Tag: African governance

Rwanda’s story: Women integral to governance, peacebuilding in Africa

After arriving in Kigali last month, the first thing my friends and I did was hire motorcycles and ride around the city. It was the best way to get reacquainted with it and take in all the sights and sounds and smells – it was cheap therapy.

For a few moments during that ride, it didn’t feel like I was in Africa. Kigali over time has developed into a lovely city. The growth is something that you see when you meet the locals and look at the infrastructure. A country once wounded so badly is shining and we Africans are all visibly proud. The story that is being told about Rwanda is that where there is a will, there is a way.

When the 1994 genocide happened, I was eight years old. I vividly remember huge black helicopters hovering over us for days. There were lots of gunshots and very loud bangs, which my parents told me were ‘bikompola’ (bombs/grenades). I didn’t understand what was going on but I took notice of everything. I come from a small district south west of Uganda, which borders Rwanda. The effects of the genocide happening to our neighbours were very visible.

A view of the centre of the Rwandan capital, Kigali. Rwanda is positioning itself as a regional hub, twenty years after the genocide ravaged the country. (Pic: AFP)
A view of the centre of the Rwandan capital, Kigali. Rwanda is positioning itself as a regional hub, twenty years after the genocide ravaged the country. (Pic: AFP)

Fast forward 20 years on to October 2014. I got to visit Rwanda again, this time to attend an African Union-hosted forum where we discussed Silencing the guns: Women in Democratisation and Peace Building in Africa. It was a pertinent theme – some African countries have barely known peace for up to 50 years. The continent has been in constant turmoil and conflict, and it is widely known that women and children bear the brunt of it. Initiatives like this pre-forum aim are aimed at including them in the process of peacebuilding rather than keeping them on the periphery.

The African Union has a vision for the continent for the next 50 years known as Agenda 2063. One of many goals is a peaceful and secure Africa. “By 2020 all guns will be silent. Mechanisms for peaceful resolution of conflicts will be functional at all levels. A culture of peace and tolerance shall be nurtured in Africa’s children and youth through peace education.”  This is why the conversation on silencing of guns was very relevant and timely.

Rwanda’s post-genocide story is unique in so many ways. Speaking at the event, Dr Aisha Abdullahi, commissioner for the AU department of political affairs, said: “Rwanda is a shining example that we can forgive,  that we can achieve healing and reconciliation, that we can prosper even when we do not have oil or minerals. Effective governance is key”. However women have got to be at the centre of the processes involved, she emphasised.

Women bring to the table a unique way of governance –  the kind that is sentimental and well thought-out. We are relational beings and while all we do and should listen to the facts and the judge, women bring the ‘Ubuntu’  aspect as well. While in Kigali, we went to visit a reconciliation village in Bugasera, a short distance away from the city centre. We heard testimonies from women who, after the genocide, turned their sons in to the authorities as they suspected they had been involved in the violence. They needed to go through the systems, either go to jail or to a reconciliation camp, one mother said frankly.

Photographs of people who were killed during the 1994 genocide are seen inside the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum. (Pic: Reuters)
Photographs of people who were killed during the 1994 genocide are seen inside the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum. (Pic: Reuters)

In Rwanda (and elsewhere), it is women who hold communities together. It is their husbands and children who were killed, it is their brothers and sisters who were wounded, but that does not stop them from advocating for equal justice for all. And history and scholars are on their side.

Over the past couple for years economists have agreed that there is nothing more central to development than the economic, political and social participation and leadership of women.  They go on to say that this is particularly true in post-conflict societies where women often make up the majority of the population. Women have the primary responsibility of raising the next generation. The majority of refugees are women and children, and not just in Africa. Female education, increasing women’s authority and uplifting their political voice have a profound effect on development in post-conflict situations. And this is what Rwanda has done. The have given women more control over resources, which is very important. We see it in our everyday lives: women will tend to give more and invest more in the livelihood of their homes and communities.

In other countries around the world, only about 20.4% of the members of parliaments are women. Rwanda prides itself on having the highest percentage of female MPs in the world – nearly 64%.

Rwanda is an example of the new trend to use electoral gender quotas to fast-track gender balance in politics. Africa has only six years to be able to achieve reconciliation and silence guns on the continent as per the aspirations of Agenda 2063, but one thing remains: effective governance is the only road to getting us to achieve a peaceful and secure continent. But women have got to steer the conversation, be a part of it and also be acknowledged by the very many partners in the process.

Ruth Aine is a Ugandan blogger and social media trainer. She blogs at aineruth.blogspot.com.

The ridiculousness of “If the West can do it, why can’t we?”

