Photo: Rwandan girl holding US & Rwandan flag. Source: anotherwilhem.blogspot.com
This Friday, on the 04th of July 2014 Rwanda and Rwandans all over the world will celebrate 20 years of peace and growing prosperity. Twenty years ago, back in 1994, that date marked the end of the Rwandan Genocide and gave birth to a new government that kind of rose from the ashes.
How “libre” are we?
Rwanda has (hopefully had) a very turbulent and tragic history. The country’s journey has been long, pain- and eventful. The first three decades of Rwanda’s independence were characterized by unfortunate upheavals perpetuated by ideologically bankrupt politics. This culminated into the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in which over one million people were annihilated in just a 100 days. During the dark three months of the Genocide, Rwanda died and descended into an almost failed state.
The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the current leading political party, led by President Paul Kagame ended the genocide by defeating the civilian and military authorities responsible for the killing campaign. As RPF troops advanced south down the eastern side of the country and then swept west, they encountered little opposition from government forces, except around Kigali. They drove military, militia, and other assailants from the region and so made it possible for Tutsi to return from the swamps and bush and to emerge from their hiding places. The RPF soldiers saved tens of thousands from annihilation. They even stopped the killers in the act of attacking or preparing to attack Tutsi at several churches or camps and relentlessly pursued those whom they thought guilty of genocide. In their drive for military victory and a halt to the genocide, the RPF killed thousands, including noncombatants as well as government troops and members of militia.
As RPF soldiers sought to establish their control over the local population, they also killed civilians in numerous summary executions and in massacres. They may have slaughtered tens of thousands during the four months of combat from April to July. The killings diminished in August and were markedly reduced after mid-September when the international community exerted pressure for an end to the carnage. Carried out by soldiers who were part of a highly disciplined military organization, these killings by the RPF rarely involved civilian participation, except to identify the persons to be slain. In only a few cases, particularly in areas near the border with Burundi, civilian assailants reportedly joined soldiers in attacking other civilians.
During the months when the RPF was just establishing its control, it is quite certain that the kinds of abuses that occurred must have been directed by officers at a high level of responsibility, but most reports of the genocide focused on the genocide itself and the crimes committed by the RPF are very poorly documented.
The first convincing evidence of wide-spread, systematic killings by the RPF was gathered by a UNHCR team dispatched for another purpose. When the team and the head of the UNHCR attempted responsibly to bring the information to the attention of the international community, the U.N. decided to suppress it, not just in the interests of the recently established Rwandan government but also to avoid further discredit to itself. The U.S., and perhaps other member states, concurred in this decision, largely to avoid weakening the new Rwandan government…
Between 1994 and 2003, Rwanda was governed by a set of documents combining President Habyarimana’s 1991 constitution, the Arusha Accords, and some additional protocols introduced by the transitional government. As required by the accords, Kagame set up a constitutional commission to draft a new permanent constitution. The constitution was required to adhere to a set of fundamental principles including equitable power sharing and democracy. The commission sought to ensure that the draft constitution was “home-grown”, relevant to Rwanda’s specific needs, and reflected the views of the entire population. They sent questionnaires to civil groups across the country and rejected offers of help from the international community, except for financial assistance.
The draft constitution was released in 2003. It was approved by the parliament, and was then put to a referendum in May of that year. The referendum was widely promoted by the government; ultimately, 95% of eligible adults registered to vote and the turnout on voting day was 87%. The constitution was overwhelmingly accepted, with 93% voting in favor.
The constitution provided for a two-house parliament, an elected president serving seven-year terms, and multi-party politics.
The constitution also sought to prevent Hutu or Tutsi hegemony over political power.
Article 54 states that:
“political organizations are prohibited from basing themselves on race, ethnic group, tribe, clan, region, sex, religion or any other division which may give rise to discrimination”.
According to Human Rights Watch, this clause, along with later laws enacted by the parliament, effectively make Rwanda a , as “under the guise of preventing another genocide, the government displays a marked intolerance of the most basic forms of dissent”.
What does peace and development look like in Rwanda?
