Wednesday , February 21 2018
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Defying the odds, defining oneself

African leaders Kagame, Museveni, Magufuli and Mugabe setting an African agenda, defying the odds.

How Africans have been mentally enslaved to hate everything about themselves and how Rwanda is defying it

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda |“In these bloody days and frightful nights when the urban warrior can find no face more despicable than his own, no ammunition more deadly than self hate and no target more deserving of his true aim than his own brother, we must wonder how we came so late and lonely to this place.” Maya Angelou.

Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics, perhaps did not know what he was getting himself into when he tweeted his Washington Post article, saying: “As the world focuses on Trump, African despots are violating term limits and badly overstaying their welcome.”

It was an article attacking President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, calling him a despot and a murderer and referred to the elections that have just been held as a sham. In response, thousands of Rwandans took to Twitter and savaged him in one of the most thrilling twitterstorms I have seen. Turns out the people he was “fighting for” don’t want his assistance.

“Over the last several decades,” Klaas wrote with the arrogance of his fellow colonialists, “Western governments (sic) have pushed for democratic reforms in Africa. In response to that pressure and calls from their own citizens (this comes as an afterthought) 18 African countries instituted constitutional two-term limits… But in Africa rules are far too easily bent or broken.” Klaas ends with his call on Western governments: “Now the time has come to push governments [in Africa] to obey their own rules.”

For Klaas, Africa is one huge undifferentiated mass of politics so that what happens in Gabon can simply be copied and pasted on Kenya and the analysis remains the same. Yet while he was right to say that attempts to remove term limits have caused popular protest in some nations of Africa, he ignored the fact that in Rwanda, it was popular and peaceful. In fact there would have been popular protest if the term limits had not been removed.

More critically, Klaas like many Europeans, Americans and African elites believes that our democracy should be the responsibility of Western powers. We Africans are supposed to be like children: instead of being active participants in the struggle for our freedom, we are to be passive spectators as white superintendents deliver it to us as charity. And it is not only democracy. The struggle to wrestle control of the destiny of Africa from Africans to white superintendents is tenacious and broad.

For instance, our human rights are supposed to be defended by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, our press freedom by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders. Our public policies are supposed to be designed by the World Bank and IMF; our leaders are to be tried by the International Criminal Court; our poverty is fought by Oxfam and Action Aid; our story is told by the Washington Post and CNN; our hungry are fed by World Food Program while our sick are treated by World Health Organisation and Doctors Without Borders.

Even our heroes are supposed to be white and if black they are supposed to be anointed in Washington DC, London and Paris. Thus Bono and Angelina Jolie are the activists in the struggle to end our poverty while professors Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Collier provide the policy blue print. Our leaders are despots; so we need Barack Obama to tell us how to govern ourselves. For a country in Africa to be accepted as democratic, the decision is not to be taken by its citizens but by politicians, diplomats, “experts,” think tanks (like Freedom House) and journalists in Western capitals.


  1. Love that picture of M7, Kagame, Magufuli and Mugabe. African sovereignty in an image. Take heart for Brian Klaas etc…theirs is a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape which is redrawing the rules of engagement and power…takes a bit of time to getting used to. Unfortunately for them, but luckily for Africa, President Kagame is the new idol of a generation of African leaders. His picture has been all over the Internet…in the end, the West pretends…they know based on history that leadership like the one in Rwanda is what Africa needs in order to be truly free …

  2. Today, I make one of my shortest predictions, yet life-changing. Life changing both at private level and at community level. The tomorrow Presidential elections in Kenya if not in favour of NASA the whole of Eastern Africa will get the cold including the “island” of Rwanda. If this does not come to pass, I will resign from all public discussions including this very one. If it comes to pass, then, I will take the task to explain how I came to this conclusion. “If NASA does not win tomorrow’s presidential elections, East Africa will burn.” But where is the water?

    • As usual wishful thinking of a hyena that prays for drought and abandoned cattle carcasses in plenty. You don’t have to quit this forum, just change your name like you changed your identity. You dream of looting and desperate females running up and down ….. for the taking?? just like 1994 somewhere you know only too well eeeehhhhh?

    • Kakyama I implore you don’t go. Your judgement has lways been skewed towards the unlikely and we all left you to be taught by time. To err is human and you are. What counts is for you to take the lessons one at a time until you grow up. Raila has lost but he is still a strong patriot with a big following. There always has to be only one winner. Kenyatta should appoint him a roving ambassador toarket Kenya all over the region and the world at large. If they hacked as Raila claims,it is an acceptable tactic in politics.

  3. Actually, there is a tiny mistake: the term limit in Rwanda was not removed. They just added another 7-year term and two 5-year terms. But if you look at the Rwandàs constitution, there is still the term limit.

