By Nkunda Rwanda
For ordinary Rwandans, the campaigns offer a rare chance for them to get a glimpse of the pomp and color that surrounds the political elite. This behavior of passive on looking is known locally as “gushungera”. If you are a Kigali urbanite, or a white person visiting the Rwandan villages, you must have noticed the kind of attention you attract. If you are driving in a car, kids in their tattered clothes and bare feet will chase after your vehicle for very long distances.
The spectacle of Kagame with his convoy of vehicles definitely adds a new component to village life.
Equally important, the villagers want to see the man, with a tight control over their country. The urge to see is so strong that very few people can resist. Thus, when the New Times Reports that the RPF’s campaigns are, “characterized by extreme excitement [among the peasantry]…” I do not dispute.
However, claims by the Rwanda News Agency, an arm of the Rwandan intelligence claims that the mammoth turnouts are an indication that the RPF will be voted for “100%” are very misleading.
On the surface, Kagame appears to be immensely popular among rural Rwandans. The image given, particularly during this campaign period is that of “A man of the people”, who has taken Rwanda by storm.
Beyond this romantic picturesque, there is another reality that is rarely told.
Thus, you may ask, how can a leader who attracts crowds of thousands at rallies get defeated in elections?
Here is the tragic reason:
On the village level, local officials market RPF’s campaigns as part of a government project necessary to fulfill vision 2020. Just like Gacaca or Umuganda, attendance to these rallies is mandatory. Failure to turn up, which is monitored by the local officials in charge of security, is interpreted as a mild form of treason. You are likely to be reprimanded and possibly punished for being an enemy of the state “kurwanya leta” or/and for subverting the government’s agenda “kutubahiriza gahunda za leta”, or/and disrespect for government authorities “gusuzugura abayobozi”.
Failure to embrace the “government’s agenda” puts one into a constant battle with state authorities, and is a cause for perpetual harassment. Should you be remotely classified as such, it will be hard for you to get access to any services.
This is exactly what has happened to some of Victoire Ingabire’s supporters. In 2003, Faustin Twagiramungu’s supporters faced the same problem. After he the end of the elections, many chose to flee into exile.
Elections are tense everywhere—but in Rwanda, it means life or death. Any minor breach of the expected order brings unwanted attention. Moving with the “flock” is a common survival strategy. Thus, as a general precaution, when the RPF invites you to the stadium, it is wise to abandon your daily quest for survival, walk the many miles, and show up to their rally.
Under this tightly controlled environment, it is impossible to have a free and fair election. When people are coerced to attend political rallies, their presence, however mammoth, does not represent their satisfaction with the political system. In fact, as is often the case with dictatorships worldwide, this huge gatherings reflect barbaric control and manipulations.
The RPF has tight control over rural Rwanda and they decide what happens and how. On top of their agenda, many believe, is the desire to subvert the spread of democracy in order to guarantee their political survival.
Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch
Welcome to Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi-bin/library