President Patrice Talon Came, He Saw, He Fell in Love


Benin President Patrice Talon came for a state visit and left saying he was departing with a part of Rwanda in his heart.

He said he actually wished it were all of Rwanda he was going away with!

President Talon spoke in glowing terms about Rwanda during his three-day state visit.

It is easy to see President Kagame is a leader the Beninese president admires very much.

“I have decided that all Africans coming to Benin will not need a visa!” said President Talon, citing the initiative first implemented by Rwanda on the entire continent and that is now slowly catching on elsewhere. There obviously are many other things; ideas he will have observed and will be took back with him to his country.

Rwanda and Benin, following that visit have signed a number of agreements paving way for freedom of movement between the two countries, investments in tourism, the textile industry and other sectors. And as usual Rwandair was the big winner, securing another West African route, the Beninese capital Cotonou. (Really, Rwandair ought to begin paying big commissions to the head of state for all the business he is opening up for them!)

But back to Talon and his love affair with Rwanda. He was swooning about the governance he saw; the possibilities he envisaged in good leadership as witnessed in a place that was left for dead 22 years ago but now has so much going for it. He was impressed by everything he saw – from Rwanda’s efforts to develop its IT sector; to developing a whole new industrial zone; to efforts at achieving health insurance for all Rwandans, and everything in between.

Listening to President Talon in Kigali, one would have been forgiven for thinking this was an RPF cadre talking about the virtues of the party, and its leader’s stewardship of Rwanda!

“This is a country that was known for tragedy but is now known for able leadership,

“This country shows that when you have the will and commitment, you can do as much, if not more than others!

“Rwanda is evidence that we (Africans) are not cursed at all!”

Then, looking at President Kagame, President Talon said, “I honor you for the pride you give Africans!”

I would love to hear someone say Talon now is a propagandist for Kagame!

After all, all whenever someone, even the most objective observer points out these things the naysayers do not hesitate to slap the ‘propagandist’ label at him.

One would say: come on that was diplomacy. That’s what any visiting head of state would say!

But that misses the very heartfelt, even emotional manner in which President Talon delivered his speech. It went beyond mere diplomatic niceties or requirements of protocol. It was praise that was sincere, at times spontaneous or ad-libbed.

The thing is, anyone that has an idea what was here in 1994 during and immediately after our massive national tragedy has to marvel at what this country has achieved with Kagame at the helm. It is almost inconceivable. A country with more than a million, of its estimated (at the time) seven and a half million people dead in some unbelievably gruesome massacres now holds its head high in the community of nations. A country that had very little public infrastructure to begin with, in which everything was either flattened or sabotaged has rebuilt in some spectacular ways, evident in the sparkling airports to five star hotels to gleaming convention centers, to generating electricity out of methane gas, where none have done it before!

Twenty-two years on Rwanda actually is taking the lead in Africa in many important ways.

The fact that post conflict it is possible for even the most aggrieved to put aside their differences with the offender and work/live together in their interest and that of their children – that is something other African societies emerging out of their own conflicts will see as a possibility.

The idea of a visa free Africa when it eventually happens will be directly attributable to Kagame. Other leaders already see the benefits of it to their people and you can be sure with time you will fly to any part of Africa without hustle, the horrendous headaches synonymous with acquiring most African visas a thing of the past.

Ideas of good governance originating from Rwanda – like local government performance contracts – are already catching on elsewhere.

The Rwandan leader’s efforts in fostering closer African cooperation as a protection against outside influences that may not always be in the interest of, or that are outright hostile to the peoples of the continent are many.

Kagame is a true visionary – which some haven’t recognized yet, but will with time.

Talon is only being more honest than most in seeing it and proclaiming it loudly.

By Shyaka Kanuma

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Source: Rwanda Focus

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