Photo: Children at the Liberation Day 2012. Source: rwanda-in-liberation.blogvie.com
Rwanda’s economy has grown rapidly under Kagame’s presidency, with per-capita gross domestic product estimated at $1,592 in 2013, compared with $567 in 2000. Annual growth between 2004 and 2010 averaged 8% per year. Kagame’s economic policy is based on liberalizing the economy, privatizing state owned industries, reducing red tape for businesses and transforming the country from an agricultural to a knowledge-based economy. Kagame vision for 2020 is to emulate the economic development of Singapore since the 60’s and achieve a middle income country status.
The Vision 2020 program consists of a list of goals which the government aims to achieve before the year 2020.These are:
- Goof governance
- An efficient state
- Skilled human capital, including education, health and information technology
- A vibrant private sector
- A world-class physical infrastructure
- Modern agriculture and livestock
Rwanda is a country of few natural resources,and the economy is heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture, with an estimated 90% of the working population engaged in farming. Under Kagame’s presidency, however, the service sector has grown strongly. In 2010, it became the country’s largest sector by economic output, contributing 43.6% of the country’s GDP. Key tertiary contributors include banking and finance, wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transport, storage, communication, insurance, real estate, business services, and public administration, including education and health. Information and communication technology (ICT) is a Vision 2020 priority, with a goal of transforming Rwanda into an ICT hub for Africa. To this end, the government has completed a 2,300 kilometers (1,400 mi) fiber-optic telecommunications network, intended to provide broadband services and facilitate electronic commerce.
Tourism is one of the fastest-growing economic resources and became the country’s leading foreign exchange earner in 2011. In spite of the genocide’s legacy, Kagame’s achievement of peace and security means the country is increasingly perceived internationally as a safe destination the first half of 2011, 16% of foreign visitors arrived from outside Africa. The country’s mountain gorillas attract thousands of visitors per year, who are prepared to pay high prices for permits (500$ for non-Rwandan!).
Rwanda ranks highly in several categories of the World Bank’s ease of doing business index.
The Rwanda Development Board asserts that a business can be authorized and registered in 24 hours. The country’s overall ease of doing business index ranking is fifty-second out of 185 countries worldwide, and third out of 46 in Sub-Saharan Africa. The business environment and economy also benefit from relatively low corruption in the country. In 2010,Transparency International ranked Rwanda as the eighth cleanest out of 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and sixty-sixth cleanest out of 178 in the world.
Health & education indicators dramatically improved
Kagame’s government has made education a high priority for his administration, allocating 17% of the annual budget to the sector. The Rwandan government provides free education in state-run schools for twelve years: Six years in primary and six in secondary school. The final three years of free education were introduced in 2012 following a pledge by Kagame during his 2010 re-election campaign. Kagame credits his government with improvements in the tertiary education sector. The number of universities has risen from 1 in 1994 to 29 in 2010, and the tertiary gross enrolment ratio increased from 4% in 2008 to 7% in 2011.
From 1994 until 2009, secondary education was offered in either French or English. Since 2009, due to the country’s increasing ties with the East African Community and the Commonwealth of Nations, English has been the sole language of instruction in public schools from primary school grade 4 onward. The country’s literacy rate, defined as those aged 15 or over who can read and write, was 71% in 2009, up from 38% in 1978 and 58% in 1991. Rwanda’s health profile is dominated by communicable diseases,including malaria, pneumonia and HIV/AIDS.
Prevalence and mortality rates have sharply declined in the past decade but the short supply or unavailability of certain medicines continues to challenge disease management. Kagame’s government is seeking to improve this situation as one of the Vision 2020 priorities by increasing funding and setting up more training institutes such as the Kigali Health Institute (KHI), and in 2008 effected laws making health insurance mandatory for all individuals by 2010, over 90% of the population was covered.
These policies have contributed to a steady increase in quality of healthcare and improvement in key indicators during Kagame’s presidency. In 2010, 91 children died before their fifth birthday for every 1000 live births, down from 163 under five deaths for every 1000 live births in 1990. Prevalence of some diseases is declining, including the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus and a sharp reduction in malaria morbidity, mortality rate and specific lethality. In response to shortages in qualified medical personnel, in 2011 the Rwandan government launched an eight-year US$151.8 million initiative to train medical professionals.
