On the 18th of September the Scottish People voted to remain in the United Kingdom. The Scottish people voted by 55% to 45% to stay in the United Kingdom. There was an impressive 85% turnout. The result shows the Scottish people have clearly rejected independence from the United Kingdom. The Rwandan People’s Party congratulates Scotland on the democratic, free and open way that it conducted the election. The Referendum on independence was watched by many in the world with great interest. There are lessons in the Scottish vote on Independence for the globe.
Scotland and England were united and became one kingdom in 1707. In that year the Scottish Parliament merged with the English Parliament to create the current British Parliament. Over the following centuries Scotland and England have remained united in peace and war. Since the late nineteenth century there has been a growing desire among a minority of Scots for independence. In the 1980s the Scot’s became increasingly alienated from the British Government. They were especially angered over London’s use of revenues from oil in the North Sea. In response the New Labour government granted more powers to Scotland and established a new Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Scottish nationalists were still not satisfied and lobbied for a referendum on full independence from England. The various attempts by London governments did not end some Scot’s desire for independence, but rather increased their wish to break the link with England. The London’s governments’ attempts to ensure that Scotland did not become independent encouraged some Scots seek independence more.
The Scottish people have demonstrated several things during the course of the Independence Referendum. Firstly, that politics is still important. Increasingly, people, especially young people have no interest in politics. This was not the case with Scotland, where nearly all of the population participated in the debate and voted.
The Referendum in Scotland showed that it is still possible to have a serious political debate. Today too many people are not interested in serious matters. This is especially the case with young people who are only interested in superficial things such as video games and celebrities. The Scottish Referendum showed that people are still willing and eager to become engaged in serious political discussions.
The most important thing that the Scottish people have shown is that every nation desire’s to have its voice heard and rights respected. Even though the Scottish people did not vote for independence they asserted their rights as a nation in the eyes of the world. Nations will always assert their rights and the world must recognize this. As the world grows ever closer and the forces of globalization bring people together, the rights of the nations are still important. This was shown in an African context recently when Kenya refused to cooperate with the International Court of Justice in its (politically motivated) case against the serving President Kenyatta. Many Kenyans may not support President Kenyatta, but together all Kenyans are opposed to the International Court of Justice efforts to put him on trial for events in the aftermath of the 2007 election. They see this as foreign interference in their nation’s affairs. I hope that ICC understands that the people of Kenya and Africa has rejected its intrusion into the internal affairs of nations and they see it as a witch hunt of African leaders in the interest of foreign powers.
The Rwandan People’s Party believes that the Referendum on Scottish Independence has shown the world that democracy still matters, that serious debate is still possible in the digital age and that the nations of the World must be listened to even in the age of Globalisation. The Scottish Referendum has given the world an example of how a nation should conduct itself when debating and deciding upon its future. The peaceful and responsible manner in which the Scottish people deliberated and decided upon the great issue of their independence is an example to the world on how an election should take place.
The RPP believes that the events that have just taken place both in London and Edinburgh, are examples that could be emulated by my country Rwanda and its government. The Rwandan government like the UK government should respect free political expression. Those Rwandans who have different opinions than the government are not opposing progress and not trying to destabilize the country. We call upon the Rwanda government to recognize that members of the opposition are not criminals or anti-Rwanda, but they are well meaning patriotic people who seek to improve the welfare of all Rwandans and concerned about their country’s political direction. The Rwandan opposition has legitimate concerns about the economic and social conditions in our country. The opposition wants positive changes that would include and benefit all Rwandans.
The Rwandan government should not fear the opposition but rather heed and respect their opinions. The Rwanda People’s Party, call upon the Rwanda government to release all political prisoners currently in Rwandan prisons. We also call upon the Rwanda authorities to free all Rwandans currently on trial on politically motivated charges.
The RPP call’s on the United Kingdom to continue to act in a democratic and tolerant manner after the Scottish Referendum. It is an example to the world. The RPP urges the Rwandan government to follow the United Kingdom’s example and to accept differences of opinion and democratic opposition in the national interest.
John V Karuranga, President
Rwanda People’s Party