Kangura No. 30

The Lesson of the La Baule Summit

Issa Nyabyenda

Throughout Africa, especially in French-speaking countries, people rose up and refused to continue being guided by a single ideology. Several leaders of one-party regimes were imbued with such an ideology. Not far away, Micombero, the erstwhile leader of Burundi, once said, “I am in power, I will leave when I want to.” Translate that into Kirundi and you will know what he really meant. To the north of our country, Idi Amin declared himself the President for life of Uganda. Elsewhere, more than one leader declared that they were in favor of the one party system: only the single party should be in charge of the policy of the country. This means having only one President in charge of a single policy presented by the only party. In most countries, however, it did not take a long for such trend and ideology to change. At the la Baule meeting, which brought together French speaking countries, Mitterrand advocated the multiparty system. Shortly after that, leaders who thought that they could lose his assistance immediately showed that they had learnt their lesson, even though Mitterrand’s statement contradicted the content of the speeches that they had delivered. Most of them said that the overthrow of the Chadian leader, Hussein Habré, in a coup d’état, in spite of the presence of French troops, was the result of his opposition to the multiparty system in his country. They discussed the issue but did pass a resolution on it.

Rwanda understood the lesson

Let us be reasonable and compare the situation of other countries to ours so that we can learn what we need to in view of the times that we are living in. Although it is possible to imitate what is happening elsewhere, it is not easy to do so. Let us not go far: It is not easy for an inhabitant of Marangara in Gitarama to imitate the rhythm and form of the ikinimba dances of Rukiga in Byumba. Time and place are two important elements that should be taken into account when considering whether multiparty politics is suitable for Rwandans, whether there is nothing inhuman and brutal about it and whether it is not characterized by a hunger for power and a spirit of vengeance.

Rwanda understood the lesson given at La Baule in 1990. We hope that Rwanda did not accept the La Baule lesson so that France does not halt its assistance; we hope that the policy of multiparty politics was accepted because it was necessary and its time had come. If it had been otherwise, it would have meant that some Rwandans feel more concerned than others whereas we should all be equally concerned. Rwandans must promote multiparty politics and its implantation in the country. If they show ill will and recoil from this path, in the coming days, we will experience a situation similar to that at the “Quinquina” (in Cyangugu) and “Opyrwa” (in Ruhengeri) factories.

If the lesson has been understood, we should understand that importunity, destruction of development infrastructure and vengeance have no place in this country. Every person should ask himself whether his actions are constructive or destructive. It is unfortunate to hear a well-known activist say that he has the means to easily end the war but that he has not used them. That person apparently lacks patriotism and would not hesitate sacrificing his county.

If the situation evolves in this manner to a point where the Inkotanyi will no longer be able to carry out attacks, aren’t the old refugees (by then the young people will have been decimated) going to come back as Rwandans, on an equal footing with other Rwandans, that is, without any other conditions? If Rwandans get down to properly prepare multiparty politics, all refugees will return to the fold and we will win the elections. Indeed, there is nothing surprising about being led by someone for whom you did not vote—a situation that can be seen everywhere else. Among democratic countries, the United States has the highest number of people who do not vote. For example, one out of three Americans does not register to vote. This, however, does not prevent the candidate who wins the election by a majority of votes to lead the country within a democratic system—provided, of course, he gets a bigger percentage of votes than the other candidates.

In religion, it is said that, before God, the preferred struggle in relation to the administration of a country is the truth. Democracy is a way of respecting that struggle. A citizen is always alert, looking hard at the leaders he has elected. When the leaders want to lead him on a wrong path, he rises up and speaks out against their errors. Recently, a hospital Director asked his manager to explain to him the disappearance of equipment worth about 600,000 francs. The manager answered, “Don’t you know how I worked with the other Directors? Please let me show you how we worked.” The Director observed him and then told him, “Does this way of doing things still exist in Rwanda? Stop it. We are in a multiparty democracy.” This shows that, even if it is not in the nature of the Director, he was at least concerned with the truth in relation to the mismanagement of hospital property. This situation can occur elsewhere. These are the fruits of multiparty politics that have begun to manifest themselves. If this success is repeated in other sectors, the whole world will commend Rwanda which will serve as an example for quite a few countries.

Countrymen, farmers: you who have fulfilled all the conditions for being called the masses! Remember that since the Social Revolution of 1959, it is you who are supposed to confer power and that, from time to time, it is falsely claimed that you confer power. Since the revolution, you have never disobeyed the Government in place. Since you have never been disobedient, why aren’t you respected in return? You know what is going on. If you were asked: why do you fear the authorities? Your grievances—due mainly to your being treated contemptuously and being muzzled—will be so many that you will not have the time to express all of them. Countrymen, the time for alleviating or for worsening your suffering has come. Everything will depend on you.

Look with a critical eye at the current high ranking leaders of our country. You will see that when they were young, most of them used to sleep on mats or on nothing at all. This means that they are the children of poor parents and come from the peasantry. You conferred power on those leaders—to whom you are related—so that they would be your spokesmen. Would you say that they have really taken care of you? You may answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ In any case, things have not gone all that well: and this is the real cause of the multiparty system which has become a refrain, here and there, in the country. So, if the peasant has delegated power to his child, his older brother, his younger brother…to the person with whom he shares life and death, and then the people in power have not come up to his expectations, what will happen to future generations, when future leaders of Rwanda will be descendants of current leaders and traders, who are not related to the masses? What will happen when future leaders will have noticed that you are always complaining that their children go to school whereas they are not more gifted than your children? There is no need to repeat this you know very well that they are children of important people. The problem will be even the thornier since the new leaders will know the towns, where they are born, better than the countryside. Nothing can be done then. That will be the situation. That is the category of people who will lead the masses tomorrow.

Masses! You should be aware of the situation now. The current leaders have prepared their offspring to succeed them in the exercise of power. Your children will not be able to pierce the wall that has been erected by those leaders unless you take them by surprise. So, wake up. Learn from the multiparty system lessons that will help you to confront leaders who are descendants of leaders or rich people. This situation will not be peculiar to Rwanda. It exists in other countries. In reality, such situation is in the nature of things because even in countries where the communist ideology collapsed like a house in an earthquake there had never been a balance. What is important in this imbalance is how to accept it. The masses should accept it while totally refusing to be told that they are the source of power and demanding that they should really be the source of power in transparency. This will remove leaders who thought that they had definitively achieved power and honor. People will understand better that no authority is irreplaceable because no man is born to rule. Before such leaders, Rwanda was ruled and, after them, Rwanda will still have leaders. So even if the masses do not accede to power, at least the authorities will fear and respect them and implement their will.