Umwanya wo kwinigura on his part (time to tell it like it is) – what President Paul Kagame, also Chairman of the country’s ruling party Rwanda Patriotic Front, called his meeting with members of RPF Congress 21st and 22nd October 2022, at Intare Conference Arena. This he mentioned in the intro of his opening remarks, challenging from the outset party officials present to on their part too, take the meeting as an opportunity to speak their mind.
On hearing this I knew the leader craved a candid conversation. You could tell without a slight doubt he desired the talk flows from his own as well as the hearts of invited guests to partly form ingredients of a better meeting. By the closure of the two-day engagement the President had delivered well on his promise to lay bare his feelings. I assume each one of us regardless of whether we came into the spotlight for questioning on our individual mistakes or not, left with a good dose from the mentor, a blend of rebuke, insight and encouragement. Whether on our part we did best to share sincere opinions to his satisfaction is another matter.
People who have attended these RPF meetings before will certainly retain a fair view of how the atmosphere can oscillate back and forth between excitement and tension. Excitement because on one hand the party faithful are gleefully fired up whenever they find themselves in the same room with a leader they genuinely idolize. Tension on the other because these being working meetings and not food and drink parties, it is where the Chairman holds party cadres who double as senior government officials sternly accountable against their assigned duties. When this show starts, everybody moves closer to the edges of our chairs, some with slight or real discomfort depending on self-conscious. Here you can easily expect one thing. That in our public service jobs, a number of us will always be found to have fallen short of Rwanda government’s high standards of performance.
Yet prior to pinpointing anyone from among the officials present, the Chairman will elaborately give the background. In the process he explains the terms of reference, outlines expectations again, and highlights agreements or codes of conduct breached. Doing this he never forgets to remind us we have the option of remaining standing up on honour, instead of willingly falling down into the ditch of disgrace. In a passionate voice he appeals to our sense of decency, at times doing so with a deep sigh of frustration, seeming to wonder why some among us shamelessly choose to become repeat offenders of the law! Done doing this he then pounces to hold culprits accountable in a way only associated with him. Works for Rwanda, reason he is cherished and adored by the citizenry as an effective fair leader.
You may ask: but what does the Chairman exactly want? Something different from the ordinary, he often says. Because only then can the country continue to achieve extraordinarily. The term commonly known to Rwandans is UBUDASA (uniqueness). In practical terms he elaborates to give the tag of “unconventional” to the methods of work he wants and general approach in the nationals’ psych as the country pursues its development goals. Case in point is Rwanda’s successful fight against COVID-19. Often this country has been praised by the World Health Organization for setting a good example of how within available means, without excuses, everyone can deal maximum blow to the pandemic through sheer hard work. Looked at from the resources point of view, Kigali sends out an inspiring message sounding like if-Rwanda-can-why-not-you? In line with this notion of a nation consistently punching way above its weight, renown Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda of Independent fame wrote a telling article. https://www.independent.co.ug/a-return-to-rwanda/?s=03.
Still on COVID-19, the Chairman gave one highlight related to the pandemic, particularly how a problem led to an opportunity. It is the ongoing construction of the vaccines plant in partnership with German firm BioNTech. The unconventional way does it, we should all believe. https://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/rwanda/ground-breaking-biontech-vaccines-plant-rwanda-president-kagame-thanks-eu_en?s=115.
Yet it was not always hard talk, like I mentioned earlier. In between the opening session on the morning of Friday the 21st and closure on Saturday the 22nd, a lot happened. There were for example impressive presentations on citizen-focused governance and on the picture of the global economy. The intention here was to in the end zero on available local opportunities despite the challenges, especially in the sectors of agriculture and manufacturing. Discussions that followed these presentations, the Chairman liked. Yet in his closing remarks he reminded us it was not the first time we had a seemingly productive meeting with fine resolutions, only to go out of the meeting room and largely revert to business as usual immediately. Why? In my next article I will attempt to answer this question, including a zoom into whether cadres truly responded to the Chairman’s call to speak their mind. Watch this space.