- That “democracy is not a bottle of Coca-Cola which you can import. Democracy should develop according to that particular country.”
Kigali. In trying to justify President Paul Kagame’s third term bid, visiting Chama Cha Mapinduzi secretary-general Abdulrahman Kinana reminded Rwandans about Julius Nyerere’s understanding of true democracy.
That “democracy is not a bottle of Coca-Cola which you can import. Democracy should develop according to that particular country.”
Kinana was among the various invited political leaders from Africa and beyond, who on Saturday watched the nomination of President Kagame as the sole candidate for Rwanda Patriotic Front in the August 4 elections.
The ratification of Mr Kagame’s third term bid by members of the RPF Congress is the latest indication that the 2017 election fever is taking shape ahead of the nominations and campaigns.
In a vote that some Rwandans said sought to confirm “the obvious”, 1,929 RPF delegates out of 1,930, voted Mr Kagame as their preferred candidate in the presidential race. At least one vote was counted invalid.
Friendly political leaders
The delegates from the 30 districts of Rwanda as well as friendly political party leaders in Rwanda, had already voted for Kagame as their choice in the forthcoming presidential elections.
“You have nominated me as the flag bearer of RPF let’s put aside the whole history of how we came to be here for a while. We have got to be with each other in this fight for a better tomorrow and there won’t be short cuts, you have got to do it,” Mr Kagame said.
The highlight of the nomination euphoria was in Kagame’s acceptance speech in which the RPF chairman underscored the third term as a silver lining in a mist of a succession crisis the country faces today.
Recalling what he called the country’s “complicated history”, President Kagame called for political transition in Rwanda and in a no-holds-barred exposition of his third term bid, used his nomination speech as RPF flag-bearer, to expound on his role in changing the country’s constitution to allow him to stay in power after his term in office expired.
The nomination of Mr Kagame as the RPF flag- bearer followed the December 18 referendum that permitted constitutional amendments that gave the president flexibility to seek for a third term and two more five-year terms thereafter. The president however, insists that he had no hand in this.
At least 98 per cent of Rwandans voted to amend the national Constitution to allow Mr Kagame run for another seven-year term this year.
Well-wishers thronged Rusororo in Gasabo district, about 20km from Kigali city, to endorse a man the visiting delegations from China, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Djibouti praised for uniting a country that was on the brink of collapse as a result of the 1994 genocide, a man who has been praised as an embodiment of Africa’s success story t of focused reforms.
In explaining why he accepted to run for a third term, President Kagame told the RPF Congress, that in the fog of succession challenges ahead, he was left with no choice but to stay with hope that within the next seven years, the factors that compelled Rwandans to ask him to go for the third term should have been reduced to allow a smooth transition in Rwanda.
‘Here is a deal’, Mr Kagame proclaimed before asking RPF leaders and members to start thinking seriously about transition in Rwanda after the seven years of his third term. Mr Kagame said he knows the strength of RPF and that his party would win the August presidential election.
“Lets assume and agree that in the seven years to come that we do things either differently or better, we work harder so that the seven years give us some kind of transition…. In the seven years ahead, let’s reduce the kind of worries and needs to ensure that what made you to ask me to stay longer can be addressed within this period” Mr Kagame said, asserting that “much as I have been there before I never get used to it.”
He added: “….I am not putting much pressure on you [RPF) but am requesting you to think about it because you must think about it so that after seven years we are not taken by surprise... let’s double our effort…I know everything is about time and we need to give ourselves time but don’t leave everything to time, it matters also what you do within the time.
“I am not putting a deadline, I am not putting a pre-condition but am asking you to fight with me as we have always done so that we overcome these challenges that compel you to ask me to stay…. There is a lot of work for us to do in the new term and we are going to do it. You have asked me to stay and I have accepted to stay.”
One by one, political party leaders in Rwanda, with exception of the Social Party Imberakuri, took to the podium to praise Kagame for uniting a country that had gone to the dogs.
Using his success story particularly, in reversing the country’s ‘ugly past’, Mr Kagame reminded Rwandans how RPF took over a country that had been deprived of almost everything and started rebuilding state pillars because “the country was on sinking in a bottomless pit.”
To the young people, Kagame reminded them especially those who were 15 and above in 1994 that they have since matured into men and women who qualify to be presidents. “But there is a caveat, it’s not just having a right to be a president. Rwanda needs and deserves the right president,” Mr Kagame said. He asked the young people to participate in politics, warning that “You don’t get involved in politics the next day bad politics takes care of, and the next day, you are led by people you don’t deserve.”
Credited with putting an end to genocide 23 years ago, building institutions and shepherding a new political dispensation in Rwanda, President Kagame, according to his supporters, heads to the August 4 polls with optimism in spite of opposition contenders in the race.
Although Rwandans who did not want to be quoted have asked Kagame to do something about poverty and quality of education and health services especially in the countryside, RPF members praised Kagame for accepting to stay in order to safeguard the gains achieved in 23 years of his leadership and promised to use the third term opportunity, to chart a way forward for Rwanda.
In the August elections, President Kagame will face Rwandan opposition politician Frank Habineza who was nominated by his Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) last week and Ms Diane Shima Rwigara, a 35-year old accountant- the first female independent candidate to vie for the highest office in Rwanda, who is running on an independent ticket. (NMG)