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Life Reflections

The West need to rethink their democracy

By June 29, 2016June 6th, 2023No Comments

June 29th 2016

Rwanda may be happening too fast for some of us, no matter how we thought we kept the closest tabs on the smallest of developments. But first things first, though all are equally important.

I remember hearing a news clip about President Kagame opening an Ekocenter (whatever that was, I said to myself) in the company of the Coca-Cola company CEO and the perennial activist-cum-politician-cum-pastor Jesse Jackson and going on to listen to the music following the news.

In the music, the crooner laments his inability to provide care to his household as he is too “bizi” (busy) searching for bread to put on the table.

Without giving the news another thought, I mused over that care and bread and how to balance them for the household but, finding no answer, let the music drop, too.

A few days later as the world got gripped as if in a vice by news of the UK voting in a referendum to leave the European Union, I found myself thinking back to that Ekocenter opening and the basic theme of King James’ “Umugati” song.

These three ‘households’ – King’s, the UK and Rwanda – did they have anything in common?

We can’t say our ‘royal’ crooner’s household necessarily has a problem, of course. King’s dilemma over balancing bread and care provision is a creation of his fertile imagination.

However, it’s imagination that’s rich food for thought because, for sure, that dilemma is common to many a household. Doubtless, success or failure to balance bread provision and care provision may make or break families or even societies. Management of the balance is crucial.

Connecting this balance dilemma to the British ‘household’ and their exit from the European Union may sound far-fetched. After all, the ‘household’ is one of the developed countries that have enough ‘bread’ and more to spare (in form of aid) and we are the happier for their caring about us.

But we must wonder: our beloved benefactors, since they are not afflicted with this dilemma, what ails them? Is there a disconnect in that balance?

Because you cannot suddenly ditch an organisation that you have been part of for over forty years, even as a budding common market, and say all is well as some Brits are insisting. This, especially considering how you craved to join it in the first instance.

You cannot have so many in the top management of your politics, especially the ruling Conservative party and the main opposition Labour party, resigning because of that decision when enjoying better times. To wit, I’m made to understand the Labour party members are up in arms against their chairman for having shown lukewarm support for “remain”.

Whoever is saying all is well, then, is either saving face or oblivious to the undercurrent of uncertainty obtaining. The public is split right down the middle, the markets are in turmoil, parliament is restless. Business, civil society, politicians, all are jittery. The last time I checked, Northern Island, Scotland, Wales, all wanted out of the UK.

The rest of Europe is mad at PM Cameron for having dared to test his “I’ve always been a winner. I’ll win this one.” His plea to the EU for a “slow and constructive divorce” was receiving a cold shoulder as of last evening. All are scared of being contaminated, with the rise of their own extremist, insular right and want a snap split.

Our benefactors, confident dispensers of lessons on unity, democracy, wealth creation, say it, in short, the expert balancers of bread and care provision that engenders harmony, what ails them? How did this disharmony, this discord, this dilemma, arise?

In Rwanda, “home of the Ekocenters”, how do they go about dealing with such dilemma?

That Ekocenter, for instance, will have happened in one of many ways. The community of that village will have met in Umuganda, or hosted their local leader, or any other leader from the sector head up to the country’s President, or any of those or all of them come to them, and in a forum discussed their requirements and ways to meet them.

From there, the leadership will have lobbied anybody, from local to foreign organisations, private companies to countries, for partnership.

And thus will have come the Coca-Cola company, with others like Ericsson falling over themselves to together piggyback on it, to create a quality hospital, 3-G internet, purified water, electricity, a lit stadium, etc, in the middle of the countryside.

That’s how come, Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in the middle of the northern border-area, and myriad others. And that’s how government functions in all areas: through consensual processes.

In short then, whatever happens in this land is a creature of all involved. Leaders and the led, together we are the creators of our political, economic, social, say it, recipes. Recently when the citizenry called for a referendum, it was agreed upon and held. None can ambush the other in a referendum, or whatever else, whoever calls it.

And in this collaboration, all are partners: Rwandans, foreigners, migrants, immigrants, all; individuals, companies, organisations, countries – developed, developing, all everywhere.

In forums where the generators of that bread are thought out, with that constant communication and physical exchange, there care happens for all involved and there cannot be any dilemma.

That’s why Rwanda has opted for consensual democracy over confrontational democracy.

“Free-for-all” democracy, where societies lack constant physical inter-communication, is dilemmatic democracy! Lessons on democracy? Shove them!

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