  4. Very stale, childish, immature argument. Stuff that you will hear in any senior four debating club in any school. Oh Mwenda, you forgot this one…. They said they discovered the source of the Nile and yet africans where already living in the place.

    • Who taught you history Opio? You must have misunderstood him/her because they said THE FIRST WHITEMAN(not first MAN) to see L.Victoria. The two don’t mean the same.

    • So in your senior 4 u were taught FDI as another colonialist move???Your comment is rather irrational and uncalled for

  5. We need Rwandacracy than being driven by those so called pro-western democracy teachers .

    They teach what they don’t even have into their respective countries .

    Rwanda is good ,smart country and we are very proud of what happens as Presidential election which took place this August 04 2017.

    I know even American desires the President like Paul Kagame unfortunately they don’t have someone like him .

    So in summary I would like to tell all those criticisms that Rwanda and Kagame will always stand ready to concentrate on our country development and just working with some of people who want to walk with us .

    Otherwise , Africans don’t want to be pushed back by these colonialists

  6. this story touched my heart, I was reading a disturbing story from ny times. thanks Andrew Mwenda be blessed. is time for Africans to govern ourselves, Rwandans decided. I wish whole world could read this story.

  7. I see the Old Man is on fire on all platforms. …how dare President Kagame out perform expectations and become the hero of a new generation of African leaders? This was not IMHO the original plan. Have mercy on us, we do not have a contemporary leader who exudes this kind of patriotism these days…most in the West apart from Trump, Putin, maybe Theresa May (who is at least a democrat) are globalists who have not really been putting the interests of the most vulnerable at the forefront of their agenda…overcoming a genocide, rebuilding a Nation, giving it confidence
    …defying the odds indeed. As an article in the Financial Afrik called it: la démocratie dirigée. …it was full of praise…Good luck to Rwanda for the next 7 years and beyond. The pressure is likely to build up…let your success be all that drives you, and not so much what the West thinks…

    • sasha I wish the Economist people would now tell us who is “afraid” between Kenya(whose citizens are now running to Uganda) and Rwanda whose pride is each showing the non-erasable ink on the last fingernail…to prove that they elected; and of course, Kagame.

  8. Rwasubutare, the Economics is very unlikely to ever report on any country without a Euro-Western centric outlook. The problem we have in the West is that we, especially in the USA, France, UK have convinced ourselves that this is a universal outlook. We have forgotten the meaning of the word: democracy in the process. …luckily, countries such as Rwanda, a country opened to the World whilst asserting its uniqueness, is reminding us that it is a sovereign Nation. In the end, it will be better respected for doing so. Let’s pray that Kenyans avoid all the trappings that have all too often defined elections in Africa. My instinct tells me that all will be well… and East Africa can sigh in relief and continue its road to self determination

  9. Africans are in their own special way intelligent they had their own means of solving issues don’t be surprised that some of the modern Economical,Medical,political,legal and social reforms were adopted from the African set up for example,clan members resolved conflicts don’t you think it contributed to modern day courts?Economically, the Trans Sahara Trade could have contributed to the modern day international trade;However,does Africa need a push i am convinced enough that we need a push and some panel beating; are Africans supposed to worry alot about their future perhaps no we just need to be patient in our quest to be like the G 7 nations.

    What is stressing African elites is how to bridge and quicken the transformation process from a 3rd world to a 1st world within a wink of an eye therefore, how do they handle the anxiety that comes with that desire?The elite will Jump on anything that will catch the West’s eye e.g democracy yet they should not.

    I dont know why the current land bill is causing unease among Ugandans?Ejakait did you know that if all Ugandans died today we will need only 2 regions to bury them and the rest of the land will remain free?

    @ Sasha you are quite active on this forum now days when i read your comment i thought you had referred to Mother Terza as a Democrat. i know ladies;when a man promises them something she will outdo herself you are really dying for the beer Andrew offered.

    I am not good at making predictions but Kenyans should have mercy on Odinga and vote for him at least Kenyatta has tasted the presidency let Odinga also taste the “THING”

  10. Africa contributed to the formation of the legal,economical,political systems the world is using now e.g the Trans Sahara Trade could have contributed to the modern day international trade,Africans settled their disputes through clan meeting currently disputes are resolved through courts.

    Does Africa need a push and some panel beating?Yes we do i am convinced enough that in our quest for the quick transformation to the 1st world we need to be patient with our demands.Transformation of a country is a gradual process.The dilemma Africa finds herself in is that;we are under alot of pressure to perform at the level of the G7 nations there seems to be no room for mediocrity.

    @Sasha: You are so active these days once a man promises a woman something she will out do herself now the beer Andrew offered is doing wonders.I thought you referred to Mother Tereza as a democrat.

