Opinion: Rwanda’s homegrown political model guarantees progress and stability

Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame.

By Kim Kamasa

In their rush to judgment, many foreign political commentators and media practitioners often times miss the salient features that make Rwanda such a fast growing and stable society.

The critical mistake they make is to compare Rwanda with other countries that don’t share its history, demographic features and culture.

Regrettably, these critics adopt a cut-and-paste approach, which presupposes that if one model of democracy works for this country, it should work for all the others as well.

Needless to say that others do this rather deliberately.

Yet the factors above are what inform the make-up of Rwanda’s body politic, entirely driven by its unique experiences.

A fortnight ago, the country’s newly appointed cabinet members took their oaths of office.

Looking at the composition of the team, you can easily tell that it cuts across the country’s demographic divide.

The inclusivity goes beyond demography; it takes in members of various political parties and is sensitive to important matters such as gender and experience.

Because of our country’s history and taking into account state failure witnessed in many countries, Rwanda has learnt not to believe in a winner-take-all political system that has been espoused by many and at times with grave consequences.

This is despite the fact that the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front- Inkotanyi is so popular that it could easily run the country on its own with an unquestionable mandate of the people.

This fact is lost on many commentators on Rwanda’s politics.

In the just-concluded elections, through its presidential candidate Paul Kagame, who is also the party chairman, RPF-Inkotanyi won with a resounding 98.79 per cent of the national vote.

But the party did not use its overwhelming numbers to ride roughshod over its competitors. Instead, it invited members of these parties to join the cabinet as stipulated in the constitution.

Out of 32 newly appointed cabinet members (the Prime Minister, full ministers and ministers of state), only 14 come from RPF-Inkotanyi.

The others were drawn from other political parties while many others are independents.

There’s something for everyone in Rwanda, of course not forgetting the requisite competences that come with the job, a key quality given the country’s ambitious development roadmap.

Other than inclusivity through political parties and independents, political appointments in Rwanda take into account other key parameters.

The current Rwandan cabinet is one of the most gender-balanced in the world. Of the 20 full ministers, 11 are women. This comes on top of another 64 per cent – a world record – of women in the Lower House, nearly thrice the 23.4 per cent average global representation of women in parliament.

In Rwanda, appointing women to high decision making positions is not for affirmative reasons – as is the case in many other countries – but rather because women have proven capable of undertaking their duties just like their male counterparts.

Whereas critics believe inclusiveness is at the heart of true democracy, for them this principle does not matter when they start pointing fingers at Rwanda but these facts will always speak for themselves.

This of course is mostly so because it’s off their preconceived script and prism through which they view countries like Rwanda.

The current cabinet seems to be much younger compared to previous ones. The Prime Minister, Edouard Ngirente, is only 44 years of age. One of the youngest cabinet members is 30 years old.

Not many people have served in similar capacity at the same age. With all these factors at play in appointing cabinet ministers and other senior government officials, three major lessons come out.

First, one can see that political upheavals mounted by disenchanted youth are unlikely in Rwanda since young people are included in decision-making process.

That comes on top of setting aside institutions in which the youth are ably represented. In fact, in the current cabinet, the youth docket was curved out of the previous youth and ICT ministry to have a fully-fledged youth portfolio.

Also, there are two parliamentary seats reserved particularly for the youth.

The mixture of youth and experience can only bode well for the country. This combination has served Rwanda well in the past and will doubtlessly continue to do so in years to come.

The cohesion among political parties in Rwanda is another difference that commentators always miss out in their faulty comparisons of the country with others.

There are 11 political parties in Rwanda with different programmes. These parties took a different approach to sorting out their political differences by sitting at the same table in a consensual dispensation.

They agree and disagree but at the end of the day have a clear understanding of how to go about matters that are of interest to the people of Rwanda.

Each political party puts its programme of activity on the table and invites others to make their input. It is from this programme that one clear roadmap of activities of interest to the people is drawn.

Finally, an often overlooked factor is the need to preserve what we have achieved. Some countries tend to forget this yet progress has to build on what has already been achieved.

Crystalised in a word, Rwanda has adopted a forward-looking policy rooted in the needs of the people and conscious of the need to safeguard the progress achieved over the last 23 years as Rwandans aim at making the country even more prosperous.

The writer is the First Secretary of Rwanda High Commission to Nairobi.

Twitter @KimKamasa

Source: The New Times

Leave a Reply