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]
by Richard KARUGARAMA Lebero
On 7th April, Rwanda marks 20 years since the 1994 genocide. A lot has been written about Rwanda’s journey and, as is to be expected, much of the commentary is misleading, lacking sufficient understanding of the extent to which Rwanda has been transformed over the last 20 years.
This year’s theme – unite, remember and renew – aptly reminds us to commit ourselves towards ensuring that genocide never happens in any part of the world.
We also have the opportunity to reflect on Rwanda’s transformation and deliberate upon the lessons post conflict countries can draw from its resilience.
The narrative of Rwanda’s past is one of anger and pain. Starting from the colonial period and stretching up to the 1994 genocide,Rwanda was a deeply divided society entrenched with the scourge of ethnic politics and bad leadership.
Although the colonialists did not invent the Hutu and Tutsis ethnic identities (historically the labels existed), colonial intervention changed the meaning, practice and importance attached to these labels.
Following the 1994 genocide, modern Rwanda articulated and implemented a vision of co-existence between Hutus, Tutsis and Twa which emphasizes the virtues of being Rwandan.
The dividends from collective reconciliation and nation rebuilding have resulted in unprecedented social, economic and political transformation.
Rwanda’s rebirth is by all measures remarkable considering that for over five decades it was characterized by systemic governance failures, authoritarian rule, entrenched ethnic tensions, corruption and a spiral of extra judicial killings.
Indeed, the failure of state institutions to galvanise citizens into productive means of labour and the use of government structures as instruments of social disharmony, culminated in the horrors of 1994 and the loss of one million lives.
Twenty years after the genocide Rwanda is experiencing significant improvement in poverty levels, women and youth empowerment, transparency and accountability, democratic governance, respect for the rule of law and a profound mindset shift towards self-reliance.
The depth of reforms and the increasing levels of efficiency are well captured in numerous governance and business surveys conducted periodically by reputable institutions.
On the basis of the reforms, Rwanda ranks favorably across most indicators. For instance, in the 2014 World Bank ‘Doing Business Report’, Rwanda is ranked as the second most improved country in the world and the second easiest place to do business in Africa.
Despite evident improvement in social well being, modern Rwanda regularly witnesses unprecedented attacks – some commentators arguing that economic development has been achieved at the expense of human rights.
Historically, this type of commentary is not unprecedented and is well illustrated by the experience of Singapore – once accused of trading off human rights for economic prosperity.
But Singapore’s journey from third world to first world country demonstrates that the one size fit all approach to democracy and human rights barely makes a dent in the challenge of improving the material state of people’s lives.
As Professor Kishore Mahbubani correctly argues, economic development is the only force with the power to liberate the Third World. In essence, human rights can only be enjoyed when people are liberated from the scourge of hunger, insecurity, disease and poverty.
It is also too simplistic to argue that emerging countries such as Rwanda are advancing economically at the expense of human rights. The premise of this argument overlooks the fact that strides in economic development are intertwined with respect for human rights.
The two are not mutually exclusive as there can be no economic development without the respect and protection of fundamental freedoms.
The philosophical underpinning of human rights is both controversial and ambiguous because protection of fundamental rights means different things in different parts of the world.
The most recent Gallup poll best illustrates this point; it ranks Rwanda as the safest place to live in Africa with 92% of ordinary Rwandans feeling safe and secure. Additionally, the poll shows that among African countries, Rwanda is the safest place for women to flourish.
Even without the Gallup survey, Rwanda’s respect for gender equality is unprecedented – 64% of Rwanda’s parliament is constituted by women (the highest globally). Moreover, the Constitution stipulates that for all leadership positions, women must constitute a minimum of 30%.
The trust and confidence ordinary Rwandans place in state institutions to guarantee security, law and order extends to other important rights such as privacy, life and dignity which are cornerstones of human existence.
It is only through guaranteeing respect for the rule of law and a peaceful environment that people are able to freely exercise their right to dignity, privacy, life and freedom of expression.
