Governance in Rwanda is authoritarian and the leaders run the country through fear and intimidation. The change needed therefore is not cosmetic or superficial by merely exchanging rulers. Our country needs a fundamental change from authoritarian to democracy, to transparency, and to accountability to Rwandan people. And Rwandan young people must be among the drivers for change.
Unfortunately, the Rwandan youth of today are not visible in the struggle for social, economic and political change in our homeland. The Rwandan youth in the diaspora are mostly either silent, or they follow the status quo. Some of them associate with the government of President Paul Kagame despite the fact his government is anti-people and repressive.
Yet deep in our hearts, most Rwandan youthful people are motivated to do something positive for our country. We long to do well in everything we do, and we are very enthusiastic in what we do, which means that we could be a very important factor in changing Rwandan politics from authoritarian to democratic. Very simply, we cannot remain silent and hope that our country will somehow change. How can the country change, if the youth, which is the majority of the population remains silent and on the sideline of politics?
The Rwandan age structure is as follows:
0-14 years: 42.1%
15-24 years: 18.9%
25-54 years: 32.5
55-64 years: 4%
65 years and over: 2.5%
As shown here by Rwandan demographics, 60% of our population is under 24 years. Furthermore, the youth of the working age between 15 and 24 years form nearly 20% of the population. The youth is therefore a numerically powerful voice, which is, unfortunately silent.
Beginning with Rwandan youth in diaspora we can change what I call the culture of silence. And why is this so important? Because young people have different perspectives and a host of different ideas. By voicing our views we could be opening and moving Rwandan politics forward. This is not only good for our society, but it is necessary for our country. If we young people fail to do engage with social, economic, and political issues that face Rwanda, the political establishment will not necessarily invest in policy fairness required to ensure sustainable development for future generations.
So how do we awaken and animate the largely silent Rwandan youth? Other than the obvious, reading the paper and social media, and consulting with our parents and relatives, there are plenty of opportunities for Rwandan young people to actively participate in shaping their future. These are critical things that we must do:
Create and participate in social organisations in our cities to examine and debate issues that affect our present and future, such as development, democracy, and human rights. This is a prime opportunity for a young person to get involved.
- Join and lead university and school associations that are engaged in social courses;
- Join Rwandan nonpartisan civil society organisations that are engaged in similar issues.
- Use social media networks to collaborate with other Rwandan youth across doing similar things.
- Invite speakers and specialists to debate about Rwanda and Africa especially about creative ways of bringing about social change.
- Engage and challenge Rwandan political parties about their visions of a reconciled, united, prosperous and democratic Rwanda.
These various platforms are exciting and informative, as well as being open to everyone. Getting involved in these sorts of imperatives is necessary if Rwandan youth wish to get a deeper understanding and actively seek socioeconomic and political change.
Many Rwandan young people and their parents may see these responsibilities as too heavy and wish to continue to shy away from politics. Such view is recipe for things staying the same and therefore indirect acceptance of the current authoritarian politics in Rwanda. I strongly believe the opposite – that not enough is done by and for the Rwandan young to contribute to change. As a large portion of our society, Rwanda youth must become more active in order to access to politics which inevitably shape our country and the world we live in. Fundamental change from authoritarian to democratic governance can only occur with an engaged youth.
By Albert Bimenyimana