    The current proposed land Bill is okay even if all Ugandans died today we will just need 2 regions to bury them and the rest of the land will remain free.

    Kenyans should have mercy on Odinga and vote for him at least Kenyetta has tasted the presidency besides that he is still young he can contest another time incase he loses; Odinga should also be given the chance to taste the “thing”after all his father fought for the independence of Kenya this time if Kenyans dont vote for him i will know that they are bad mannered.

  11. Brilliant analysis @Winnie, glad to see you have moved on from demanding my departure from this forum…I have always had a soft spot for Rwanda’s way, so of course I look for what Andrew, not just him writes on the subject. I dislike countries telling others how to be…maybe because I do not believe in the superiority of one system over another one…as for the beer with Andrew, do not worry, I will make sure to have you come along too my dear. I pray we read more about East Africa industrialisation in this forum…my main interest tbh…I think Africa is turning a corner and realising the unsustainability of relying on imports for what she is able to do for herself, which will solve the mass unemployment crisis and the needless migration of able bodied men and women whose paradise is this continent.

  12. The manifold nature of truth.

    If I may recall, not long ago on this platform there was a gentleman who was furiously lamenting about life, simply because he couldn’t even “refurbish” the home that his father had left him. And that man was over fifty years of age. Immaturity can manifest itself in various ways. Immature people deny various aspects of truth; deluded by the aspects they do understand, they deny the aspects they don’t understand. “Due to extreme delusion produced on account of a partial viewpoint, the immature deny one aspect and try to establish another. Reality is one, though wise men speak of it variously. Since Mwenda started his article by quoting Maya Angelo, I will recite from John Godfrey Saxe: The Blind Men and An Elephant

    It was six men of Indostan, to learning much inclined,
    who went to see the elephant (Though all of them were blind),
    that each by observation, might satisfy his mind.

    The first approached the elephant, and, happening to fall,
    against his broad and sturdy side, at once began to bawl:
    ‘God bless me! but the elephant, is nothing but a wall!’

    The second feeling of the tusk, cried: ‘Ho! what have we here,
    so very round and smooth and sharp? To me it is mighty clear,
    this wonder of an elephant, is very like a spear!’

    The third approached the animal, and, happening to take,
    the squirming trunk within his hands, ‘I see,’ quoth he,
    the elephant is very like a snake!’

    The fourth reached out his eager hand, and felt about the knee:
    ‘What most this wondrous beast is like, is mighty plain,’ quoth he;
    ‘Tis clear enough the elephant is very like a tree.’

    The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said; ‘E’en the blindest man
    can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can,
    This marvel of an elephant, is very like a fan!’

    The sixth no sooner had begun, about the beast to grope,
    than, seizing on the swinging tail, that fell within his scope,
    ‘I see,’ quothe he, ‘the elephant is very like a rope!’

    And so these men of Indostan, disputed loud and long,
    each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong,
    Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!

    So, oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween,
    tread on in utter ignorance, of what each other mean,
    and prate about the elephant, not one of them has seen!

    Kagame’s Rwanda could prove to be another elephant that we haven’t yet seen. So, how are we so right, yet so wrong!

    • Kakyama, you know Rwanda is a success story but you detest those who made the success. No wonder you cannot agree with most who know but prefer to side with those who vilify kagame despite the fact that the RPF introduced LIVE-STOCKING (Gira inka) a project which all beneficiaries say it is inconceivable to they that have no seen but is nevertheless true. The government gives a person a cow, you breed it and when it bears a heifer, you give the heifer to your neighbour and so on. Since the project’s initiation, Rwanda’s dairy industry has grown to be the biggest foreign exchange earner. Kakyama, you will agree that it is stupidity to eat a milk cow and after 2 days, you have no meat and no milk. That is what was done in 1994 by your guys who you praise so much that one wonders whether you know what keeps you alive.

  13. Andrew Knows the support for Pres.Kagame party and himself is a must, if you are in Rwanda,your either with them or ….they claim he is a symbol of eternal peace. its evident on how they fund rise, they pretend its voluntary when they put a request on table especially when your a government worker but dare you not….they know including Andrew that their peoples have no choice,you simply must be seen supporting……….the outside world will definitely never know this!!!

    Nonetheless the story of Rwanda is neither entirely positive or absolute negative, one positive is that in Africa may be we don’t need term limits because the risk of getting greedy leaders is high, we simply need brilliant strategic leaders. unfortunately we have had ordinary leaders,most are gorilas/war mongers turned into gentlemen,how can a gorila be a gentleman and in the end a true statesman? more to this we have subjected them to our so called democracy, they thus spend time thinking about their next survival, the reason transformation is slow.