Put succinctly, personal liberties do not operate in a vacuum – such rights are meaningless without a certain level of development. Indeed, over the last twenty years, modern Rwanda has strived to lift ordinary people out of poverty because only when people have been liberated from it can they fully enjoy personal liberties.
Source: African Arguments
by Susan THOMPSON
As Rwanda prepares to mark the twentieth anniversary of the 1994 genocide, it has found itself in an unprecedented diplomatic crisis. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front has all but claimed responsibility for the murder of its former Spy Chief Patrick Karegeya in Johannesburg in January.
More recently, the South African government has accused Rwandan diplomats of a third bungled attempt on the life of the country’s former army chief Kayumba Nyamwasa.
The State Department scolded the government of President Paul Kagame for the attempt. The South African government then expelled three Rwandan diplomats, and is considering ending formal diplomatic ties with Rwanda.
Foreign journalists reporting on the attack on Nyamwasa raised the ire of President Kagame. On March 7, Radio France International journalist Sonia Rolley was subject to misogynistic harassment from the account of @RichardGoldston. American freelancer Steve Terrill came to Rolley’s defense, resulting in a series of mocking tweets from the account of Rwanda president @PaulKagame himself, not the @RichardGoldston to which Terrill (@steveinafrica) had directed his Tweets.
A week later, on March 15, Terrill was denied entry into Rwanda. The denial appears politically-motivated as Terrill broke the story that someone in the office of the Rwandan president also had access to the @RichardGoldston account.
The @RichardGoldston account trolled Twitter for any sign of criticism of Kagame or the RPF, and regularly harassed and demeaned Twitter users that criticized the government.
On March 8, the official Twitter account of the Office of the Rwandan President (@UrugwiroVillage) tweeted that the @RichardGoldston account had been deleted and the staff member responsible for the account had been “reprimanded”.
Rwanda’s Twitter-gate raises questions about the central role of RPF Twitter-trolls in calling out foreign journalists who seek to hold it to account for its excesses at home and abroad.
President Kagame’s reactionary tweets provide insight into the political reality behind his government’s carefully crafted narrative that Rwanda is a nation rehabilitated from the ruin of the 1994 genocide. Twitter-gate is also illustrative of the harassment and intimidation to which critics of the RPF regime regularly experience.
Twitter-gate is the first crack in the armor of the RPF’s longstanding disinformation campaign that has relied on Western exchange students, public relations firms, commemorative events, and a whole host of other techniques to craft an idealized and often invented version of what Rwanda was like before the onset of colonialism and what it has become since the 1994 genocide.
Since 2009, the RPF has worked with American and British PR specialists whose primary task is to drown out the voices of foreign critics and bury evidence of the RPF’s human rights abuses under rosy language about political stability, economic growth, and the stated intention of helping the poor.
In January, Rwanda launched the Kwibuka20 campaign, from inside Kagame’s office of course, for the same instrumental reason: to substitute the trope of genocide for the trope of authoritarianism in narratives about Rwanda.
The disinformation strategy is simple: ensure maximum international sympathy and donor dollars and a minimum of international inquiry into the government’s denial of liberties and human rights abuses.
The Kagame-led regime has a penchant for U.S. visits and visitors, and until recently successive U.S. administrations turned a blind eye to massive human rights violations for which the Kagame-led regime, according to the United Nations, is responsible in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Americans in particular have been taken in by the rhetoric of reconstruction, development, and reconciliation that invariably accompanies most public events in the country.
The RPF frames itself for Western audiences as the political party best able to move Rwanda towards a Western-style democracy because it has regularly held presidential and parliamentary elections.
The RPF handily won the most recent round of parliamentary elections, in September 2013, with 76% of the vote. In theory, it was contending with nine other parties. In practice, Rwanda’s nearly six million voters had little choice on the ballot. A total of 98% of the votes went to the RPF and its four coalition parties.
The continued dominance of the RPF in the electoral realm projects a semblance of political pluralism while masking the fact that all parties are expected to acquiesce to the ruling party. Two actual opposition parties have been banned and their leaders jailed.
