Rwandans will be voting for their President Kagame next week. The overall outcome is not really in much doubt. And it is easy to be disappointed in the lack of real political competition in Rwanda (though Rwanda’s electoral commission claims there is real competition).
Indeed, those of us who were first introduced to Kagame through Philp Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You…, may continue to wish for that more heroic figure to reappear to bring democracy alongside liberation. It is old news to comment on the Gourevitch-Kagame connection and whether a journalist has become too influenced by his source(see here and here). But it remains a question we teachers face. There are still few books as accessible and engaging for undergraduates to read, as a colleague and I discussed just last week (I don’t use the book, but have considered using it).
Texas in Africahas a great roundup of what to expect with the upcoming election. And I think it is right to expect that, at the end of the day, the election won’t have much of an immediate impact. However, it may be that the habit of going to the polls is all that is needed. It has been the habit of democracy in Ghana, arguably, that has contributed to its success. Going to the polls repeatedly, and seeing gradual progress, has been key. And I really think that “habit” is something we as political scientists should not ignore. After all, in his reflections on democracy in the United States, Alexis de Tocqueville noted that our “habits” are a clear contributing factor.
So, in that spirit, I hope the “election” goes smoothly, that many people go to the pools, and that regardless of how their votes translated into outcomes this time around, that the idea of voting begins to become a part of the national psyche.