Tagged: 1994

Happy Liberation Day, after all…


girl holding flag

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?

children-in-independance-day

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]
Sources:
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Kagame
http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/rwanda/Geno15-8-03.htm
http://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/index.php?a=68456&i=15412
http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/happy-liberation-day-rwanda/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB53/
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Kwibuka20 – Press release of March 6, 2014


The Flame reaches Gicumbi

The Flame of Remembrance  moves to  Gicumbi today , the 20th step of its national tour. The flame will return to Kigali April 7, 2014 , to mark the beginning of the period of national mourning , twenty years after the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda . You can view an interactive map of the tour here

The next step in the national tour of the Flame will be the Nyagatare District , March 11, 2014 .

The community event today will be hosted by the Mayor of the District of Gicumbi Alexander Mvuyekure , and will aim to reflect on the events of 1994 as well as on the developments made in Gicumbi and Rwanda since. The guest of honor is the Hon. Agnes Binagwaho , Minister of Health. The governor of the Northern Province , Aime Bosenibamwe , will also speak .

The Flame of Remembrance will be received from the District Rulindo by two students aged 20 years , Marie- Louise Dusabe Viateur Mbarushimana . A children’s choir will sing ” Urumuri Rutazima “ to welcome the flame.

Testimony will be given by Anastasius Kamizikunze , a 40 years old survivor of the genocide  . He will tell how he survived the genocide in Mutete and how he was able to return to school after the genocide. Innocent Nyirigira , 48 years old genocidal will talk about his role in the genocide and his new life after being released from prison. Finally, Chantal Ndatenyirigira will sing a song.

The Gicumbi District is composed of the former municipalities of Kiyombe , Mukarange Cyumba , Kibale , Bwisige , Kinyami , Rutare , Giti , Buyoga and the commune Cyungo .

The town of Byumba in Gicumbi is among the places where Tutsis were systematically killed in 1990. Some of the victims who perished there , were brought from Nyagatare and other regions of the country. The first training of the militia, in what was then called “civil defense” , began in the municipalities of Byumba where the distribution of weapons to civilians began in 1991.

When the genocide began , half of the district was under control of the Rwandan Patriotic Front but widespread massacres took place in Mutete , an area under the control of government forces (FAR) . Initially the Tutsi, who had gathered to Zoko , were able to resist the attacks of the Interahamwe , but they succumbed to the arrival of reinforcements April 15, 1994 . There were 1,789 victims of genocide Gicumbi , some of which were killed before 1994. Among the known murderer of this region was influential business man , Ntakaveve Athanasius , who killed his wife , Catherine, as to encourage others to kill.

Tour Flame Kwibuka : Program Gicumbi

Time: 14h-16h , The March 6, 2014
Location: Mutete Gicumbi District

Welcome
Interpretation of the song ” Urumuri Rutazima ” by the children’s choir at the arrival of the Flame
Speaking of the Mayor of Gicumbi Alexander Mvuyekure
Testimony of Anastasius Kamizikunze , genocide survivor .
Song Chantal Ndatenyirigira
Testimony of Innocent Nyirigira , author of Genocide
Invite participants to write on the Ribbon of Remembrance
Introduction by the Governor of the Northern Province , Aime Bosenibamwe
Address by the guest of honor , Hon. Agnes Binagwaho , Minister of Health
Final performance of ” Urumuri Rutazima ”
Information on Tour of the Flame of Remembrance

The Flame Kwibuka symbolizes remembrance, resilience and courage of all Rwandans in the past twenty years. Transported in a single lamp , it will be used to light other lamps in communities throughout Rwanda . To mark the 20th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, all commemorative fires across the country come from this single flame Kwibuka . When it will return to Kigali April 7, 2014 , President Paul Kagame will use to light the flame of national mourning , marking the official commemoration period . The flame will also be the source of light used during the candlelight vigil to be held at Amahoro stadium on the evening of April 7, 2014 .

Learn more about the flame and its national tour here.

Photos of today’s event will be available on the Flickr page Kwibuka20 and videos here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/kwibuka20

Please send all media inquiries to media@kwibuka.rw

Source: Rwanda Embassy in Belgium