Rwandeses no longer carry the stigma of 1994. And if the August 2011 national elections come off with little or no hitches, then the country’s image is as good as the United States dollar.
The in thing is that whoever clinched the presidency, he would for the first time ever hold office for seven years and not five.
The event seemingly a long way off has already triggered political shells as President Paul Kagame is perched in the position to win barring any unforeseen obstacle.
Its going to be like the nursery rhyme ‘the dish runaway with the spoon”, joked one Kagamite who had been promised a top political job outside Kigali, the Rwandese capital.
The election will come 16 years after one of the most chilling blood spills the world has ever known.
Talk anywhere outside Africa about Rwanda, the first pointer most people would refer to would be the one million lives lost in 1994 as a result of ethnic warfare.
Lanky looking, bespectacled Kagame can be said to be the brain behind what Rwanda now is or recognized to be.
Though uncomfortable to any opposition, he believes they are hindrance to progress; Kagame has so far treaded the path of raising the standard of living of the average Rwandese.
“Bringing better and improved lifestyle to the people is now…not years later when most of them would be at the doorstep of starvation and even death,” he cautioned recently in one of his weekly five hour-long nationwide broadcasts on Rwanda radio.
Though western donors remain edgy over Kagame’s statements that run counter to their democratic beliefs, the west is apparently operating from the standpoint – better the devil you know then the angels you don’t know.
This squares up to what one western political analyst called – different postures for different countries depending on what country has the leverage to better off the west.
True to form, Kagame has a number of pluses. He openly admits that Rwanda in the past has done a lot of wrong things and missed out on good turnings.
“We are not as hopeless as the world first thought about us. We are as good as anyone else,” he noted in one of his broadcasts.
Kagame’s road to re-election for now seemed to be set on the support from women who make up 52 percent of the nation’s population.
Women make up 30 percent of the Rwandese parliament and similar percentages are in the administrative and other sectors.
Shedding off the country’s francophone culture and linkage with the English-speaking Commonwealth remains an unforgivable sin which France will not forgive Kagame for.
Kagame on the other hand attributed the decision to hundreds of thousands of Rwandese going to reside in nearby English-speaking Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania during the war and returning to form a large community that speaks English.
But worrying factors remain over Kagame’s leadership which can dent but not necessarily slid his almost certain re-election.
One is Rwanda’s relationship with neighboring DR Congo. Each state inches on each other for security and survival.
Inside Rwanda itself, the opposition remains fragmented, tangled by the widespread allegations that many of its members took active part in the ethnic bloodletting of 1994.
The difficulty is that they are stammering for an answer and their incompetence has therefore left the campaign as an opn hunting season for Kagame.
By Rod mac-Johnson