The Kagame Method
“Oh if only, if only you could lend us Kagame for a year, Kenya would be developed.” Said many a Kenyan friend of mine and “what _______ ‘insert country’ needs is a Kagame.” A Kagame is the solution to every country’s ill and problems, as if he can magically transform any nation which does not want to be transformed. Sadly, there is only one Kagame and he cannot be president of your nation as citizenship laws would preclude him, but others can emulate him. It must begin with a nation ready to commit to development, to help their leader to succeed because they desperately need the services the government can provide. The Genocide was a watershed moment, but we still had 6 years of prevaricating until Kagame, the power behind the throne came to the fore in 2000. He came in with Vision 2020, a blueprint for development, this has since been copied by many countries, but few were as detailed and strictly adhered to as in Rwanda. Before we begin we must understand the structure of the Kagame Model, it is not s pyramid with him at the top but a fulcrum in the middle of the wheel of government. African presidents usually are on top of the pyramid, information travels down slowly, the structure does not allow for development. If one becomes the central hub and government rotates around them it works better. This requires a very hard-working committed person and a system that is built on information.
Kagame comes from a military intelligence background, he understood very early the importance of information in winning wars, it formed strategy, perfected tactics, and dictated events on the ground. He still looks at problems like a general planning the night before over a kerosene lamp. Information is the be all and end all, government is simply an information processing machine, disseminating and sucking in information, processing it and storing. The wheel-hub system allows you to be in the middle of information flow, your sources are merely to confirm what you already know. Most African leaders don’t know what is happening in their government and the pyramid system makes them distant and unable to connect to the bottom. The First Element of Power is information; if you know more than the man next to you then you are ahead. Information, not brute strength is the foundation of power and the facilitator of everything. He once said about corruption “Corruption is caused by lack of correct information, if they knew the consequences of corruption they wouldn’t do it.” That simplistic view helps his single-minded vision come through, there is no room for doubt.
What we often call inefficiency or really corruption are just breakages in information flows. The Kagame method is brilliant in integrating a wheel-hub into the usual pyramid system. Rwanda is a nation with 5 levels of government State, Province, District, Sector, and Cell, this system is bureaucratic and clunky. Alongside is another parallel wheel-hub system, it is reconciled by lower level officials copying the wheel-hub system like the executive they are at the heart of their own wheel. This link between vertical and horizontal flows of information is crucial in being successful, this is where a third system connects the two. A shadowy network of advisors and informal power links the spokes of the wheel with the pyramid, they decide what information should go up or round. This is when you use an intelligence network for development and not just security, it holds the systems together.
The information system must be able to allow 2-way flows of information, one must not only control inwards and outwards flows of information but also the information that the public is getting. This need to control internal information flows often puts him at odds with the Press, whom he sees as distorting the line of information between the citizen and government. The speed of development is determined by how fast you can get information to the masses. Much of the press has been hounded if they were contrary and many other media outlets have become mouthpieces of the Government. The message is not just about how wonderful the RPF is but about new seeds, farming methods, immunisation, HIV awareness, education, and other worthy causes. The government has to control the media, not for evil reasons but it is a major conduit in the development process, like hijacking a radio station to get out a worthy message. The media was never the enemy of the RPF but a means to an end, a dangerous weapon for whoever held it, it had to be controlled or destroyed.
This links the various levels of govt, all districts are connected to the web, down the sector and cells, with solar power if necessary. The government website becomes the interface between govt and people in service delivery. All methods of communication are linked, social media, SMS, email, calls, live meetings.
We are now seeing the consequences of the breakdown of the modern African state, their internal security organs focussed more on the opposition and controlling power than on local security. Now one looks at Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, CAR, and other places having a security breakdown because the state could not adapt to asymmetric threats. We used to call this “the monopoly of violence” that used to be the foundation of an authoritarian state. The state had to be able to bring more violence than anyone else, hence it was the most feared. On the whole, states that rely on a “monopoly of information” last longer than brutal states. The definition of a state is its ability to protect its citizens, it is the first clause of the Social Contract, if your Lord and Master cannot protect you or even himself, then he ceases to be your lord. The buck stops with Kagame, he doesn’t rely on outsiders for National security, it is his personal pride at stake. It angers me to see Goodluck shrug his shoulders in Paris, or Uhuru wailing helplessly unable to make tough decisions. Where is their pride? Information provides security, Uhuru has no information on Al-Shabab, so he cannot provide security to Lamu or any part of Kenya.
