I suggest that, if you have access to the internet, please read a Financial Times article published on May 1, ‘Lunch with the FT: Paul Kagame’. The interview conducted by FT Africa editor, William Wallis is a nice read.
Nothing new is really gleamed by the eminent journalist (other than the fact that the fruit in the West isn’t quite as tasty as that bought in Kimironko Market) However, even in this innocuous piece of journalism was a booby trap. One that I couldn’t leave unchallenged.
While discussing the just-concluded presidential election, where President Kagame got 90-plus percent of the vote, Wallis sought to diminish the achievement by casting doubt on the ability of a Tutsi candidate to get such overwhelming support.
The election results were probably surprising to most people, save Rwandans themselves.
They knew the benefit of Kagame’s leadership and they flocked to vote for him in the hundreds of thousands.
The will of Rwandans has, unfortunately been ignored by the so-called ‘experts’.
In their highly-educated opinions, there is something about being African that stops them voting with their heads, for the best candidate.
To quote Kagame, “Why isn’t the majority in the developed world interpreted on the basis of race or colour or tribes? Why?
You want to tell me that, in the United States, Barack Obama comes from which majority?” Instead of answering that question, Mr. Wallis simply made a snide comment.
‘He (Paul Kagame) continues with a tactic often deployed by African heads of state but which in this instance seems somewhat disingenuous: to harp on the exaggerated expectations made of developing nations by the West and the West’s failure often to meet the same exacting standards.’
I think that Mr. Wallis would have better served FT readers by actually analyzing the President’s remark and not simply calling it ‘disingenuous’.
What I think is disingenuous is the outright dismissal of African changing attitudes to what constitutes ‘democracy’ and ‘majority rule’.
I will not say that voting patterns in Africa haven’t been based on tribalism, sectarianism, outright bribery and intimidation.
The vast majority of African post-independence political parties and movements have been based on ethnic and religious biases and the voting patterns have reflected this very thing.
So, for example, the Democratic Party in Uganda (which was historically Catholic-Buganda) still hasn’t made inroads into the Protestant non- Buganda areas.
While I’ve used Uganda as an example, this was true almost everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa.
What has been the result of this tribal voting? Africa has become poorer as the rest of the world gets richer. However, it seems that Africans have gotten tired of endless poverty.
In many parts of the continent people have voted for politicians that promise development and more accountability.
Some dinosaurs are being kicked out of State House and others are continuously being forced to enact reforms.
That is the real state of democracy in Africa. We aren’t zombies that keep voting for the same politicians as long as they come from ‘our’ community.
Just before the US election that ushered in Barack Obama’s presidency, US media were in a tizzy, wondering whether the ‘inherently racist’ voters would vote for a half-Kenyan man from Hawaii with ‘Hussein’ as a middle name. Especially in the ‘conservative’ South.
Well, while the ‘experts’ were busy second guessing American voters, they listened to him speak, liked what he said, and voted for him. So, even though he was black, they didn’t care. Why wouldn’t it be the same for us, Mr. Wallis?