What Rwandan Rulers Might Learn From This Photograph

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By David Himbara

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an English idiom that refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single image. Or that an image of a subject conveys its essence more effectively than a description does.

In this photograph, we see two people happy and hugging. But who are these two people, and what is the occasion?

The man is the photograph is George W. Bush. He is a member of the Republican Party, who served as the 43rd president of the United States from 2001 to 2009. The woman in the picture is Hillary Clinton, the wife of Bill Clinton, who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. She belongs to the Democratic Party.

Interestingly, George Bush’s brother who was running for presidency on the Republican party ticket just dropped out. Hillary Clinton is running for presidency on the Democratic Party ticket.

In this March 11, 2016 photograph, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton are hugging and laughing at Nancy Reagan’s funeral. Nancy Reagan was the wife of Ronald Reagan who served as the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. The Reagans were members of the Republic Party.

What the photograph tells us is that behind the scenes, even “political enemies” have friendships across political lines. Meaning that people in healthy societies can disagree vehemently about what needs to be done to make their nation a better country and still be friends. No doubt the Bushes and Clintons do not always see eye to eye — but they converge on the love of their country. As has been stated over and over again, “politics should be a battle of ideas and not personalities.”

In our Rwandan situation, political difference — or even a difference of opinion about anything can lead to imprisonment, exile, and possibly to death. In Rwanda, even a priest got in trouble with authorities for praying for peace — according to the Rwandan regime, the priest was suggesting that there was no peace in the country.

No one can now freely speak about anything in Rwanda for fear of being misinterpreted and landing in trouble. If you neighbour is in trouble with the authorities, you look the other way and pretend you did not see anything. Rwandan people in and outside the country have “lost” eyes so they do not see anything; they have “lost” the ears so they do not hear anything as means of self-preservation. In Rwanda, if your relative is thrown in prison, no one will associate with you any more. You are now “an enemy” of the state.

Where will it all end? I am reminded of the famous statement by The Rev.Martin Niemöller who described how he failed to speak on behalf on imprisoned masses by a dictatorship, until the regime came for him, too:

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

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