So we’re all good, now?
The results of the iron management methods of Kagame’s government have surely not gone unnoticed. His economic policy has been praised by many foreign donors and investors, including Bill Clinton (Clinton referred to Kagame as “one of the greatest leaders of our time”) * and Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz. However, the DRC government and human rights groups have accused Rwanda of illegally exploiting Congolese minerals,which the London Daily Telegraph describes as an “important part” in the success of Rwanda’s economy Read: London Daily Telegraph article: “Paul Kagame: Rwanda’s redeemer or ruthless dictator”.
In 2010 Kagame’s relations with the US and UK came a under strain, following allegations that Rwanda is supporting the M23 rebel movement in Eastern Congo. The UK suspended its budgetary aid program in 2012, freezing a £21 million donation. The US has also frozen some of its military aid program for Rwanda, although it stopped short of suspending aid altogether.
Today, it’s hard to imagine where Rwanda will be on its 40th 4th of July Independence day but if I were to bet on it, it will be nothing like how we used to know it.
About Bill & Paul…
*As the killing intensified in April 1994, the international community deserted Rwanda. Western nations landed troops in Rwanda or Burundi in the first week to evacuate their citizens, did so, and left. The UN mission (UNAMIR), created in October 1993 to keep the peace and assist the governmental transition in Rwanda, sought to intervene between the killers and civilians. It also tried to mediate between the RPF and the Rwandan army after the RPF struck from Rwanda to protect Tutsi and rescue their battalion encamped in Kigali as part of the Accord. On April 21, 1994, the United Nations Security Council, at the behest of the United States—which had no troops in Rwanda—Belgium, and others, voted to withdraw all but a remnant of UNAMIR. The Security Council took this vote and others concerning Rwanda even as the representative of the genocidal regime sat among them as a non-permanent member. After human rights, media, and diplomatic reports of the carnage mounted, the UN met and debated and finally arrived at a compromise response on May 16. UNAMIR II, as it was to be known, would be a more robust force of 5,500 troops. Again, however, the world failed to deliver, as the full complement of troops and materiel would not arrive in Rwanda until months after the genocide ended. Faced with the UN’s delay, but also concerned about its image as a former patron and arms supplier of the Habyarimana regime, France announced on June 15 that it would intervene to stop the killing. In a June 22 vote, the UN Security Council gave its blessing to this intervention; that same day, French troops entered Rwanda from Zaire. While intending a wider intervention, confronted with the RPF’s rapid advance across Rwanda, the French set up a “humanitarian zone” in the southwest corner of Rwanda. Their intervention succeeded in saving tens of thousands of Tutsi lives; it also facilitated the safe exit of many of the genocide’s plotters, who were allies of the French. [Read: “The U.S. and The Genocide – Evidence of Inaction]
Photo: AP Congolese citizens look at tank shells lying next to the roadside, left behind by retreating government troops as they fled an assault by M23 rebels, in eastern Congo, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. Thousands of Congolese soldiers and policemen defected to the M23 rebels Wednesday, as rebel leaders vowed to take control of all Congo, including the capital Kinshasa. The rebels organized a rally at Goma’s Stadium of Volcanoes Wednesday after seizing control of the strategic city in eastern Congo Tuesday.
Two Palestinian youngsters look through the rubble of their destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza strip Photo: EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.”
― Herbert Hoover
Rwanda is the best investment destination for banks looking for regional expansion, according to a research by Standard Investment Bank.
The country ranks highly in terms of asset growth, profit after tax, cost to income ration and growth of its growth domestic product compared to other markets in east Africa.
SIB found that Rwanda scored 46 points to beat Tanzania by 14points and Kenya by 7 points.
In 2011, Rwanda had 2.03million deposit accounts with only 209 000 issued debit cards up from 41 000 in 2010. The volume of debit card Africa transactions jumped from 0.4millon in 2010 to over 2m in 2011) showing the potential for growth in the country.
“The growing influence of regional operations is one of key drivers likely to shape the fortunes of the banking sector over the next decade,” reads SIB findings.
Kenyan banks have been leading the foray into the East African region, with minimal expansion by indigenous Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda banks .
