Why Rwanda gets punished for doing right


One person who has just visited Rwanda and obviously been impressed by what he has experienced writes that here life flows like water, and that while here, he has learnt about the beauty of the world.

Another one who has never set foot here, or if he has, his head was in another place, writes that Rwanda is ruled by monsters and blood-thirsty individuals and cannot understand why a British court let one of them free. For him and others like him, Rwanda is a country where people live in perpetual fear.

Many other foreigners who have been here speak of a country where they have felt safer than most places they have been. There is no fear of burglary or being mugged on the street. And if you forget your money or other items, it will be found and returned to you.

Then you read reports of disappearances of unnamed, probably non-existent people, of outspoken and critical journalists you have never heard of fleeing into exile, and dissenting voices being silenced.

According to these reports, there is such a clampdown in the country that people speak in whispers, or are always cowering before an omnipresent evil force.

Are all these talking about the same country? Yes, but sadly not with the same honesty or good intentions.

Among them, there are those who see things as they are and report what they see. These are mainly ordinary people not schooled in the art of double-speak or given to coloured vision.

Unfortunately, these do not get wide coverage, or are dismissed as naïve, lacking experience and not critical enough, and sometimes accused of being besotted with the Rwandan leadership.

Then you have the professional detractors and mud slingers mainly in the media and NGO community.

Some in the media think that negative reporting on Africa is good journalism. If you report differently, you are not objective or have been compromised in some way. The more mud you smear and the more venom you pour, the greater you are.

This is how the crowd at the Daily Mail in England behaves when reporting on Rwanda and its leaders. Our leaders are monsters, demons, murderers and other unsavoury things.

Some people at the BBC have now joined them. They seem to think that they have missed out on something good in the vilification campaign and are now playing catch-up.

The motives of some NGOs, especially those in the human rights brigade are a little more understandable. Their very existence depends on the absence of those rights. It is their job to convince themselves and the world that in such and such a place they have been violated, whether that is true or not.

Finally, there is the exile community — a motley collection of criminals, traitors, genocidaires and migrants of every sort. Again, the motives of this group are clear.

They are the source of most of the disinformation on Rwanda because it is in their self-interest. They want to justify flight from their country and ensure continued asylum, and for that they are prepared to lie and even commit treason.

To be fair, the media and NGOs are often messengers for more powerful interests, and exiles have become their willing tools.

The question arises: why does Rwanda attract so much blame and vilification from some of the most powerful countries in the world? A few years ago, I offered some thoughts on this, some of which I reproduce here.

In a world divided between the rich and poor, the powerful and weak, you attract attention for two reasons. You are either doing some remarkably great things, which, in the view of the powerful, you have no right to be doing.

Or you are doing some horrendous things for which you should be condemned, but which, in their view, is closer to what is expected of you.

We will concern ourselves with the good things. These are seen as a challenge to long-held attitudes about our place in the world that African governments are inherently inefficient and corrupt, and that famine and disease are endemic.

And so, for instance, when Rwanda or Ethiopia makes famine a distant memory through a combination of hard work, land reforms, better agricultural practices and market-oriented economies, it is a challenge to the notion that we must live at the mercy of nature.

More than that, it is denying some people the opportunity to do good by feeding starving people and perhaps earn passage to heaven.

Self-reliance becomes a crime because it sabotages the interests of a huge humanitarian industry.

No one takes kindly to saboteurs and so Rwanda earns the wrath of those affected. But to ease their conscience, they must make Rwanda look guilty. The good things we are doing are rebranded as horrible acts of repression and autocracy.

You say you do not tolerate corruption. What will the anti-corruption agencies report and how will they get money for their operations?

You also say that Rwandans are contented about nearly every aspect of their lives? There must be a mistake. There must be some discontent, and if it is not there, it is because of repression.

Another act of sabotage: you insist on being the principal actors in changing your lives, asserting your dignity and demanding the right to be heard.

In all the above instances, you are challenging the conventional view of an African country whose leaders are seen as either bumbling idiots or blood-thirsty tyrants, and the people as helpless and passive victims of circumstances.

For deigning to make it difficult for those who rule the world to do as they wish and to insist on having your say on how things are done and on the choices you make, you bring the ire of the powerful on your head. That is Rwanda’s crime — in an unjust world.


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Originally published at www.newtimes.co.rw on August 18, 2015.