Throughout most of the continent today, Africans confront a horrible choice: Peace & Prosperity… or Freedom & Democracy. Seventeen demonstrators dead overnight in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, is today’s best example.
Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC are located in the Lake Victoria area, and each one sits on lots of precious natural materials like rare earths and gold amounting to enormous wealth. But only Rwanda has fully exploited this. Why?
Because Rwanda is the country in that list with the least freedom and democracy.
Rwanda’s per capita income is 2½ times that of the DRC. Fiber optic cable brings good wifi to almost every village in the country. The paved roads are newer and better than those in my decrepit State of Illinois. You can buy Armani suits in Kigali shops, find Spanish saffron and Thai curry, and even dare to walk the city streets at night.
But in Rwanda there are no journalists left alive or not imprisoned. There is no opposition party: they’ve all been assassinated. There is no access or available petition to higher authorities: any dispute whatever must percolate slowly up a systematic hierarchical system that is nepotistic and tribal.
Rwanda has Peace & Prosperity but whispering the name of the president in public will put you behind bars.
Last week the struggling President Laurent Kabila of the DRC should have stepped down from the Presidency but in an Alice-in-Wonderland move his government announced it had no money to run an election.
The DRC, exactly like Zimbabwe, is currently a mess with violent protests of the dictator who won’t give way. The best African journalist in creation filed a report yesterday that vividly describes the vacuum of civilization that remains in The Congo.
Meanwhile in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, if you’ve enough money you can have your Benz greased-and-oiled at a pull-in mechanic, order a latte on your smartphone that you can pickup at the corner of your ever reliable bank, stream the latest from VUDU and order from UPS exactly that right type of tulip for your front garden.
And even if you don’t have any money you have near instant access to health care for any emergency, free if highly controlled education and guaranteed meals.
Rwanda as a model to explore has a serious problem: it’s very small, hardly the size of Maryland. If there is something intrinsically correct in the Rwandan experiment it means we’re going to have split everything up into city-states like Dubai, Qatar, Luxembourg, etc. Most geoeconomists would argue that leads to global decay.
Rwanda is a classic dictatorship by a minority. Like much of the midEast’s political domination by Sunni, Rwanda is controlled by a dominant minority, the Tutsis over the much more numerous Hutus. The presumption is that if the minority is the dictator they’ll be more benevolent to the other groups than those other groups would be ruling over them.
So far that seems to be the case, but at the great expense of freedom and democracy.
The DRC is the largest single country in Africa by landmass, a quarter the size of the U.S. Ever since Belgium and the U.S. conspired to assassinate its first democratically elected president for fear he would take the then powerful African nation communist, the Congo has been a mess. That was the action that did it. Democracy was ever after considered a sham by every single Congolese, and so it has been.
So today, the dictator will not subject himself to an election, because the country that sits on most of the world’s precious metals doesn’t have enough money to run one.
Peace & Prosperity. Freedom & Democracy. Will they ever come together in Africa?