Over the last few weeks and months, there has been quite a bit of activity in regards to the goings-on in the diaspora’s community, politically speaking. Parties that I have never heard of such as RDI-Rwanda, Rwiza, others that I have heard of (PS-Imberakuri) and others that give me the shakes (FDLR) have coalesced into a coalition of sorts; certain veteran politicians have had secret meetings (or not, depending on who is talking) with a regional leader and, just to prove that pigs do fly, FDLR has announced that it has renounced its violent fight, opting instead for political dialogue.
I will not get into the nuts and bolts of these coalitions, meetings and announcements. That is for people like my esteemed fellow columnists, Joseph Rwatagare and Pan Butamire, who understand those political goings-on better than I. Rather, I want to speak like a common Rwandan who simply wants to live in a peaceful country that allows me to fulfill my goals in life.
Politics, in my humble opinion, must be anchored on statecraft. It shouldn’t just be a concept that is ‘up in the air’; it shouldn’t be about press releases, poorly constructed insults, interviews with journalists and never ending declarations. While well-aimed insults are part and parcel of politics (smear campaigning), they in themselves are not politics. While pointing out the flaws of a system are part of politics, they are NOT politics. While interviews, communiques and declarations are part of a good communication policy, they are NOT politics. At the end of the day, there has to be an element of statecraft. So, what is statecraft?
I’m not a political scientist, so I will not give a scientific answer but rather a laymans’ definition. I think that statecraft is about understanding the local situation and then finding the answers to the local problems.
So, in Rwanda, what are the local problems? I will not attempt to talk about issues that I don’t have knowledge about but I will comment on some that I do.
When I go to visit my folks in Umutara, I notice two main challenges that they face. One is an issue of land usage systems and the other is wealth creation and consolidation. As cattle keepers, they are hostages to the vagaries of weather; whenever it is hot and dry, the cattle starve, milk production is minuscule and money is scarce. When it rains, hallelujah and praise the Lord, everything is hunky-dory. This goes back and forth, on and on. On the issue of wealth consolidation, I always ask the folks over there, “why is it they are still poor, even when they own land and livestock”? “Why do they still need subsidies from their urban-based next of kin”?
If you are going to be politicians, then you better be able to craft some answers to these questions. You want to get Umutara votes, then suggest solutions to these two issues.
I live and work in Kigali and I face a myriad of issues. While I earn a pretty good salary relatively speaking, I still find it hard to afford proper housing. The rents too high and buying a house of my own seems like a pipe dream. I feel like I pay too much income tax and I wish utilities were cheaper. So, Mister and Mrs. Diaspora politician, how will you improve my situation?
The main problem that I see you having is that, while I know what the present government is doing to remedy these
problems (whether they are successful or not), I simply do not know what you will do if given the levers of power. So, instead of talking, ad nauseam, about historical grievances and ‘beefs’, I think it would serve you guys better in the long run if you gave us answers that the problems that besiege us now. Today.
What is your DETAILED policy on agriculture? What is your DETAILED policy on education? What is your DETAILED policy on health? All in all, what are your DETAILED policies? Stop giving us hazy stories of injustice, corruption and assassinations. Truth be told, no one cares. Those are not the issues that they face; give us the answers to our bread and butter issues.
Until you can do that, no one will take you guys seriously. Not the people and certainly not the government. And if we don’t, then what is the point of all the politicking you do? Pull up your socks. If you need to gather a coalition to do so, by all means. Just remember, if your goal is to lead Rwandans, show us that you can actually do so.
A concerned citizen