Another pillar of Rwanda’s disinformation campaign is that the government promotes gender-equality. 64% percent of parliamentarians in Rwanda’s lower house are women, but this number masks reality. Although women are very visible in Rwanda politics, their ability to shape the future of women, ironically, is circumscribed. Rwanda’s parliament has limited influence.
Parliamentarians – be they male or female – actually have little power to legislate on behalf of their constituents. They have little room to develop policy or even to debate openly; space for free and open political expression is limited. Put differently, an assessment of political realities shows that women parliamentarians in Rwanda are mere accessories of power; they do not actually wield any of it.
Though the genocide has not repeated itself, growing socio-political and economic inequalities – notably the exclusion of youth – under an increasingly authoritarian and repressive government have meant that post-genocide Rwanda is still deeply entangled in its violent past. Rwandans deserve better from their American friends.
Rwanda’s Twitter-gate also reminds us that, on this 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, we should not allow our generally rosy perception of Rwanda as a stable and free country under the visionary leadership of President Kagame to mask long-standing political tensions, unresolved resentments, and the rise of an authoritarian regime.
Susan M. Thomson is Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University in the United States. She is author of Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda (Wisconsin University Press, 2013).
Source: African Arguments
How to spread Rwandan propaganda, and intimidate opponents? Twitter, of course.
Last week, a few unfortunate clicks revealed to the world that the Twitter account of Rwandan President Paul Kagame is run by the same person who spews pro-Rwanda propaganda under the handle @RichardGoldston. The faux Goldston is, of course, allowed to be a lot less guarded than Kagame himself, and a trawl through his Twitter cache offers up a few revelations – none of which are complimentary toward South Africa. No wonder SA-Rwanda relations are at an all-time low. By SIMON ALLISON
by Theogene RUDASINGWA
Rwanda’s leader uses UN peace missions to maintain the dictatorship in Kigali and to enhance his formidable global financial and criminal network that liquidates his opponents
President Paul Kagame has come to love United Nations peacekeeping operations. This is ironic since he hates the United Nations, and does not actually believe in peacekeeping. It is now an unwritten rule that the West (mostly the US and UK) will ask Rwanda to participate in UN peacekeeping missions, and Kagame will kindly oblige.
Photo: Rwandan peacekeepers serving with UNAMID escort IDPs on their return from an IDP camp to their original village in Sehjanna, near Kutum, North Darfur, July 2011. Source: un.org
What is the deal?
First, the West will not shed the blood of their sons and daughters for Africans. They need their favourites like Kagame to do the job for them. Hence, Rwanda’s troops can now be found in Darfur, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Haiti. Rwanda’s officers, some of them notorious human rights abusers, are the most favoured when it comes to leading United Nations peacekeeping missions. The unspoken thought from Washington and London seems to be ‘Africans are killing Africans, who cares even if African murderous dictators like Kagame pretend to keep an illusive peace?’
Second, Kagame needs these ‘gifts of love’ from the West. He needs something to occupy his increasingly restless Tutsi army. If they are not in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they should be somewhere else.
Third, Kagame has made a fortune out of peacekeeping. His family and clique pockets most of money that should otherwise go to the Rwandan officers and men in these UN missions. Through the Horizon Group ( controlled by Rwanda’s military and intelligence), alongside Crystal Ventures ( Kagame’s financial empire that controls most of Rwanda’s economy), he gets money directly from the UN system, and indirectly from taxpayers in the West. With vast resources, Kagame has built a global financial and criminal network to liquidate any of his opponents, be they Rwandans or heads of states of other countries.
Fourth, by having his troops in these peacekeeping missions, Kagame can always blackmail the West into silence, inaction and protection when it comes to calls for accountability for his horrendous human rights abuses. All that Kagame has to do is to threaten to withdraw Rwandan troops from UN peacekeeping missions. In 2010, when the UN Mapping Report chronicled his war crimes, crimes against humanity and even possible ‘acts of genocide’ in the DRC, Kagame threw a tantrum, and threatened to withdraw his troops from Darfur. The next day, UN Secretary General embarked on a pilgrimage to Kigali to pay homage to Kagame. The report was shelved, joining many others that tell the sad story of unaccounted crimes by Kagame and his clique before and since 1994.
