‘Our states need to be functioning at optimal level for effective service delivery, regardless of the political structures and governance systems we may ultimately choose.’ -President Paul Kagame

It may not be immediately apparent how much that statement embodies. To me however, it speaks volumes to the political and socio-economic revolutions unravelling all across our great African continent. It speaks especially to our duty as citizens; the inevitable responsibility should you

dare think yourself a patriot. It addresses a fundamental paradigm shift.

For far too long, there has been a tendency to look to government and its bureaucracy to deliver us to some form of Canaan or other promised land conjured by virtue of whatever plight that may have befallen us at that moment in time. Characteristically of us, there always seems to be an undying hope that it will. Allow me to state that I too often find myself hopeful, especially during elections, that my neighbourhood will soon become a modern metropolis akin to first world high streets. Hanging on to every word churned out by our politicians promising poetically that lack of amenities will be cast out faster than Adam and Eve were out of the garden (considering their moral infamy, it amazes me how well versed politicians are in scripture). And that sense of hope is probably what makes the disappointment all the more gargantuan, and my unfailing desire for regime change all the more renewed come the next election. But what was it that a great historian once said, ah yes; ‘every revolution in time puts on the robes of the tyrant it has deposed’. It’s no wonder our politics is a viscous cycle.

Before this segment begins to take on a tone that is suggestive of anarchy and/or its ramifications; I am all too aware, especially as a law student, of the importance of governance and its role in society. What I am essentially driving at is this; there is only so much that our ‘political structures and governance systems’ can do and there should be a limit to how much we expect of the same. Really, it is nothing new, wasn’t it America’s John F. Kennedy who in his inaugural address as president declared; ‘Ask not what your government can do for you, ask instead what you can do for your government’.

Government’s role is only that of mobilizing resources, ensuring it is being done fairly and that there is a secure environment to sow and to reap. That is all that pertains to the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Anything else will be called a ‘statute’, a ‘policy’ or a ‘police-officer’.

It cannot however be expected to mobilize resources that are non-existent. It cannot sow those seeds for us ladies and gentlemen. The sooner we realize that the better. The sooner we realize that each one of us is potentially a resource or a liability (apologies if you feel dehumanized), the better our chances of unbundling our economics. The closer it brings us to being reconciled with phrases and words such as ‘functioning at an optimal level’ and ‘effective service delivery’.

Further musing on the relevance and application of President Kagame’s statement; I believe it is our sense of citizenship that should be so potent that we are constantly aware that it is that which drives the wheels of industry and commerce. It is that which determines our Gross national and domestic products. It is that which determines where we appear on the human development index, however inaccurate we may think it is, and I do. It is that which will reduce our aid dependence.

Somewhere right now a young girl is studying voraciously, she is tomorrow’s entrepreneur. It is that which will create jobs. Don’t say there are no jobs, create them! Government can only give jobs to civil servants. It is your competence in your carrier when you have graduated with your under-graduate or post-graduate degrees, not even the accolades you have received (strive for them none-the-less, it is part of the equation after all), that will ensure the economy grows.
I could go on perpetually about how our roles as citizens touches on almost everything, but simply put; our responsibility as citizens of the state is one which touches on everything from our occupation to the food on our tables, to education, health-care and economics. A complex domino-effect; with each one of us as the first chip because there is an incumbent initiative upon each of us.

Speaking to youth in Cotonou, Benin; President Kagame in his characteristic brilliance said something else which struck me profoundly and ties in to the idea of that duty we have: ‘We look to you as the heirs to, and custodians of our heritage, pillars of our present endeavours and drivers of our future aspirations’.
And so to you I say, the onus is upon us.

© chaka sichangi (his blog)