Kenya Commercial , Diamond Trust , Commercial Bank Africa, Fina, Equity , I & M , Imperial , ABC, NIC , CFC Stanbic & Co-operative banks operate a total of 179 branches outside Kenya.
“Based on our test results we therefore conclude, expected returns from different regional markets vary, therefore management should make a conscious decision on which markets to operate in,” said the report.
Uganda remains the most preferred destination for Kenyan banks with 85 branches there with South Sudan being the other favourite market.
Of all non-Kenyan operations for both KCB and Equity in the 2010/2011 financial year Sudan yielded their highest profits.
SIB analysts said banks are also grappling with the mode of entry to the other regional markets – green field or acquisition.
Source: WINFRED KAGWE, 31 OCTOBER 2012, The Star, allAfrica.com
Annette Uwizeye is a Rwandan filmmaker who has made several short films and commercials and opens a platform to encourage young women to venture into various fields.
The founder of ‘A WIZE Films’ production company, Annette Uwizeye, is one of the few women working in Rwanda’s nascent film industry. The South Africa-educated 31-year-old discovered her passion for the arts while pursuing a degree in Auditing and Accounting at the University of South Africa.
In an interview with Women Today, the eloquent and open-minded Annette narrates how she switched from a career that many consider ‘safe’, to embrace her true passion.
“My dad is an accountant by profession. One would think that numbers come naturally in my family but in my final year, I struggled and wasn’t really focused. I asked myself if I could settle as an auditor because my family thought it was the most promising career. I repeated my final year three times due to retakes and eventually my dad decided to transfer me to another school. It was either that, or think things through back at home,” the Kenyan-born narrates.
“I was drawn to the art but was not sure on whether to do theatre or film. I’m glad that Rwanda Cinema Centre opened doors for me. I had to take a course in film but wasn’t sure whether my dad would pay for it. But there was something in me that would just not let go. I applied to a film school in South Africa and fortunately, after the interview I was accepted,” she explains.
“One thing that cemented my desire to change career direction was taking a trip down memory lane. I was just six years old and a lady saw me drawing and sketching funny things and when she asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, easily, I said I wanted to be an artist. Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, says that as you grow up, the child in you has the purest sense of what you ought to be,” she reveals.
She further said you should always look back into your childhood because it holds the answer to who you are and what you want to be.
“Things don’t happen by coincidence, once you identify your path and purpose in life, things fall into place. For example, a typo in my admission letter to film school indicating tuition fees for a year was only R7000 an approximate $1000, this easily prompted my family to once again sponsor my tuition for a film degree, but 6 months later we discovered that everyone else was paying R17,000 – the first digit had been omitted and there was no turning back,” She narrates.
She has written, directed and produced several projects in South Africa and Rwanda. Other than co-producing the award- winning TV show, the M-Net Edit (Emerging Dynamics in Television) 2010 competition, she has also produced many of the MTN Rwanda commercials that aired last year.
She is currently working on a film called ‘Uwera’,due to be released next year.
On the subject of overcoming challenges she said, “There is this term called servant leadership. In leading teams, you inspire individuals to achieve the best and maintain a level of professionalism. You lead a team not to dominate but to collaborate. We also make sure that we pay people fairly and on time. These are things I have come to learn and appreciate just by observing my role models.”
This year, she founded A WIZE Films and partnered with Moukhtar Omar Sibomana, who is also passionate about film.
“At A WIZE Films, we describe ourselves as ‘story-mongers’. We are here to trade stories. Our slogan is, “Bring the World to Rwanda and take Rwanda to the World.” Our aim is to create entertaining and heartening content for film and television. I believe film is a tool for inspiring change, mirrors society and cultural exchange,” Annette explains.
The filmmaker advised women to embrace their true calling.
“It’s okay to be scared; we all get scared at some point. Through my journey, I hesitated at times but you need to trust that if you’re in the right path, things will work out, so have some faith. Acknowledge your talent and passion because no one will do it for you; one baby step at a time,” Annette adds.
She also said that women in Rwanda, who have succeeded in different fields, need to tell their story to inspire others.
“A platform showcasing women achievers would really encourage young women to venture into various fields. Women need to believe that they can do anything, not just in business but life in general,” she explains.