Fifth, Kagame has come to believe that he is indispensable to the West, in war-prone and far-flung hot spots that are still viewed as the dark continent. Through Kagame’s deployments in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, Western military and intelligence establishments have proxy eyes and ears on the ground. Occasionally, Washington and London will timidly voice their concerns as in the M23 saga in DRC, or the assassination of Patrick Karegeya in South Africa, but the hard-nosed analysts will insist Kagame is still their man.
As in 1994, it will take another civil war, more bloodshed, regional instability and the demise of the Kigali regime for Washington and London to wake up to the new national and geopolitical realities. When that happens, Washington and London, like Paris before them, will hopefully learn that even powerful nations can be wrong, be on the wrong side of history, and knowingly help inflict damage on poor nations.
* Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa is President Paul Kagame’s former envoy to Washington and now an opposition leader in exile in the US.
by Gitura MWAURA
Photo: Multimillionaire Bill Gates (onlinegadgetstore.com)
Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of an American multinational software giant, Microsoft, has made a bold prediction in his 2014 Gates Annual Letter.
By 2035, he suggests, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. There are those who would not like to believe him, which he attributes to three myths. The first myth, he says, is the belief that poor countries are doomed to stay poor. The second myth is the notion that foreign aid is a big waste, with the third suggesting that saving lives leads to overpopulation.
Looked at closely, the second and third myths affirm the first, or feed from the first, and vice versa. “The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful,” Gates writes.
That anyone should hold the belief that “life in Africa never gets better, and it never will,” he describes it as a most pernicious version of the first myth.
To dispel the myth he looks at the available facts, pointing out that countries supposedly doomed to remain poor have not stayed poor.
“The percentage of very poor people has dropped by more than half since 1990,” he observes.
He notes that gross domestic product (GDP) which, on average describes annual income per person, has risen in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 50 years, while seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.
While the annual income per person in a country such as Ethiopia is $800 (RwF 545,000), Botswana has a GDP of $12,000 (Rwf 8,160,000). But on average across Africa, “after plummeting during the debt crisis of the 1980s, (the GDP) has climbed by two thirds since 1998, to nearly $2,200 from just over $1,300.”
Africa, he writes, has also made big strides in health and education. Since 1960, the life span for women in sub-Saharan Africa has gone up from 41 to 57 years, despite the HIV epidemic. Without HIV it would be 61 years.
The percentage of children in school has gone from the lowly 40s to over 75 percent since 1970.
With such gains one can see why it is a myth that life in Africa never gets better, and never will.
On the second myth, that foreign aid is a big waste, Gates points out that the “aid breeds dependency” argument misses all the countries that have graduated from being aid recipients, and focuses only on the most difficult remaining cases.
He lists former major recipients that hardly receive any aid today: Botswana, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Mauritius, Singapore, and Malaysia.
South Korea, he observes, received enormous amounts of aid after the Korean War, and is now a net donor. China is also a net aid donor and funds a lot of science to help developing countries. India receives 0.09 percent of its GDP in aid, down from 1 percent in 1991.
These are persuasive arguments, which, with the healthy dose of optimism that he displays makes one see why he believes that there will be almost no poor countries left in the world in the next twenty years.
What about the myth that saving lives leads to overpopulation?
He enumerates the achievements then puts them in a historical perspective: A baby born in 1960 had an 18 percent chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, the odds are less than 5 percent. In 2035, they will be 1.6 percent.
Does this imply saving lives can be a negative thing, say, overpopulation?
The irony is that saving lives doesn’t lead to overpopulation. In fact, he notes, it’s quite the opposite. Creating societies where people enjoy basic health, relative prosperity, fundamental equality, and access to contraceptives is the only way to secure a sustainable world.
Rwanda provides an apt example. Limiting reproduction started by helping women seize control of their own lives. In a span of only 5 years, from 2005 to 2010, the fertility rate decreased from 6.1 children per woman in Rwanda to 4.6 children.
Perhaps Bill Gates has a point.
