Ideas, Stories, and Profiles

My dear friend and compatriot Gatete, a blogger and business lawyer based in Kigali, used a rather substantive discussion we had offline, in early July, to explain his point of view on why The Chronicles, a Rwandan news website, had suspended publication. I did find his take quite amusing, especially for the simple fact that most of the time I have no idea what's going on here — at least from a storyline perspective. Throughout his prose, Gatete always leaves room for chuckles. And we all love it. I promised Gatete I would comment, and here I am. This is my long overdue comment.

I do always respect Gatete's effort to explain what's going on. Unlike many professionals in Kigali, he seems to do it with courage and passion. One can only hope his exposés resonate with his audiences and other people who are keen to make sense of events in this city. In the article, Gatete expressed his disapproval of the idea of liberalism. But his view of liberalism, I am afraid, is misguided. He also put forward the Rwandan political mantra engraved in our constitution's preamble — that is to "seek solutions through dialogue and consensus" — in addition to what he calls the Rwandan and African spirit. Needless to say, Gatete's intention to push the boundaries of thought is plausible.

Gatete is right about one thing: I am a classical liberal (and a rational conservative). But his article is wrong about many things, especially how liberalism (at least in the classical sense) has contributed to the truest of the African dreams — that of lifting more people out of poverty. For purposes of clarity, and in the spirit of dialogue, I will briefly discuss it here.

Classical liberalism borrows its essence from the Enlightenment philosophy: that we can use knowledge to advance human flourishing. It counters ideologies that are built on tradition and dogma. So, rather than disempower the government, like Gatete sees it, it empowers the government to use logical thinking and latest available knowledge of how best to address issues. To achieve this, classical liberalism upholds the best of liberalism: pluralism (not anarchy), scepticism (not pessimism), and individualism (not egotism).

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