Paul Kagame's landslide victory last month evokes one to question whether he is really loved by the Rwandans or it is just a matter of fear and dirty politics.
Earlier last month, many people all over the world were not surpirsed when they heard that Paul Kagame won the elections by 99%. It was a landslide victory that proved how much the Rwandan populace love him. Or how much they are inspired by fear.
The history of Rwanda has been mired in tensions between the major ethnic groups of the country and it is important to first highlight this in order to ascertain why Paul Kagame is loved immensely by the Rwandans. The country experienced a horrific and horrendous period in 1994 when there was a genocide against the Tutsi that was devastatingly catastrophic to the small nation. 1994 was just a manifestattion of the tensions that had been brewing for many years, tensions that later erupted into gross bloodletting and madness.
Since its independence, Rwanda was divided along ethnic lines. In 1959, a big part of the Hutu and Tutsi population were living outside Rwanda mainly as refugees. But those who were inside Rwanda, with the majority being Hutus, were divided regionally and lived under the Orwellian system; they were all equal but some were more equal than others. The people of Rwanda never enjoyed the freedom that came with their independence in 1962. Life for them was strict and bereft of the real freedom. Freedom of movement was highly restricted especially for the common man who could not cross the border to another prefecture (province). they were required to carry a ‘laissez passer’ issued by the Bourgmestre (equivalent of the current mayor). Getting hold of this simple document for a common man was a monumental task.
From its independence, Rwanda was ruled under two different regimes and republics. The first republic was headed by the Democratic Republican Movement party (MDR-PARMEHUTU), under Grégoire Kayibanda, dominated by politicians from the southern part of Rwanda. This party advocated for the rights of the Hutu ethnic group, whom it said were the majority, but were oppressed. As a result, this led to total discrimination against people from other regions but the Tutsi in particular.
The Second Republic was ushered in by a military Coup d’Etat in 1973, by Maj. Gen. President Juvenal Habyarimana. This regime was characterized by nepotism, favouring a circle of family and friends (Akazu), and that of his wife whose influence in the government decisions taken at the time was legendary. He favoured the dominance of the people of northern Rwanda. Habyarimana’s regime discriminated so much against the Tutsi and the rest of other regions especially the southern part, in all matters, and it is the one responsible for the preparation and the implementation of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The 1994 madness was stopped by none other than Paul Kagame, with his Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army. The damage that had been caused to Rwanda's human and material capital, which had been two pillars in the sustanence of the economy was utterly unspeakable and did not inspire any hope. The Tutsis had fled the country, and so the Hutus as well, who feared retribution from the Tutsis. The RPF under Kagame made immediate plans to institute an all-inclusive government.Reconciliation and good governance were at the top of their priorities. Kagame urged ALL Rwandans to come back home in order to rebuild the country.
People who had left returned to reclaim their properties and confidence was regained. The following years saw Rwanda improving significantly, and having one of the fast-rising economies in Africa. The people of Rwanda have been able to taste peace and stability because of Paul Kagame. That is why they love him very much. And that is why they assented to the amendment of the Constitution in order to extend the term of office for Paul Kagame.
However, in as much as he brought peace and stability, there have been reports of how he rules the country with an iron fist. Diane Rwigara, a fierce opposition candidate who openly and strongly criticizes Kagame's rule, alleges that her father died because of foul play from the government. Criticism is barely tolerated, and the history of the past 15 or so years is littered with the names of opponents silenced and dissenters muzzled.
Whether it is because of fear or not, one thing is apparently clear; most Rwandans still prefer Paul Kagame to be their leader.
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