You cannot help liking Andrew Mwenda, with his intriguing observations. Mr. Andrew Mwenda is political editor of a Ugandan daily newspaper, “The Monitor”. He writes mostly about the political situation in his country, but quite often hops over to Kigali to ‘politically observe’ Rwanda as well.
And since he has a good number of acquaintances to host him, whom he might have studied or worked with while they were still in exile in Uganda, his ‘hops’ into Rwanda have become something of a ritual. Still, he does not allow his feelings of acquaintance to cloud his observations; he remains steadfast in his impartiality.
Another welcome addition to his political articles is a short, tongue-in-chick column that captures amusing moments in the past, which he has called ‘Strange but True’ (not to mention a new weekly). A particular incident he quoted some time ago captured so well the dilemma that outsiders face when trying to make sense of the Rwandan question.
Ex-President Jimmy Carter was in Libya to commune with some African elder statesmen and find a way of picking their brains on how to install a government of national unity in Rwanda just after the 1994 genocide, since the international community insisted that the country was run by a ‘Tutsi dictatorship’ and did not want to believe what the Rwandans were saying.
When they broke off for tea, ex-President Carter thought he could use the chance of being outside the confines of official talks to suggest a simple solution. Turning to the then president of Rwanda, he asked: “President Bizimungu, what is so difficult in your country that you people cannot allow even a few Hutus in your cabinet? Surely that can contribute in solving the problem.”
Mr. Bizimungu declined to answer the question and suggested that Jimmy Carter put that question to the then president of Tanzania, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. Mwalimu Nyerere protested vehemently, however, explaining that he did not entertain politics that was based on tribes and suggested that Carter put the question to President Museveni of Uganda.
President Museveni said he thought that since the then president of Zaïre, the late Mobutu Sese Seko wa Zabanga, understood the language of tribes better, he was better placed to answer the question. With mild irritation now, ex-President Carter turned to Mobutu and stared at him without repeating the question.
Adjusting his leopard hat with relish, Mobutu said: “Bot, Mistehrr Carrtehrr, zat Prresdan Bizimungu is Hutu, aussi his prime ministehrr andeu many ministehrrs!” Ex-President Carter stared at Mobutu for a while before comprehending the answer.
When he had digested the answer he laughed for five minutes before asking: “So, what are we doing here?” Then he tendered a hand to their host, Libyan leader Muamar Gadaffi, went to the hall and called to his aids to pack everything: “We are heading for the airport,” he declared.
More recently, Mr. Andrew Mwenda has been in the country and is already saying how different Rwanda is from Uganda. In the first of a series of articles, he explains how all the projects of the Ugandan army and the National Resistance Movement have come to naught while their counterparts in Rwanda have flourished.
He commends Rwanda on her efforts to meet the challenges of her development and the thrust of her economic policy and urges the Ugandan leadership to take notes and do likewise. He does observe, unflatteringly of course, that Rwanda is pathetically short on human resources and she should also take note.
An interesting one, however, is that Mwenda has learnt from Rwanda that there are many leaders in Uganda who can emerge and govern that country as well as, or even better than, President Museveni! After all, he says, “Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was just a director in our military intelligence.”
Here maybe Mwenda is right also, but actually Kagame was not “just” one of the directors. That service last functioned with discipline and efficiency (same as Mwenda has observed in the Rwandan army projects) when Kagame was there. Of course, even as a toddler, Kagame was always deceptively one of the ordinary pupils in primary school, until he came tops in Tooro District, Uganda!
That knack for quickly identifying what is wrong and what to do to right it under whatever circumstances seems one quality or gift that President Paul Kagame does not seem to share with anyone else I know of. In fact, the strength of this resolve to right what is wrong very often mistakenly appears to be a streak of ruthlessness.
Apart from the organizational ability that he has acquired and honed over time, Paul Kagame seems to have a super sense of detecting what may harm those near him. The story is told of how, when still in the bush, he asked his comrades to move out of a tent because he had a creeping feeling in the back. The tent was bombed to shreds immediately!
Again the story is told of how Kagame as an infant used to cry for hours if someone was done some injustice and he was not able to help them. You do not get “ordinary directors” consumed by the will to do good and ready to marshal all their energies to effect that will; not in Uganda, not in Rwanda. President Paul Kagame is a phenomenon begging to be studied.