Rwanda: A Lesson in Democracy

By Joseph A. Olzacki

The recent referendum held in Rwanda to modify the Rwandan constitution truly is an exemplary model of participatory democracy and should serve as an example for the world.

John Locke, the 18th century English philosopher credited as the one of the fathers of modern democracy, stated that the “right to rule came from the Consent of the Governed.”

Nowhere is this practice more apparent than in the referendum that was conducted by Rwandans both in the country and those living in the Diaspora.

As a student of good governance and passionate activist for education and human rights, I witnessed firsthand in multiple areas of Rwanda, the people exercising their constitutional right to decide how their government, their executive branch functions.

I personally viewed voting in a number of voting sites around the country; I witnessed too many people to count, lined up, waiting to vote.

No coercion, no political opinion banners, no police, no troops, just peaceful exercise of the most fundamental democratic right.

The over 90 percent of the entire Rwandan population that voted and 98 per cent percent approval of the constitutional change would make Locke’s democracy very proud and does serve to exemplify to other “democratic” nations, where 30 per cent voter turnout is commonplace, that unique participatory democracy can be a vibrant option on other continents.

Americans used to routinely question the status quo both on domestic and foreign policy.

Questioning a healthy discourse often led to a refreshing and exciting debate on opinion based on fact.

In recent years, however, there is far less debate and far more opinionated “declaration,” especially in the realm of foreign policy.

These declarations usually surround practices or opinions that may, perhaps, work in America or Europe but may not work anywhere else and fail to take into account any other country’s individual national identity.

Recent American foreign policy has shared every opinion on world political issues as if every country in the world should follow an approved American or Western agenda, ignoring what “the people” may actually choose for themselves.

Is any government or any people perfect? Of course not, but dedication to their cause and a genuine willingness to participate shows that the system can work perfectly well without the arrogance of Western interference.

The purpose of democracy is “for the people and by the people.” When a populace decides its own fate through legitimate popular vote, as was the case in the recent plebiscite in Rwanda, if the West is true to its own democratic principles, then it must honor the will of those people.

Not to do so is surely utter hypocrisy and with all the issues facing America and her more troubled “democratic” allies, America might wish to focus on the dysfunctional government at home and support well-functioning governments, like Rwanda, an exemplar of good governance in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Finally, we daresay that America could, in fact, learn from Rwanda. We do think so.

Source: New Times


  1. Yes,you ve made your points,but have you considered the so ‘1.7%’ how are treated,if only one of them could speak,tou will be surpised how the 98% is a mirage.i can guess you got your content from the internet but never talked to people on ground

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