By David Himbara
General Paul Kagame has launched a new government Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement. The role of the Ministry is to teach national unity, historical memory and citizenship education. There can be no doubt that Kagame’s new ministry is about indoctrination and propaganda. This thinking is hardly new in Kagame’s Rwanda. Indoctrination and propaganda are already being aggressively pursued at the smallest administrative entity known as Umudugudu or village of which there are 14,837 across the country. With a population of 12 million, each Umudugudu is responsible for governing 803 Rwandans on average.
Among the responsibilities of Umudugudu as officially stated by the Kagame government is to “ensure that the village population are enlightened and are characterized by splendid behaviour of synergy and solidarity” and to “instil into the population the culture of patriotism.” This is the language of totalitarian states. Kagame’s pursuit of “enlightened and patriotic” citizens is indoctrination and propaganda, pure and simple. Kagame has now raised his indoctrination agenda to a higher level of a government ministry.
To understand the role of indoctrination and propaganda in creating “enlightened and patriotic” citizenship that Kagame is pursuing, one must look at totalitarian states. Vladimir Putin has his Ministry of Enlightenment of the Russian Federation. Most infamous was the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, a Nazi government agency that enforced Nazi ideology. In such totalitarian systems, education as conventionally known to mean an endeavour of seeking facts and learning about what is the truth and what is not, is rejected outright. In totalitarian states, indoctrination or influencing the entire population to believe in the official version of history and current realities, with zero chance to interrogate them, becomes the new “education”.
The North Korean model of education and citizen enlightenment is unapologetic about its objectives. Article 42 of the North Korean constitution states that “The State shall eliminate the way of life inherited from the outmoded society and establish a new socialist way of life in every sphere.” Article 43 declares that
“The State shall put the principles of socialist education into practice and raise the new generation to be steadfast revolutionaries who will fight for society and the people, to be people of a new communist type who are knowledgeable, morally sound and physically healthy.”
Creating “knowledgeable” citizens is what the Umudugudu, Rwanda’s smallest administrative entity, has already been pursuing. As noted, the responsibilities of Umudugudu is to ensure that Rwandans “are enlightened and are characterized by splendid behaviour of synergy and solidarity” and to “instil into the population the culture of patriotism.” By creating a ministry in charge of historical memory and citizenship education, Kagame has merely confirmed that he is the head of Africa’s North Korea.