Control of organs
Many African presidents are called Commander-in-chief but do not have control of the Army or any arm of the Armed Forces. They will give control to their relatives or cronies, but not have it themselves. One has to have full control of the security organs to provide security, with your own appointees to answer to you personally. One constant thing you hear is how people are scared to let Kagame down, not Rwanda but him, they feel a personal bond with him. Call it love, call it fear, it works. Some leaders are feared, others are loved, others are respected, Kagame has earned all three in his time. He used information in every step on the way to get ahead.
Security is the platform for all future development, every house is numbered, every adult has a biometric ID, houses are arranged into security zones, there are regular patrols. Once areas have been secured, people registered, and houses zoned, you can now start providing services. The security matrix can become a service-providers dream, you can reach the lowest levels of the populace in distant areas. The government is able to monitor down to a 10-house village; who was immunised, school, water needs, gender violence levels almost in real-time. Our security systems in Africa are there to keep the govt in power, not provide healthcare, but in Rwanda an intrusive security system was made itself palatable because of the auxiliary services that come with it. Power is nothing without control, Rwanda controls many aspects of life that might sound absurd elsewhere, edicts on etiquette, fines for spitting, 2 days jail for urinating in public. It is almost expected of the government to be draconian, Kagame recently said “in Rwanda you don’t do what you want to do, you do what is expected of you.” Everyone has a role to play, and if they play their role then we will make it, this is the ethos of Rwanda. We have umuganda where we meet on the last Saturday of every month where we clean, in rural areas communal labour is once a week or even up to the discretion of the local leader. This way even old widows have their fields dug and a communal bond is kept strong. In security every house sends a person to patrol, every person plays their role.
Once one has control of information and security one can now tackle the 3rd Element of Power – Bureaucracy. This is where Africa is really lagging, our bureaucracy has been corrupted to such an extent that it has ceased to function. The corrupt officials cannot be prosecuted because the security and information sectors are also corrupt. Look at Kenya, Uhuru is not in control of all instruments of power, he cannot sack most senior people, he is not in control of information, and security so he cannot reform the civil service. The pyramid structure allows for little theifdoms to develop on each level, with the wheel-spoke system it allows more scrutiny but one can only focus on one ministry at a time, but you can fix each as they rotate.
Structured as wheel-spoke not pyramid system
The government is hierarchical and must use a pyramid system for accountability; Minister, PS, under-secretary, downwards – but we have seen this system is inefficient. If one can cut down to the middle level then one has direct access to the people. The Murenge or sector executive has been crucial in this mid-level management position. There are 30 districts averaging 300,000 and each has on average 10 sectors of 30,000 and these are the fulcrum of development. They register births, deaths, conduct marriages, dispatch government edicts, they implement policy on a local level. It is very easy to email 300 Executives or to meet in a room to change the way policy is implemented. Bypassing provincial or district levels saves time, the district focuses on monitoring that goals are achieved. This has led to uniformity of policy implementation, this sometimes has a downside as policies are bulldozed through regardless of if they are suitable locally. Once local leaders are in place, it is strictly a matter of protocol.
Protocols and etiquette
Apart from the laws and bye-laws that govern how local leaders act, there are also protocols and books of etiquette. Every single aspect of life is outlined in these etiquette books, the length of hair, fingernail length, how to walk, how to talk. In societies where the leaders are as poor as those they lead, they must distinguish themselves by their behaviour. They are meant to be an example to the locals, and it increases their authority. Protocols also govern how they conduct their job, discretion is limited, there is a protocol for any given situation. When there is a breakdown, it is a breakdown in protocol, the punishment for failure to fulfil this protocol is prison or dismissal. Corruption is a breach of protocol, as is nepotism, or any other vice and it is punished without exception. This depersonalises the corruption fighting process, setting lower standards for dismissal, the mere hint of impropriety is enough to dismiss, not forensic evidence. When one signs their contract they also sign a resignation letter at the same time, all they do is add the date and accept it if you do wrong. Breaking protocol is enough to get fired. You know where you stand, the book of Protocol is your friend.
