Lessons From Kigali, From Genocide to Good Governance: A tale of Paul Kagame

It was TIME magazines edition of May 11 2009, a special edition to intimate us with the 100 most influential people in the World. Though it is based on parameters defined by the most famous news magazine in the world but we can never fault the integrity of the process as they have made their name.

I glanced at the names of the 100 that are shaping the destinies of our fragile world. I saw some names that were always going to be there – Obama, Oprah, Michelle, Hillary, twitter guys and other big wigs. I also saw some names for the first time – Norah al-Faiz; the first female minister in Saudi Arabia, Lang Lang, classical musician and a host of others. TIME made sure controversies arise by including the name of the villain and criminal – Bernie Madoff – I concur he deserves a mention as his deeds have thrown thousands into eternal financial damnation. Goes to show influence has two sides, positive and negative.

All that did not move me as much as a name and the citation that went with it. Rick Warren is a well respected church leader in the USA. He is also known to be courted in the corridors of power and he is highly respected. I still remember that debate he conducted for the American presidential election between Obama and McCain. He is also known as the author of the bestseller – purpose driven church. So it was a great honor seeing that this wonderful man was chosen to write the citation for one of the best influences of our time – Paul Kagame. What he wrote about Kagame moved me so much that I decided it must be echoed. Please read it in his own words as published by TIME magazines.

Paul Kagame

Paul Kagame

Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, is the face of emerging African leadership. His reconciliation strategy, management model, empowerment of women in leadership and insistence on self-reliance are transforming a failed state into one with a bright future.

Kagame, 51, is one of few leaders who have successfully modeled the transition from soldier to statesman. During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the world watched in horror but did nothing. Kagame was responsible for ending the slaughter. After the genocide, the nation was in shambles. Kagame and others began the slow process of rebuilding. That process moved into hyperdrive when he was elected President in 2000. He launched a series of reforms and reconciliation strategies that have caught the attention of investors worldwide.

Kagame’s leadership has a number of uncommon characteristics. One is his willingness to listen to and learn from those who oppose him. When journalist Stephen Kinzer was writing a biography of Kagame, the President gave him a list of his critics and suggested that Kinzer could discover what he was really like by interviewing them. Only a humble yet confident leader would do that. Then there is Kagame’s zero tolerance for corruption. Rwanda is one of the few countries where I’ve never been asked for a bribe. Any government worker caught engaging in corruption is publicly exposed and dealt with. That is a model for the entire country — and the rest of the world too.

Culled from www.time.com

If you are not impressed by this citation, then something is wrong. His leadership style is now touted as being worthy of emulation to the whole world. His listing in the TIME 100 is not the only attestation to his good works. Our own Dr. Reuben Abati was also in Rwanda recently and he confirmed the fact that the country looks no close to the one that was in genocide a few years ago. That is the hallmark of good leadership.

I am going somewhere with this and I will make it clear just now. It is shameful that the simple principles used by this leader eludes many African countries. An American mentioned that Rwanda is one of the few countries where he has never being asked for bribe. This same man of God has traveled widely to other European countries I guess. When are we going to stop making excuses for our sloppy governance? If any country should be in self pity mode, it should be Rwanda.

I am of the opinion that our leaders are a shameless bunch and I hope they read good magazines like TIME to confirm their ineffectiveness and comic dispositions. Kagame is a good breath of fresh air for those of us who believe in the African dream. At least we have a reference point and a beacon of hope to the younger generation. I challenge every young person aspiring to change the stereotype associated with Africa to have a rethink and follow the footstep of this wonderful man. History has a way of remembering everything no matter how covered. We still remember with disdain the memories of the Mobutus, Idi Amins, Abachas and all other despots who turned our continent to a looting ground.

We also remember with pride men of honor like Nkrumah, Sankara, Awolowo and all others who despite their flaws still had a good contribution to the emancipation of the black man. There is no more excuse for bad leadership and corruption – Kagame was a soldier like Obasanjo. This is the time to wake up. Rwanda has limited resources compared to what God has blessed us with. Stories like Kagame’s will go a long way in shaping our thoughts as Africans and make us to demand good deals from the so called leaders.

I must not close this without asking Kagame to remember the likes of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who started very well but has now led his country to ruins due to the sit tight syndrome. The world will remember Kagame for good for eternity if he evolves a way to avoid this trap so common to African leaders. Then he will attain genuine greatness.

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