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Umushyikirano: When citizens become accountable to themselves

Rwandans are used to defying the classic world order, that’s dominated by social injustice and exclusion, where only those in the same category come together to exchange views and participate in decision making with equal rights and opportunities.

That is the order even at the United Nations Security Council, where only members of a few countries, in the exclusive club of super powers, sit and decide for the rest of the world without listening to any other voice.

Is there any possibility to reverse such an order? Absolutely yes!

In the 18th century, a French philosopher, Charles-Louis de Secondat, a.k.a Montesquieu, published a book “Esprit des Lois” (The Spirit of the Laws) in which he tackled the universal principle on social injustice according to which; “inequality is the only inevitable law amongst human beings”.

This was, later in the 20th century, echoed by British writer Eric Arthur Blair, a.k.a George Orwell, in his satirist book, “Animal Farm”, in which he concluded that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

The above literature served only to justify colonialism, in my view. The colonised, especially those of black colour and their countries, were relegated to second class humans.

Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany believed that there was a superior race that was created to govern others.

Rwanda, like many African countries, was subjected to colonialism but resisted slave trade and slavery between 16th and 19th centuries. Such bravery should never be compromised.

During the colonial era and in the post-independence period until the time when the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF Inkotanyi) came to power, inequality was the order of the day with no sense of accountability.

Citizens were deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to thinking and to express themselves, let alone holding accountable those in positions of authority.

Homegrown solutions that have been embraced by the RPF Inkotanyi-led government are not only about social and economic development, but also transformation, innovation and cultural heritage.

In order to break institutionalised injustice and a mindset of superiority or inferiority complexes, the National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano) was introduced in Rwanda in 2003, as a new tool for inclusive governance, citizen participation, empowerment and accountability.

Specifically, Umushyikirano, which is held annually, is a platform for inclusive mutual accountability that promotes human dignity and equality.

At the national dialogue, every social, economic and political sphere is represented.

Participants include the youth, women, persons with disabilities, private sector, civil society, churches and faith-based organisations, political parties, members of Rwandan community abroad and friends of Rwanda, ordinary citizens, and local government leaders from the grassroots level upward, the judiciary, security organs, and central government institutions.

The gathering is chaired by the President of the Republic of Rwanda.

In a dignified country, all citizens have equal rights in decision making and the leaders execute them and, thus; the citizens own their destiny. That is the foundation of accountability: being accountable to yourself, to your subordinates, your superiors and peers for national unity.

Rwandans are now gearing up for this year’s Umushyikirano which will take place on 18 – 19 December 2017 at Kigali Convention Centre.

There is no better democratic platform I have ever seen. Here, everyone stands to be held accountable. The future of the country is decided by the citizens themselves.

In Rwanda, leadership is not about position, but action. The country has had different leaders, but few made the difference with a transformational impact.

History will recognise RPF Inkotanyi as the engine of Rwanda’s positive transformation.

President Kagame will always be remembered as a visionary leader who empowered his citizenry for common goals towards self-reliance and development.

For this to be translated from vision to action, there is need for accountability. Umushyikirano serves that purpose.

LADISLAS NGENDAHIMANA is a political analyst and member of the Pan-African Movement, Rwanda Chapter

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