Due to lack of resources one has to maximise government resources by creating synergies, also to streamline service provision. This starts from the policy stage, the Presidential Policy Unit is staffed by mostly young experts who work in clusters and formulate policy across ministerial boundaries. For example Justice Cluster formulates policy and law for Justice, internal affairs, defence, and other linked organs. Health, Education, Gender, also work together and so on. This allows for joint projects across ministries, normally ministries are jealously guarded about opening up to another ministry to work with them. What starts in theory and policy ends in practice, ministry of Education can link with ministry of health to give regular health checks in schools. Opening up ministries is beyond transparency but helps in them working together and reducing costs and maximising effect. Resources are spread out, work is collective and so success is collective. Ministries need to work together, ministry of Defence needs to work with the internal security dept, and soon all institutions are mixed. “I work FOR Education ministry but I work AT the Health ministry.” That is normal in Rwanda where you are there to fulfil a purpose, not for the sake of it. Government needs to work with itself, the wheels of the machine moving in unison to the betterment of the nation.
The Rwandan miracle was a collaboration of generations, the ministers are old technocrats who are long in the tooth but knowledge is second nature, and the young innovators. Most ministers and permanent secretaries are conservative, they have seen it before like a passing cloud. Take a seasoned professor, engineer, or doctor and add to them a young 25-year to 30 year old graduate with all kind of crazy ideas. The advisor comes with the blessing of the president to go in and “shake things up” so it is a polite dance with minister and advisor. These advisors have been groomed since school to do this job, you have to be young, no more than 35, and you have in theory equal say to the minister. Advisors handle 90% of the dog work and only present the most serious problems to the minister, this allows the minister to focus on his/her targets. It is good to see government institutions run by young people, a 21 year old can process land deeds, Rwanda is run by young people on all levels. The words “thinking outside the box” are cliché, but young people have shaken up the country. If you want things done you call the Advisor, they will immediately tell you the honest chances of your request going through. The minister will never remember your last meeting, but his advisor will remember every detail. The future is bright with these advisors who will one day be ministers.
I argued once with a French friend of mine about Imihigo, he said it was not a new invention like Rwanda said but the EU Performance and Evaluation System with a new Rwandan name. I countered that Rwanda dates back to 924, so many instruments of state have been there before under different names. There is always a promise of performance, no new appointee claims he will fail, they all claim they will succeed. So when you don’t it means that someone has gone without services. Like I said in Rwanda you do what is EXPECTED of you, not what you want. Every public servant writes his own performance contract for the year with clearly set goals – imihigo, and is evaluated at the end of the year. You have to resign if you fail to achieve your goal, if last year you registered 300 businesses locally and this year you promised 400 but got 200 you resign. There is a great need for jobs that there are 20 people behind you who want your job who won’t let mistakes go unpunished. Few African countries have defined what exactly is expected of their leaders, their etiquette, protocols, rules of engagement, terms of reference, key performance indicators, and WHAT IS SUCCESS? We all see what our problems are, we know what the solutions are, but we don’t define success only failure. That is all that is missing from African leaders, and the WILL to achieve it.
Once one has control over information, security, bureaucracy then one moves to control resources. Like I said in most African countries these 4 aspects of Power are in separate hands, or work separately. Most African leaders who stay long enough achieve all 4 aspects; some use information to get resources then buy the bureaucracy and security. Others use Security to get information which they use to control bureaucracy and eventually resources. Most African leaders consolidate power by weakening their economy and creating a corruption matrix; the modern African model. Few have used consolidation of power towards true national development. Kagame might be the first to do that, but market forces cannot be defeated, they must be obeyed. Rwanda’s economy is planned for the next 5 years and to the minute detail. Market forces determine all economic outcomes, one cannot control that.
The next Part will deal with the most important aspect of all this, Resources, the whole point of controlling the other 3 aspects of power is control the resources that you can channel towards development. In most African countries when the leader gets control of resources they use it only to solidify corruption and patronage and not to the betterment of their people. All of Rwanda’s problems historically have been caused by poor resource management. Depletion of our soils was caused by overpopulation, inefficient farming, erosion, and deforestation causing lower rainfall. It was this environmental degradation and poor management that created a fertile ground for hate to spawn. In Rwanda, the correct use of our meagre resources is the difference between Genocide or being a middle-income economy. The debate on resources will bring in the other aspects that hinder resource management; identity politics, votebanks, cronyism, clientele politics, rent-seeking, money-loops and all the other tricks that the corrupt elites of Africa use to weaken the state in order to expand their powerbase. Africa’s problem is the transition from our tribal primitive communist societies to the “AMP” model – Asiatic mode of production with a centralised state. In these artificial states we don’t have the same allegiances that we have to tribe, so greed takes over. Normally an AMP state like pre-colonial Rwanda was emerges out of surplus which can be extracted to allow an administration to be paid for. Colonial states were created not by surplus but to extract the maximum raw materials possible. The first thing a Nation needs is a sense of Nationhood – a bigger purpose, a singular goal.