The writer is a commentator on local and regional affairs.
NEWS OF RWANDA
Photo: Kigali-President Paul Kagame, on Saturday received a delegation of six US senators and Congressmen at Serena Hotel in Kigali. (News of Rwanda)
The delegation, led by Senator James Inhofe from Oklahama State, is in the country for a three-day visit.
Speaking to reporters shortly after meeting with the President, Sen. James Inhofe said that they held discussions with President Kagame on different issues but particularly the progress the country has made as well as Rwanda’s continued role in peacekeeping missions in the region.
“We have been to the countryside and the transformation of this country is incredible. You can’t see it in other countries. We commend Rwanda’s role in peace building and peace creation in the region; in South Sudan, and especially in the Central African Republic. I speak on behalf many fellow Senators; the USA doesn’t have a better friend than Kagame,” he said.
Sen. Inhofe added that he personally organized the visit mainly to introduce his fellow US representatives to Rwanda.
During the visit, the delegation met and held talks with ministers of Defence and Trade, as well as officials from the office of Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs.
Sen. Inhofe specified that his delegation appreciated a briefing given by the Minister of Defence on peace and security in the Great Lakes region in general and particularly in Central African Republic.
Among other things, the delegation also held talks with Minister of Trade on the prospects to increase trade between Rwanda and United States.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mary Baine said that among the key trade prospects to be facilitated will be promoting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
Rwanda is an eligible member of Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) – a programme designed to assist the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa and improve economic relations between the United States and the region.
Rwanda’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Amb. Dr. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, on Thursday presented her credentials to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
Presenting her credentials, Ambassador Mujawamariya stated that Rwanda was ready to increase its engagement with Russia after re-opening its embassy in Moscow.
Photo: President Putin (right) receives Dr. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s new ambassador to Russia . Source: The New Times/Courtesy
Mujawamariya described Russia as a long-term friend to Rwanda, according to an embassy statement.
She commended Russia’s collaboration on the UN Security Council and its recent support to the African Union position on the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The AU last year submitted its position on the ICC to the UN Security Council (UNSC), which demanded that no serving Head of State is prosecuted before ICC or any international tribunal.
The position was passed by African leaders during an extra ordinary session of AU Heads of States and government held In Addis Ababa last October.
Rwanda looks forward to Russia’s continued support on Council matters of importance, Mujawamariya said.
She promised that Rwandan representatives in New York will collaborate with Russia diplomats closely.
The Ambassador also expressed Rwanda’s wish for increasing number of scholarships granted by the Russian Federation to Rwandan students.
About 800 Rwandan students have graduated from Russian universities over the last 50 years in various disciplines including law, medicine, international affairs and political science.
The Rwandan embassy in Russia will soon embark on consultations with Russian universities to identify ways of increasing scholarships to Rwandan students in different areas such as science and technology, engineering, mining, petroleum and medicine, the embassy said in a statement.
This year, according to the statement, Rwanda and Russia are expected to hold a business forum to exhibit investment opportunities.
A recent Cabinet meeting approved Ambassador Andrey Vradimirovich Polyakov, as the new Russian envoy to Rwanda.
Source: The New Times
by Mario EVANS
Too many places on the continent continue to ignore his message.
Last week, a radio talk show on WNYC (a member of NPR) in New York City encouraged listeners who were immigrants or visitors from Africa to call in and share their views on ‘Nelson Mandela’s Pan-African impact’.
Before the calls came in, the host Brian Lehrer interviewed Jami Floyd (starts at 3:30 in theaudio), a Clinton White House aide who had met Mandela in person. Floyd started out strongly and did a nice job conveying for the audience her sense of awe at meeting the great man. To her credit, she also stressed the importance of the South African constitution as “a fine document, a beacon to the world of democracies”.
Lehrer then dipped briefly into a Chris Matthews-esque moment and wanted to know what it was like to be in the same room with Mandela. Floyd graciously gave him what he wanted by assuring him most emphatically that although she had met scores of “presidents, secretaries of states, leaders of other countries etc., luminaries from so many fields, I can honestly say that none of them compares to Nelson Mandela”.