The funny and outgoing filmmaker is still single but to sweep her off her feet, candidates need to have at least five qualities.
“He should be God fearing, family oriented, passionate about what he does, a Rwandan, and taller than 5ft 11 inches,” she laughs.
Anette Uwizeye: Show Reel (Youtube video)
Source: DOREEN UMUTESI, 25 OCTOBER 2012, The New Times, allAfrica.com
Experts charged with the establishment of the East African Monetary Union yesterday resumed talks in Kigali to negotiate the establishment of a central bank and other institutions in the region.
Rwanda’s chief negotiator, Dr Frank Kigabo, said the discussions will centre on some remaining articles promising that these would be finalised by the end of the meeting this Saturday.
Dr Kigabo is a Chief Economist at the National Bank of Rwanda.
He observed that for the single currency to take effect, there was need to set up a central bank to control all the financial institutions in the region.
“We have to establish various institutions like a regional central bank, enforce mechanisms, monetary institutions and a statistics bureau before the single currency comes into force,”
he said in interview with The New Times.
He expressed optimism towards the completion of the monetary union protocol by end of this year.
Through the establishment of a regional single currency, all national currencies would cease to exist and all partner states obliged to switch to the new currency.
Addressing delegates, the Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure at the EAC Secretariat, Dr Enos Bukuku, said the meeting marked another bold testimony on the collective resolve to deliver a monetary union protocol for the people of East Africa as well as lowering the cost of doing business in the region.
He said the provisions to be negotiated during the meeting were critical towards the setting up of a monetary union as they underpin any integration initiatives.
“Our people, energised by the benefits of the customs union and the Common Market, the challenges associated with the same notwithstanding, are more than ready to embark on reducing the cost of doing business by attaining a Monetary Union” Dr Bukuku emphasised.
He further reminded the negotiators that many East Africans within and beyond the region were anxiously awaiting to appraise their resolutions over the creation of the monetary union.
So far, the European Union remains the only regional bloc with a single currency; the Euro
President Paul Kagame with members of The Hong Kong business community. He invited them to invest in Rwanda.
President Kagame was hosted on monday to a luncheon by members of the business community in Hong Kong to discuss the multiple business opportunities Rwanda has to offer.
Introducing President Kagame, Marc Holtzman who also sits on the board of directors of the Bank of Kigali referred to Rwanda as a miracle story and described President Kagame as “a man with the vision that transformed Rwanda.”
Holtzman explained that he first learned of Rwanda’s progress when President Kagame addressed the University of Denver during his time as President of the University in 2004. It is then that his vision of Rwanda changed from a nation marked by genocide to one of admirable socio-economic transformation.
President Kagame began his address by inviting all present to be part of Rwanda’s journey. “I invite you to be part of the revival of not only Rwanda but Africa. We want to look at change in the general context of the East African Community to which we belong and of Africa,” President Kagame said.
Members of the business community who were from a variety of fields including the banking, energy and media sector were keen to learn more about Rwanda’s business environment, its educational system and the opportunities for investment in energy.
Viviane Kayitesi, Head of Investment at Rwanda Development Board explained to those present the progress that has led Rwanda to be ranked 3rd in Sub Saharan Africa at the recent World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report and the 8th easiest in doing business globally.
“The Rwanda Development Board is dedicated to fast tracking Rwanda’s economic development by facilitating private sector investment. One of our recent accomplishments includes; decreasing the time required to open a business from 24 hours to 6 hours and procedures to obtain a construction permit from 30 days to 20 days.”
Addressing the question of education, President Kagame explained that the vision responsible for shaping Rwanda’s future, Vision 2020, was largely based on investing in the education of the youth. With youth forming the majority of the Rwandan population, Rwanda has prioritized education and the creation of a capable workforce in the country.
President Kagame concluded by inviting the members of the business community to make the trip to Rwanda to witness the change that Rwandans have brought their nation.
“Seeing is believing,” he added
President Paul Kagame is in Hong Kong where he will be hosted today by the city’s chapter of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and meet, on Monday, with members of the Hong Kong business community.
