Dorcas Sarkozy via fb
“I am sorry but I caught a glimpse of your screen; your post / article on Rwanda and thought you’d enjoy this book. I know I have.”
This was the opening line from one of the regulars at a favorite café and with that, he handed me a copy of Stephen Kinzer’s “A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed it.”
It is a riveting read (yes by a white man) that captures the essence of what I continue to believe about that little country; this as exemplified by the following excerpt / exchange (on whether Kigali is a democracy) between the book’s author and Jeremy Macadie, then-British ambassador to Kigali:
“If you apply general Western standards and ask whether Rwandans will have the opportunity to replace the current government with a completely new team when the next elections comes around, then no, it isn’t a democracy……
If on the other hand you ask, Is this government (of Paul Kagame) working for the benefit of the general population? Is it working to assure that people have enough to eat? Does it have a vision to lift this country out of poverty? – then the answer is yes.
It is the definition of democracy that’s critical. In this country, the primary problem is peace and security. Giving people food, clean water, health care, and education is also very important.
Are Rwandan leaders trying the best they can at all levels to improve conditions for the most needy people in this country?
Are they trying to build a country in which ALL Rwandans can enjoy long-term peace and progress?
Are they encouraging political opposition to their ideas?
Is there an opportunity for people to who have different ideas that the president’s to express them?
Yes, but not in ways with which we (westerners/outsiders) are familiar.”