, he has been keen on the legacy of making Rwanda great.
He often claims the West looks down upon Africa. In his ideal world, Kigali must be allowed its space.
The President knows best what works best for him and his country that has had a delicate past. He led his people into a powerful renaissance after the genocide of 1994 that followed deep-seated tribal and political antagonisms. Now, there’s no going back.
Listening to him during the national dialogue on February 28, many were left with the feeling that Kagame is no ordinary leader.
Call him a benevolent dictator or a strongman who has muzzled his critics in the opposition, the Rwanda Patriotic Front leader is a cut above the rest.
At the Umushyikirano, he chided officials who had slept on the job. Unity and reconciliation efforts also featured, with the event culminating in the signing of Imihigo – performance-based contracts for top office holders.
The president simply protected the common man’s interests by ensuring leaders and institutions performed.
Rwanda may not be a perfect democracy but at least its government works in unison. The county is in good books with the world. Graft is at its bare minimum, business is booming, investors are coming in droves, women are empowered, essential infrastructure and physical assets are sound and the levels of political noise tolerable.
Elsewhere in the continent, top government officials operate like headless chicken. It is all talk and no action. Senior officials have made political vengeance their portion. They abhor criticism. They have flatly refused to shut up and work. It’s a mad obsession with campaign rhetoric.
In some countries, you will find constitutional organs losing their grind. In Nigeria for instance, the country is on throes of political landmines following the recent sham election that left a bitter taste in the mouths of the more than 200 million citizens. It will take a miracle for Africa’s most populous nation to realise authentic progress. As if that’s not enough, many African states have become epitomes of mediocrity where critical appointments are made not on the basis of competence but relations, tribal or political ties. And when governments change, every high profile public servant is purged no matter their value.
Give it to him. Kagame has perfected public participation. The holloi polloi control key projects. In Kenya, citizens are tragically told they would be ascribed shares in government based on how they voted. Then the Fourth Estate is threatened for doing its work as top officials, be they the DPP or budget controller, blame their blunders on the previous leadership.
Cry the beloved continent. Some nations that had a great promise of becoming Africa’s ‘tigers’ are victims of recklessness. Last week, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir put a fragile peace deal into jeopardy by firing a key minister in controversial circumstances. At home, well-oiled offices for spouses of politicians have come ahead of important economic adjustments that would have eased the cost of living. Majority are struggling to put food on table. Meanwhile, tantrums are being thrown over the small matter of LGBTQ rights.
Like him or not, we’ve a lot to learn from Kagame. He speaks sense and never brings shame to high office. An unwavering leader with eyes set on the prize.
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