President Kagame will then attend the World Economic Forum’s sixth Annual Meeting of the New Champions (also known as the Summer Davos) taking place in Tianjin, China from September11 to 13. President Kagame will speak on two panels; Competitiveness Champions and Africa’s Future Economy.
In Tianjin, President Kagame is expected to meet with Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao and will end his visit to China with a key note address at the Peking University in Beijing.
Introduced in 2007, the Annual Meeting of the New Champions has become the foremost global business gathering in Asia. Over 1,500 business, government and civil society leaders from 90 countries have annually participated in the three-day Meeting. The first Meeting was held at a critical time as the world sought new ways to move forward from the global economic crisis. The Meeting focuses on the response of the new generation of fast-emerging multinational companies to the current economic challenges and future opportunities.
The Annual Meeting of the New Champions provides a platform for the rising generation of global leaders from business and society to contribute to broader policy discussions and engage with the world’s top business executives. The New Champions are led by the Forum’s growing Global Growth Companies Community as well as the communities of Technology Pioneers, Young Global Leaders and Young Scientists.
Kagame in Singapoore, May 2008
“From Crisis to Socioeconomic Development”
BY ARTHUR ASIIMWE, 9 AUGUST 2012,
“I received a message from a European friend recently asking me:
Why Rwanda was again at war with its vast neighbour, DRC.
As I laboured to explain the background to this crisis and showing how DRC’s conflict is a cocktail of so many interests at hand, he’s questions only pointed to one thing: the ignorance out there on the real problems that sparked the latest wave of fighting.
This misrepresentation and distortions of facts is mainly the work of some loud-mouthed groups masquerading as humanitarian NGOs but also made worse by the rumours carried in the infamous GoE interim report.
As a result of this diversion, the international community has completely ignored the root causes of the problem and instead fallen in the trap of aggravating the conflict to one seemingly between Rwanda and DRC.
There seems to be a deliberate intention to undermine the reasons for the M-23 uprising and international actors have conspired to portray these rebels as a group of mutinous rogue soldiers whose demands are farfetched or whose sole reason is to wreck havoc.
There’s also a false impression created by these foreign actors bent on downplaying the military capabilities of this rebel group and instead suggesting a ‘foreign hand’ in their military advances.
But this is simply fooling the world.
Much as any rebellion to a legitimate government should be discouraged, it is equally important to contextualise issues and take time to digest the underlying causes of such a rebellion. This has not been the case with the M-23 rebellion – they have largely been denied a voice.
By the time of writing this column, an International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) was taking place in Uganda’s capital Kampala. One of the key proposals tabled was setting up an international neutral force to deal with the rebels inside eastern DRC.
Though we are yet to learn what kind of mandate this force will have, what I can predict is a clash of egos mainly from foreign actors whose involvement in the Kampala meeting has seemingly been minimal.
They will work hard to undermine the establishment of this force because it comes as a slap in the face of Monusco and certain individuals within this UN body will use all means to discredit it or bad-mouth it using international NGOs.
Then there is the questionable seriousness of the Congolese government when it comes to the implementation of this proposed new initiative. The problem with the guys in Kinshasa is that they agree to something today and do the opposite tomorrow.
There have been so many regional initiatives, from the Lusaka Accord to the Pretoria Agreement to Nairobi Declaration to Tripartite Plus – and now what will come out of the Kampala talks – yet all these have come and gone but the Congo problem remains.
In my view, the biggest obstacle has been the lack of genuine commitment on different parties but most especially on Kinshasa and, as a result, these agreements have largely remained on paper as opposed to their implementation.
Therefore, much as a regional solution to the crisis is important, and should be encouraged, its implementation is likely to suffer the same fate as the preceding agreements.
But one thing that could possibly yield results and probably working parallel to this new initiative (if it sets off) is an endeavor of taking time to listen to grievances or the root cause of the latest uprising in DRC.
Fortunately, the M-23 has requested talks but up to now, nobody seems to be picking up this request. Yet by ignoring their appeal, this group is pushed to the wall and left with only one option of defending themselves.
The reasons for their rebellion are not a secret – whether legitimate or illegitimate, the solution does not lie in crucifying them. The fact is that their people are dying each day at the hands of extremist militia groups inside eastern DRC. Hundreds of thousands of their kith and kin have been made stateless and those who remain behind risk complete annihilation.
