As Rwandans begin to find their voices and organise political parties both inside and outside the country, it is crucial that we reflect much more broadly than formation of political parties.

There is a far bigger challenge than forming opposition parties.
The bigger question is this – abandonment of the political culture in Rwanda whereby citizens are reduced to bystanders blocked from actively participating in the political process; in an environment where Rwandans fear and follow authority like sheep.

Personally I have failed to fully understand where the fear of, and the worship of authority came from – this has thrived for perhaps centuries. But what I have I witnessed in Rwanda is simply shocking. Even the younger generation, does not dare challenge the over-bearing and controlling regime of the day that seems not only love the absolute power they exercise, but the relentless attempt at controlling all aspects of Rwandan people’s lives. This culture leads to fear of authority to an extent I have not seen anywhere else.

Let me be clear. What we have in Rwanda today is no mere dictatorship as in Habyarimana days – no. We have more and worse. We have what I may call “totalitarian dictatorship.” Ordinarily, the terms “totalitarianism” and “dictatorship” are not the same things according to political scientists – and I am combining them deliberately to illustrate the extreme case of Rwanda.

“Dictatorship” refers to an autocratic or authoritarian form of government in which the state machinery is dominated and ruled by a single dictator or by an authoritarian party. This is the sense in which the Habyarimana regime was a dictatorship. But “totalitarianism” goes beyond mere dictatorship. “Totalitarianism” defines an autocratic government that involves itself in all facets of society – its goal is to control all economic and political matters, attitudes, values, beliefs and everyday lives of citizens. The uniqueness of the Kagame state therefore is that it combines totalitarianism and dictatorship – that is why I am inventing the term “totalitarian dictatorship” to describe the current disorder.


Rwandans must not wait for the arrival of another brand of dictatorship, or totalitarianism, or the combination of the two under which we currently suffer. As those that are politically-inclined organise parties, we must not lose sight of the fact that a bigger challenge lies ahead – that creating a mass movement of non-partisanism that will become the basis for challenging power by citizens. By “non-partisanism we mean a political environment whereby citizens are not forced to support, and are therefore not controlled by, or affiliated with any of the established political parties – and are not victimised for their freedom to chose governments on the basis of their capabilities to deliver services.

This begs the question: After Kagame, who among Rwandans will sit on the negotiating table to determine their future of Rwanda? NOT ONLY POLITICAL PARTIES AS IN THE PAST! On that table should be also non-partisan Rwandans together with political parties with a clear understanding that it is game-over politics in which citizens meekly follow political parties like sheep. Henceforth, it should be politics whereby those who seek political office are the servants of the people, and not the other way round.

Only then can we say that we have a genuine chance for abandoning dictatorship and totalitarianism that have manifested in Rwanda since Queen Kanjogera’s Coup d’état in the late 1890s.

David Himbara