By Gerald Mbanda
Bernard Makuza, 53 who served as Prime Minister between March 2000 to October 2011, was this week elected by majority vote of 25 out of 26 to take the position of the senate president. A son of a former cabinet Minister in the independence government, Makuza is the longest served Prime Minister in the history of the country and also a seasoned diplomat.
The election of the new senate president came after the resignation of Dr. Ntawukuliryayo who was accused by senators of misuse of public office and bleach of senatorial operating procedures. After the resignation, one media outlet in the East African region carried a?? front page headline that; ?RPF could face weak opponents in next polls?. The headline gave an ???impression that the former senate President Dr.Ntawukuliryayo is a strong opposition politician capable of giving the ruling RPF party a run for its votes in 2017. Secondly, the story also insinuated that RPF senators were at the fore front of ousting Ntawukuliryayo so that RPF ?could have a free ride come 2017?. The two scenarios are far from the truth and the reality of the political environment in Rwanda.
The fact that Dr. Ntawukuliryayo lost the senate president seat does not mean he is out of the political arena. Come 2017, if his political party PSD, does not nominate him as a presidential candidate, he has the option of running as an independent, and therefore capable of showing his ?political strength?. Winning elections or presenting a formidable opposition in any political set up does not come through wishful thinking but depends on the number?? of supporters and the votes they cast for an individual candidate, political party or coalition of parties.
In the last presidential elections in 2010, Dr. Ntawukuliryayo, received 256,488 votes equivalent to 5.15% of total votes against 3,544,777 equivalent to 93.08% of the RPF candidate Paul Kagame. In 2003 presidential elections, Twagiramungu Faustin ?the strongest opposition candidate? then, received 134,865 votes equivalent to 3.6% of total votes, against 3,544,777 votes of the RPF candidate Paul Kagame, equivalent to 95.1%. The above statistics therefore, do not represent a strong opposition against RPF, by whatever political arithmetic calculation used. The RPF is far much stronger than all opposition parties combined, and there are reasons for this.
The strength of political parties is derived from building strong party structures, having a pro-people political ideology, recruitment of members, and putting in place programs meant to create a responsible, committed and patriotic cadre ship, which the RPF has perfected since 1987. It should also be noted that the RPF sponsored and won a four year armed liberation struggle through contributions from its membership, against a regime that received both financial and material support from superior and powerful countries. This is an indication of the vast number of members both in the country and the diaspora and the source of RPF?s political, financial, and human capital strength compared to opposition parties.
More often than not, dissident voices against the RPF and their international friends want to create an impression that the Rwandan ruling Party- RPF has lost strength and about to lose elections any time soon. This is a wild dream and imagination to those who know the strength and organizational capacity of RPF. The critics are mainly people who served in the RPF government and ran out of the country because of their criminal activities or genocide suspects still roaming freely in foreign capitals. Their foreign backers are agents of powerful forces within state and non -state actors that were largely defeated militarily by the RPF during the liberation struggle who have since 1994 wished to have an alternative regime in Rwanda.
For those who are not aware or who have forgotten, the RPF is a revolutionary Political Front, and serious revolutionaries build strong political structures and systems that allow putting into action their political programs for a long period of time, and in case of Rwanda, vision 2020, is an example of such long time development plan. ?The rapid growth and transformation taking place in Rwanda, is not by chance or accident, but results of visionary planning, hard work and transformational leadership of the RPF.
Gerald Mbanda is a media and political analyst based in Kigali.