In Libya, when the people of Benghazi were called rats by the late Libyan dictator, the internationally community responded by ousting and killing Muammar Gaddafi (RIP). The same happened in Iraq and now in Syria.
The M-23 has not asked for regime change – all it demands is a solution that guarantees protection for their people who are treated like second-class citizens today. Isn’t this something worth listening to?”
BY SIMON ALLISON, 6 AUGUST 2012
The developed world has a soft spot for little Rwanda, the plucky, scarred nation that kindly Paul Kagame has unified and put on the path of prosperity. That’s been the narrative, at least; but, as recent events in the DRC are forcing the international community to concede, there are a few holes in it.
In 2009, current affairs analyst and CNN presenter Fareed Zakaria wrote an article for Newsweek about President Paul Kagame and the under-reported success story that was his Rwanda. The country is “a model for the African renaissance”, Zakaria wrote, observing a sharp increase in average national income, the establishment of a decent national health service and the fact that Kigali is popular with western CEOs (apparently good judges of national character).
He brusquely dismissed criticism of Kagame and his government:
“Kagame has his faults. Though elected, he rules like an authoritarian. But in his emphasis on self-reliance he provides an intriguing picture of what a more hopeful African future might look like-driven by capitalism, pride, indigenous traditions, and a prickly nationalism that insists on finding its own path to success.”
Zakaria’s piece is but one of many that have been written along the same lines, for this is the story of Rwanda in the 21st century. A plucky, brave nation heals the scars of the horrific genocide and moves forward, under the leadership of an innovative, forward-thinking government.
Economic indicators rise, as do standard of living measures. And the more unsettling elements of Kagame’s rule are glossed over. Freedom of the press-almost non-existent-is suddenly not so important to Bill Clinton, who described Kagame as “one of the greatest leaders of our time”. And Tony Blair didn’t seem too worried about the well-documented suppression of opposition, or the Rwandan army’s extra-territorial adventures in the DRC, when he said Kagame was a “visionary leader” and that he “believed in him”.
Kagame and Clinton on a tour at the Clinton Foundation Projects in Rwanda
There are a few reasons why Rwanda has become, and remained, the darling of the international community. One is their sophisticated public relations strategy. Aided by a top London PR firm, the country is quick to respond to criticism, and even quicker to plant positive stories that support the image it wants to project. International organisations that criticise Rwanda, even tangentially, are often invited to Kigali for top-level government discussions to hear the official line, along with an emotional trip to the genocide museum. Journalists are given free trips to Kigali where they are shown just what the government wants them to see, returning home to rave about how clean the capital is and the grace of their hosts.
Then there are the great strides the country has made in tackling socio-economic problems – a genuinely impressive achievement which has made Rwanda the poster-child for development aid for Africa. “Rwanda has come to symbolise what donor aid can do,” wrote David Smith in the Guardian. As such, donor countries, particularly Britain and the USA, are both financially and emotionally invested in the country. Speaking about Kagame’s latest denials of Rwandan involvement in the DRC, Smith commented: “Britain apparently believes him, or can’t bear to disbelieve, lest it suffer buyer’s remorse.”
Finally, there’s the guilt factor. The international community stood by during the Rwandan Genocide; in fact, the UN’s abandonment of its posts likely made things worse. This sense of shirked responsibility has dictated the international community’s involvement in Rwanda ever since, encouraged by Kagame and his government, who are never afraid to play the genocide card. “We all went through that awful searing experience and the sense of guilt that President Clinton expressed many times about the international community’s failure to help Rwanda in that moment of need,” said Tom Malinowski, a former state department staffer who now heads Human Rights Watch’s Washington office. “Unfortunately Kagame has played on that guilt over the years to mask additional crimes that frankly we should also feel a little bit guilty about not having confronted.”
Human rights groups have been among the few international observers to remain unconvinced by Kagame’s polished act. Human Rights Watch in particular has been consistently vocal about the need to address the fundamental abuses perpetrated by the Rwandan government, both at home and across its border with the DRC. But until recently, its constant flow of press releases, reports and calls for action have fallen on deaf ears.