King Mswati III of Swaziland and his wife arrive at the White House for a group dinner during the US Africa Leaders Summit August 5 2014 in Washington, DC. (Pic: AFP)
King Mswati III of Swaziland and his wife arrive at the White House for a group dinner during the US Africa Leaders Summit August 5 2014 in Washington, DC. (Pic: AFP)

I am absolutely exhausted by the argument that we cannot complain about inefficient and corrupt African leaders because “even Western leaders do it.” The follow-up to this point is usually an indignant “How come when white people do it, it’s OK?”

And by ‘it’ here, the speaker is referring to plunging a population into a well of suffering simply because one can.

A few days ago I happened upon an article on The Root in which the gripes social media users have with Swaziland’s royal family were brought to light. The article was short and simple: a report on a report really.

“Swaziland’s royal family has found itself ensnared in the firm grip of social media users who are determined to expose the lavish lifestyle of “Africa’s last absolute monarch,” while most of the country’s people barely subsist on $1 a day per person, Agence France-Presse reports.”

But the responses to it are what angered me. Of the hundreds of comments that this post attracted, many of them repeated the same idea: if the [insert white royal family] can do it, why can’t we?

I was so overcome with rage, I found myself doing the one thing I promised myself I never would: I left an angry Facebook comment. But that was not the end of it. My rage at the commenters, many of them African American echoing a sentiment often uttered by Africans too when our own leaders are to be held accountable for one act or another, did not go away.

So here I am, finally explaining why “Well, the King of Britain does it” has to be the dumbest counter-argument I have ever heard.

“If they can do it, why can’t we?”

When this question is posed, it is often by a person, I assume, beginning to familiarise themselves with the heady nature of self-pride. The underlying idea here, is that to criticise one’s own leaders is to exempt the West from blame for their own misdoings. It is a noble idea, and of course, very understandable, even to me, a mere child. But it is sorely incorrect.

To say, “If the British family can live far above its subject why can’t the King of Swaziland?” is to say two things:

1. Exploiting one’s own people is something of a competition and God forbid the African be excluded from suckling the sweet fruits of corruption.

2. Comparing the people of Britain to a nation where sixty-percent live under $1 a day like Swaziland, is perfectly logical.

Indeed at some point in the past they suffered under the tyrannical rule of their monarchical lords, but for the most part, in 2014, the people of Britain are not as affected when the Queen takes a private jet to some island as the people of Swaziland are. This is a simple fact.

Plunging your nation into economic turmoil is not some sort of marker of empowerment. And the very idea conjures up images of corrupt African leaders winking at the portraits of former colonial powers, as they continue the age-old tradition of exploiting African people.

It is simply unacceptable. When will we get to the stage where we view our states through our own lenses? When will we remove ourselves from the “at least…” mentality? “At least it’s better than being exploited by whites.” “At least even the Europeans go through this in their own countries.”

Accountability is not a joke. And government is not a playground where we as citizens must continue to watch our leaders play while we tell ourselves that it’s alright because other people do it too. What is this – primary school?

Governance is not something our leaders do as a favour to us. It is an opportunity that we award them.

To say that what the King of Swaziland is doing is acceptable, is to say the suffering of those people (our people) is acceptable.This mentality is bigger than Swaziland, it is bigger than us. To say that corruption is a problem “everyone has” is to say that it and the ludicrous levels it reaches on our continent every day, is acceptable. To ask, “If the West can do it why can’t we?” is to say we are not people worthy of sound, accountable governance.

Why do we not ask “If the West can do it, why can’t we?” of education reform, of health policies, of infrastructure development, of government transparency, of social welfare policies, of economic engagement, of business forums, of infrastructure maintenance, of youth employment, of medical innovation, of technological integration, of political growth, of citizen empowerment, of sports development, of intra-continental trade, of trade policies, of foreign policies, of art evolution, of literary celebration….


This to me, is a symptom of us having bought into the lie our leaders are living. Drunk on new power and political “equality”, some of our leaders want to forget that political reality only means so much in the face of economic fact. They go to the UN and sit in big chairs next to the President of Italy and think just because the fellow can get away with running the economy like a gangster, so can they.

They shake hands with Obama and think to themselves, “Hey, if he can get funded by morally ambiguous corporations, why can’t I?” as if this is a nightclub. Well, news flash: this is not a nightclub. Economic reality is the only reality that matters. If the GDP of your nation cannot fill even one American state, you have absolutely no business trying to live like the US president.

This is just how life is. So we as citizens, cannot, no, MUST NOT allow our leaders to continue living this lie. The first step to that is to respond, the next time someone says “The President of the US does it”, with: “We’re not in the States here, comrade.”

We have to demand more for ourselves, because as long as it’s fashionable to disguise acceptance of corruption as “our right”, nobody will demand it for us.

Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a 21-yeard old math-major at the University of Botswana. She is currently slumming it in Finland. Follow her on Twitter: @siyandawrites