Opinion: Why Rwanda Democracy Will Unfold Differently – Patrick Ngabonziza

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Opinion: Why Rwanda Democracy Will Unfold Differently - Patrick Ngabonziza

It was expected that Western powers will react negatively to Rwanda’s democratically approved constitutional change that allowed the incumbent to run for a third term whilst reducing future terms from two seven-year terms to two five-year terms. However what is surprising is the harsh tone used in the press statement issued by the spokesperson of their Bureau of Public Affairs, saying “ the United States is deeply disappointed”.

I am not a denialist of Africa’s troubles and the distraction caused by power-hungry leaders. None of our longstanding leaders have a legacy they can boast about, but distraction, underdevelopment and poverty that has left our continent and race as the laughing stalk of other races. It is our leaders who have turned us into beggars, and with every pittance a beggar receives comes along scorn, disrespect, discrimination and control. We see all this in the western world’s interactions with Africa. The US’s response to President Kagame running for the third reflect this scorn, disrespect and control. Events in neighboring Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville and DRC reinforces their resolve. But they are wrong.

Are we as Africans to accept that being beggars that our looting leaders have turned us into means we cede our rights to self-determination? With no questions asked? Are we to be dictated upon about how to govern ourselves when a look at different countries around the world show you that there is no one-size-fits-all form of governance in the world?

There is hardly correlation between success and specific form of governance. Yes the US has prospered immensely with their combination of capitalism and their own brand of democracy, but so has China the number two economy in the world, with a completely opposite political governance system. So has tiny Singapore punched way above its weight but they can hardly be called a democracy. So has the monarchs of the Middle East.

The cure to Africa’s ills is economic prosperity. Educated, prosperous people cannot be controlled and manipulated by devious leaders. It is not a political governance system that brings prosperity, it is economic stewardship. And this is where the West needs to look at Rwanda differently. The progress made by Rwanda in past 20 years can only be described as a miracle. The country is prospering economically and Rwandans are being taken out poverty at probably the quickest pace in the world. Civil liberties reign supreme as respected organizations like the Global Gender Gap ranks Rwanda number 6 in the whole world for gender equality. America’s Gallup ranks Rwanda as the happiest and the best place to live in Africa. The World Economic Forum ranks Rwanda the 7th most efficient government in the world. The list of accolades goes on. Why then would Rwandan people want to change a government that has brought them so much? why change a winning formula and take unnecessary risk?

Yes presidents of countries who defy the wills of their people must be dealt harshly. Identifying them is not hard, the citizenry is the first to show their dissatisfaction with protests and ultimately riots and god forbids the worst. The change in Rwanda was obtained peacefully and democratically, there is no reason to believe this wasn’t the will of the people.

It would be a crime to sacrifice the economic prosperity of Rwanda at the altar of unfounded and prejudiced skepticism.  Countries the world over are built on the foundation of strong leaders, whose leadership has created a culture that defines the country. America had Abraham Lincoln, Britain had Winston Churchill, Singapore had Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore from 1959 to 1990, 31 years. Yet on Lee’s death President Obama eulogized that Lee was “ a true giant of history, a visionary who led his country from independence in 1965 to build one of the most prosperous countries in the world today, he was a devoted public servant and a remarkable leader”. Yet just like Kagame, Lee was criticized that under him, Singapore became known for the government’s authoritarian rule, strict law enforcement and limits on public protests, to which Lee responded was a justified tactic necessary to maintain stability and independence. Just like Rwanda, the strict rule was reflected in the clean, modern and affluent city that Singapore became. With low taxes, good schools, low crime and investment-friendly laws, Singapore became a popular place for western companies.

It is ironic that all the talk about democracy and democratization in Africa are usually presented in the West as if they were completely new concepts and practices to Africans. This mentalityconsider Africans as incapable of democratic thoughts and they should be imbued with the notion of “civilized” Western democracy. What has been consistently ignored is that the valuesand democratic processes were as indigenous Africans as they were to the ancient Greeks.

Western efforts in African democratization seem to be all about hegemony and the spread of Western culture as part of globalization. It is sustained by a brand of cultural arrogance that in the nineteenth century also supported scientific racism and European imperialism.

Democracy should be conceived as a way of government firmly rooted in the belief that people in any society should be free to determine their political, economic, social, and cultural systems. But the form it takes can vary according to the particular circumstances of any society.


Patrick Ngabonziza
Founder and Group-CEO of MobiCash Group.
Technology Evangelist & Pundit
Financial Inclusion Advocate

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2 Comments on "Opinion: Why Rwanda Democracy Will Unfold Differently – Patrick Ngabonziza"

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One of the fundamentals of democracy is that the powers of the government are based on the consent of the governed. If the people of Rwanda have “okayed” the constitutional changes, democracy has seen the light of the day. GREAT ARTICLE PATRICK!

Elvis Sedah
Rwandans have spoken and their voices should be heard!! A problem exists on the part of the people of a region who desire democratic rule in principle, but remain oblivious of the ways in which democratization should be administered and the purposes of its administration. Democracy is a mode of political governance just like dictatorship or even authoritarianism. Each country has its own culture jurisdiction, jurisprudence and psychology on political governance which defines their political system. It is therefore advisable to involve the people and government through social cohesion and consensus to ensure that democratization as a process is administered… Read more »