So far, the show was going as expected. Lehrer clearly thought so when he thanked her with: “What a great contribution to our show today.”
Then followed the less great contributions.
Starting at minute 9:00, a handful of people called in. One was from Liberia and Kenya, another from Uganda, others from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. They all had warm words of praise for Mandela and were grateful on a personal level for the way he had inspired them and given them hope.
But about the ‘Pan-African impact’, the feedback was perhaps not what Lehrer was expecting. At minute 10:50, Audrey from Liberia said that “the model that Mr. Mandela set out for many African leaders has not been followed…” Lehrer interrupted her and dispatched her gently.
You can say that again, Audrey. Sudan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo and now the Central African Republic. And many others.
A caller from Ethiopia was even more vocal at minute 14:30. “Unfortunately”, he said with palpable frustration, “Mandela’s preaching of reconciliation and forgiveness was not learned by African brutal dictators. All over the place…” and then he named the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur “during Mandela time”, Somalia, Ethiopia.
Lehrer sounded crestfallen after this “reality bites” sort of tirade. In the closing comments, he rescued the show from its downward spiral by directing the audience to a column by a Malawi political activist which seems to have been the inspiration for the show’s topic.
Clearly, there is some dissonance between the unqualified adoration coming from the American media, and the reality on the ground for a large majority of the African population. One wants to talk about feelings and symbolism and inspiring words. The other is distressed by continuing genocide, civil war, poverty and corruption.
Just last week, one day before Nelson Mandela’s death, Christian fighters in the Central African Republic, wielding rifles and machetes, attacked Muslim neighborhoods in the capital Bangui and left nearly 100 dead. Muslim ‘Seleka’ rebels had previously gone “door to door with machetes, bludgeoning their victims and burning down scores of homes.”(AP report)
For most Africans outside of South Africa, yes, Mandela was a great man but, so far, more an inspirational figure than an effective agent of change.
Yet, his impact on Africa may grow after his death. These are the words he spoke in 1964:
This is the struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But, if needs be, my Lord, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
His message of freedom, tolerance and peace must be carried throughout Africa. His legacy will be measured not by the feel-good emotions his memory evokes on American campuses but by how quickly Africa improves in the decades ahead.
You can listen to the entire radio segment here.
by Dias NYESIGA
Photo: German Ambassador Peter Fahrenholtz and Minister of Finance Claver Gatete (File photo)
Germany is optimistic that Rwanda’s approach to develop technical skills will register success in shaping the economy into middle income, considering the current strides the country has already taken.
Peter Fahrenholtz, the German ambassador to Rwanda, says that Rwanda’s holistic approach towards investing in developing all skills without specializing is the right approach in addressing the country’s skills challenge.
The country is looking at developing technical and vocational skills to address the challenge of skilled labor and boost the budding private sector mainly in enterprise, industry, and service sectors.
“Investing in all technical and vocational skills will help the country solve the problem of lack of skilled labor force,” he said during the signing of RWF 9.8 billion financing agreement between Rwanda and Germany.
Germany, through its German Development Bank, has extended financing worth RWF 9.8 billion enshrined in two financing project agreements for Technical and Vocational Education Training and decentralization.
Experts believe that to achieve its ambitious target of middle income by 2020, Rwanda needs to invest much in vocational skills development that are needed to supply the growing industry sector.
“Rwanda is trying its best to promote skills development that can sustain economic development”, Claver Gatete, Minister of Finance said.
With its strategy to boost the industry sector, the government is setting up model processing industries throughout the country in an effort to boost the growth of industries that would increase value addition in the country’s exports.
“In Germany, we value much traditionally the work people do with their hands. When you become a master in your craft after vocational training, you are open to earning more money and you are respected in the society,” Fahrenholtz said.
“The big part of this funding will go to TVET, and the purpose is to increase the number of qualified graduates in the selected TVET institutions, said Gatete, adding that the other portion of funding will go to support continued priority development and infrastructure projects in all districts in the country.
