Rwanda is beyond (and can’t conform to) Western media stereotypes

A Reuters’ article seems to raise the alarm on what the agency refers to as “growing resistance to term limits” in Africa. It first singles out President Alpha Conde of Guinea whom, it says, if he tried to run for a third term in 2020 he would be “copying from an ‘established playbook’ in Africa.

The alleged playbook is one where incumbent presidents ‘have sought, often successfully’, to remain in power by massaging, bending or outright breaking laws often meant to ensure democratic handovers of power. Typically, the writer fails to resist throwing Rwanda into that mix, although clearly the article labors to make Rwanda stick there.

While the article enumerates various political machinations to drive their “breach-of-term-limits home, it fails miserably to explain where and how Rwandans “copied from the established playbook in Africa” as the piece referred to it, when in actual sense Rwandans made the choice to go for consolidation and continuity of progress and prosperity.

While the Reuters piece enumerates cases where national assemblies and lawmakers were manipulated or intimidated into changing constitutions; or where voting in referendums was tampered with, you won’t see the same where Rwanda is mentioned. In a glaring contradiction, the article mentions that Rwandans voted in 2015 to make alterations in their constitution to serve their national collective interests.

This leads the keen reader to wonder how this process fit anywhere in Reuters’ charge sheet of leaders who stick to power by ‘massaging, bending or outright breaking laws often meant to ensure democratic handovers of power?’ But then it dawns on one that this is simply a result of the fixation by a section of western media, for reasons best known to them. That is to always try to fit Rwanda somewhere in their template, regardless whether or not the facts don’t align with the narrative advanced.

For some reason, some news agencies have refused to be objective in their reports and analysis when it comes to Rwanda, and notoriously chosen to generalize in their endeavor to stereotype, incriminate and demonize African leadership.

Previous articles by Reuters on concerning Rwanda’s constitutional amendment process have failed to point out that this was an activity prudently premised on the choice by Rwandans after numerous considerations. Hence the calm and tranquility that prevailed before, during and after it.

Normally a firm choice of the people should naturally drown out any ‘buts’ and ‘howevers,’ right? Well, not in Rwanda’s case. At least not in as far as Western media’s logic is concerned. What that section deliberately sidesteps when it comes to this country’s political dispensation is that when Rwandans debated; and made their choice on who would lead them beyond 2017, all considerations were made within the accepted democratic parameters. Everyone voiced their views, which were duly taken into consideration.

Not to be outdone in advancing the usual hypocritical stance of some Western media agencies, Reuters heaps flak on African leadership, yet fails to mention that depending on global political dynamics on term limits, some countries prefer setting term limits for their heads of state and government while others do not. Examples of western countries without term limits, which Reuters seems to mention, are numerous.

It raises the question whether such media perceive Africans sane enough to make their own choices!

Rwanda’s constitutional review only compares to a few unique cases in the world that stand out – like when the United States placed a limit of two terms on its presidency by means of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1951, which was amended after President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1940, Roosevelt became the only US president to be elected to a third term and his supporters cited the war in Europe as a reason for breaking with precedent.

Prior, few presidents attempted to serve for more than two terms, but did not win elections though they were not limited to serving more than one term.

Rwandans demand to be understood as a people that have persevered through a painful history, which they would prefer to leave far behind and in a hurry. For this reason, they might make decisions that may not be perceived as conventional, but serve their interests and choices nonetheless.

So far, there is no indication that the choices Rwandans have made have backfired in any way.

The fact that Rwandans continue to create global historical firsts and transform their country and lives should be enough for commentators to think twice before making general political, economic and social categorizations.

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