    What an ordinary leader can best offer a nation is instilling discipline in its peoples,the reason i think Kagame has been hyped,he is not under pressure to for example fire a big government official or even his no.2 you know Kayumba and Karegeya cases. its simply risky to think of democracy in this system,that vote was confirmation to this.
    I would be more happy to read more on the real positives in the system and not these usual exaggerations forexample what is the unemployment rate over this period etc .Rwanda is not a democracy though its moving on. .

  14. Africans believe that if elections are held and there is no protest of results or violence then that election is not free and fair thats why they have no problem believing the Kenyan results but have qns concerning the Rwanda election some how in Africa ,wars and violence after elections explains the seriousness of an election

    @ Rajab the illustration you have given explains your blindness;you know nothing about Rwanda but just imaginations of what happens there.You are like a young couple who thinks that when they get married they will have sex 24/7 but they will later on discover that even on important days like independence or xmas they may not even have sex.

  15. Once again, let’s not forget that many Africans have forged their views and expectations of their continent through foreign media lenses. It will take some time, but as more Africans go to the primary source of information, maybe they will form a view based on the specific context of every country. I am often accused of not trusting foreigners to report on a country, which is not true. But where I can get locals to tell me a story, I prefer to hear their version. Some foreigners who have lived for a long time, bothered to travel or to engage with local players, can get the context right. This is why I appreciate Chinese reporting on Africa. It has some humility. When I sometimes read about French politics in the British press, I am flabbergasted. Some of it is very good, but most of it has a British bias and expectation. The same with French reporting of British politics. Not many people are prepared to take the time to understand the context of a country, because in the age of globalisation, you look intelligent by commenting on everything. And claiming expertise of everything.
    See @Winnie, via this blog, I did get a lot of insight into Uganda and Rwanda politics…but what amazed me to this day, was the understanding of internal power play of some West African Nations. Many of the doubters of Rwanda I read who are not East Africans, tend to lack the humility of acknowledging that you can disagree with President Kagame on some issues, whilst acknowledging the positive of Rwandan leadership. They go as far as discouraging some who want to pick from Rwanda to solve their own conundrum…in the end, the author of this blog tends to be right …so, as a lazy person, I tend to rely on his judgement even if I do not always agree with him on all issues …Rwanda will continue to thrive, whilst doubters will still tarnish its reputation.. .the proof of the pudding will be in the ability of Rwandans to stay focused on their journey of transformation .

  16. Why do some people continue singing such negative songs yet rwandans have got their choice?

    hahaha I know they can’t be happy when there is no shedding of blood around my country!.guys enough is enough we are the ones to decide up on life style.

  17. The True Pan Africanist

    Africa does not need Democracy ,what it needs is a a decisive and benevolent dictator to stir her into economic prosperity,writes Dambisa Moyo.This is what Paul Kagame is doing.Democracy breeds corruption,sectarianism,tribalism,cronyism etc.Africa needs to revisit Democracy and Multiparty politics.The Kabakas of Uganda used to trade with the Mwenemutapas in Zimbambwe, so too the Bembas and the Bisa in Zambia with the Yaos in Malawi ,Tanzania and Mozambique.This was economic integration at its best.However the same was disturbed with the coming of the terrorists Portuguese.

  18. I certainly agree that multipartism is not delivering the goods. It is incentivising people to wish and talk ill of their countries in order to seize power away from the ruling elite…at this stage on her develop!mental journey, maybe the introduction of this scheme was not right for the majority of African countries. It kills off patriotism in a section of a country. Democracy being the power of the people could be reached by finding other methods. Rwanda has chosen a path which works for its special circumstances. Hopefully, many other African countries will feel bold enough to define their own models, not just transfer from contexts which are different from theirs. I am convinced that one can have a liberal society in which people feel free, outside of Western systems. Those systems are themselves very diverse, and intimately linked to the particular journey of the countries. That is true independence, emancipation. Only doing what is right for one, not what others think is. If some of what they do seems right for you, why not? Copying and pasting has not delivered the goods….there have been enough leaders, changes of regime across Africa …Time for a new Deal…

  19. How can we better support the losing party in African elections? Listening to some of Odinga’s rhetoric which is so reminiscent of all those who lose power in Africa, I am sad. I am sure he can serve his country or the wider Africa without becoming Kenyan President. This is sad…even if one has to deplore how he is now undermining a system he was prepared to put himself through when he thought he would win. Hope Kenyans will remain calm as I feel they will, and whatever grievances he has, will be handled by the courts

  20. James jones bantu

    President kagame is my favourite president in the world. I am sorry for his haters. But I understand that he goes after his enemies and murder them. I totally don’t agree with that method, nethertheless is still my favourite president not only in African but in the world.

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