According to the agreements signed between the two countries last week, RWF 6.3 billion will go to supporting Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) banking on selected institutions while RWF 3.6 billion, will support continued priority development and infrastructure projects in all districts in the country.
The funds will be channeled through the Rwanda Local Development Support Fund, which will be tasked to help build capacities of districts in project preparation, planning, monitoring and evaluation, and budgeting processes to ensure effective utilization of the funding.
“This funding is really important to our economy considering it is going to help the entire infrastructure,” Minister Gatete said.
Since 2006, the German Development Bank has contributed RWF 21 billion to support decentralization through local infrastructure investments that include roads and bridges, markets and terracing, health centers, and institutions of learning.
*** As a reminder, the election of deputies will be held on Monday 16/09/2013 in Rwanda. ***
To allow as many people to vote, elections will be held on Sunday 15/09/2013 from 7AM to 7PM, at the Embassy of Rwanda in Brussels for all Rwandans resident in Belgium and Luxembourg.
To get more information click here: Embassy of Rwanda (Brussels)
THE NEW TIMES
Rwanda Polls to Boost Ruling Party
Kigali — Rwandans vote Monday in parliamentary elections set to bolster the ruling party and highlight the stability of a country wracked by genocide nearly 20 years ago.
With Rwanda’s economy one of the continent’s fastest growing, the government is keen to show off the elections as a badge of its democratic credentials, despite fierce criticism dismissing the polls as a sham.
In stark contrast to election campaigns in many other African nations, the race for 80 seats by 410 candidates has so far generated little if any excitement in the capital Kigali.
Only a few posters — mainly for the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of President Paul Kagame, who has held power with an iron fist since 1994 — suggest the vote is coming.
Experts say there will be little if any real political challenge to Kagame’s ruling RPF, which heads a coalition of smaller parties.
“There won’t be any surprises,” said Andre Guichaoua, an expert on Rwanda at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Some six million people are eligible to vote, with direct voting Monday for 53 seats, followed by a further 24 seats reserved for women to be chosen Tuesday by women’s groups and local councils, and then on Wednesday, representatives of the youth and the disabled will be named.
The last elections in 2008 brought in the only parliament in the world where women held a majority, with 56.3 percent of seats.
Rwanda has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past two decades, with powerful economic growth and the strangling of corruption credited to the strong rule of Kagame.
The World Bank’s ease of doing business index for 2013 ranked Rwanda 52nd out of 185 countries, and third best in sub-Saharan Africa — after Mauritius and South Africa.
The small nation was left in ruins by the brutal genocide of 1994, in which 800,000 people, mostly from the ethnic Tutsi minority, were butchered by Hutu extremists.
But critics say the economic growth and security have come at the expense of freedom of expression.
Alongside Kagame’s coalition are the Liberal Party, Social Democratic Party and the PS-Imberakuri party, but even though they are outside the RPF-led group, they too have backed the party of the president.
The Liberals and Social Democrats both backed the overwhelming election of Kagame in 2003, and while they put forward candidates for the next polls five years later, that did not stop Kagame from an overwhelming win again with 93 percent of votes.
Meanwhile PS-Imberakuri, whose former leader was jailed in 2010 for crimes against state security and “sectarianism”, is now believed to have been effectively taken over by supporters of the ruling party.
These three parties are “satellites circulating around the party in power without challenging its hegemony,” said Kris Berwouts, an independent analyst specialising in Central Africa.
Registered political parties “do not play the role of a political opposition”, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report, arguing that they do not oppose the RPF but rather “actively support” it, criticising the “harassment” and “obstacles” against those who do challenge it.
Rwanda’s Green Party won official recognition last month but chose not to field candidates as it said it did not have time to prepare.
Another large opposition group, the Unified Democratic Forces, is not recognised. It was set up in exile and led by Victoire Ingabire, who is currently appealing an April conviction for conspiracy and minimising the extent of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The group has said the elections have “no legitimacy”.
Kagame’s RPF and its allies held 42 of the 53 directly elected seats in parliament’s lower house.
Voting opens Monday at nearly 15,500 polling stations at 0500 GMT.