The situation is a familiar one. Without going into the complexities-and the situation is very, very complex – Rwanda has been accused by a United Nations monitoring group of supporting a rebel militia in the DRC with arms and personnel. Kagame has furiously denied the charges, but the evidence is pretty convincing, and this time no one is buying into his denials. The United States has suspended $200,000 in military aid in light of the allegations-financially insignificant, perhaps, but a diplomatic punch to the gut for Rwanda’s government. Other donors followed suit, with the UK holding back $25-million, while Germany and the Netherlands have withdrawn -21-million and -5-million, respectively.
So what’s changed? Why is the West suddenly calling Kagame on his bluffs? It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing.
Partly, it must be because of the seriousness of the situation in the DRC. The last time Rwanda blatantly supported a rebel group against the central government, it spiralled into an eight-country war that killed hundreds of thousands.
Partly, it must be a consequence of familiarity with Kagame’s tactics; after hearing the same urbane arguments for years, diplomats are able to distinguish the bullshit and the bluster.
Partly, it must be thanks to the relentless campaigning of human rights organisations. It’s probably in bad taste to compare human rights activism to a practice that violates the Geneva Convention, but it is a little like Chinese water torture. Each press release is a little drop of water, meaningless by itself; but over time, all those drops create real pressure that makes them very difficult for diplomats and politicians to ignore.
Kagame meets new advisors of Tony Blair’s African Governance Initiative (AGI); 09 March, 2012
Whatever the reason, it’s obvious that world opinion is slowly turning against Rwanda. Tony Blair and Bill Clinton might come to regret their effusive praise of Kagame and his government; and, in time, the international community might come to realize that their responsibilities in the present outweigh their historical guilt.
Sources: allAfrica.com, San Fransico BayView (The National Black Newspaper), Newtimes.co.uk,
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Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told the press that Rwanda has proven over time that it can withstand the toughest of conditions and this will be no different albeit with difficulties.
“With or without aid, Rwandans will not give up, we shall fend for ourselves as we have always done, in any case, we have done so before,” she said.
A visibly stressed Mushikiwabo added her government has dealt with several reports full of false allegations before and no matter how long it took, in the end, the truth vindicated them.
She cited the long running allegations by the French that Paul Kagame’s rebel group shot down the late Habyarima’s plane setting off the genocide, but the matter was recently laid to rest with RPF being cleared of all charges by a French judge. On the significance of the threatened aid cuts, Mushikiwabo admitted that though her country needs aid, it’s not entirely the basis of Rwanda’s prosperity.
“Come to think of it, over 50% of our budget is domestically funded and though the balance is expected from aid, you can’t dismiss our own efforts as Rwandans and if we need to survive without aid, we shall do it,” she noted.
But she added that Rwanda needn’t fear as the country has many friends who have stood by it since the end of the genocide.
Increasing domestic borrowing
Meanwhile, Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning has revealed that the Government will be forced to increase domestic borrowing to counter the impact of delays in disbursement of funds to the national budget by donors.
The UK government said it was delaying disbursement of £16m ($25m) in budget support due this month ‘while it considered whether aid conditions had been met.’
Germany suspended $26m to Rwanda’s budget planned from this year through 2015, while the Netherlands delayed US$6.15m also in budget support. Though Rwangobwa sounded optimistic that affairs will improve concerning the UK, he added that Netherlands and Germany were not clear in their decision saying it’s compromising the policy on aid effectiveness.
Rwanda plans to boost its national 2012/13 budget, with Rwf297 billion from development partners in form of direct budget support compared to Rwf279 billion in 2011/12. The aid delays came after reports that alleging that Rwanda is supporting M23, a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo, allegations Rwanda has denied.
Rwanda meets accusers
On Monday last week, Rwanda submitted to the UN Sanctions Committee its rebuttal on allegations contained in an addendum to a Group of Experts report that claims Kigali is backing the M23 rebels, who have, over the last two months, seized parts of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“There wasn’t a trace of truth in their allegations and we have provided evidence and facts that will only expose the report as some dark plot aimed at an equally darker agenda,” said Foreign Minister, Mushikiwabo.
Source: East african Busines Week (allAfrica.com)