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
What is the Umushyikirano?
Umushyikirano or National Dialogue is a home-grown forum for open dialogue between leaders and citizens. Chaired by the President of the Republic, the two day event was established in 2003 by the Constitution to facilitate direct participation of Rwandan citizens in issues of national importance.
Who attends the Umushyikirano?
Umushyikirano is chaired by the President of the Republic and attended by members of the Cabinet and Parliament, state officials, local government representatives, Rwandan from all walks of life including those living abroad, diplomats, media and other guests.
Beginning with the Urugwiro Townhall Meetings in 1998-1999 and throughout the last decade, Rwandans have used participatory dialogue to find lasting solutions to challenges facing the country. Umushyikirano also serves as a forum for government accountability.
How is Umushyikirano organised?
Umushyikirano is organised nationally under the coordination of the Office of the Prime Minister with local government representatives.
When is Umushyikirano held?
Umushyikirano meets for two days, once a year generally in December. This year it will take place on 13 – 14 December 2012.
Paul Kagame’s opening speech at “Umushyikirano 2011:
KAMPALA – The peace talks between the DR Congo government and the M23 rebels began acrimoniously on Sunday, with the government side accusing the rebels of using the media’s presence to accuse the Kinshasa government.
The M23 delegation arriving for talks at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Sunday. (file photo)
The Congolese foreign affairs minister Raymond Tshibanda, took exception with the rebel team leader, François Ruchogoza’s litany of accusations against the government of President Joseph Kabila.
This standoff threatened to derail the preliminary talks, which are facilitated under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), with Uganda holding the current rotational membership.
The talks follow the declaration on November 24 by the Heads of State and Government of the ICGLR on the security situation in eastern DRC.
The talks are organised in a bid to end fighting in the eastern Congo province of North Kivu.
The hostility between the two sides began soon after the chief facilitator, defence minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, had remarked that the dialogue gives hope to Congolese, and is a great opportunity to find a sustainable political solution to the conflict.
“I believe that the two delegations will dedicate themselves in the interest of the people in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible,” added Kiyonga.
He urged the two sides to use the opportunity to end the conflict, which has caused suffering of the population and is affecting development in Congo and the Great Lakes region.
In his opening remarks, minister Tshibanda said: “We come with determination to contribute to solving the crisis, which has disturbed north Kivu for about eight months now and provide the basis for a better future for this province. There is nothing to this dialogue other than a single outcome, which is to end the rebellion, peace building and a return to normalcy in North Kivu.”
However, when it came to the turn for M23 rebel side to speak, Ruchogoza said the current situation in east DRC is because the Congolese central government has ignored the problems facing the region as well as a lack of visionary leadership.
He also said the region is a sanctuary of elements of FNL, FDLR and ADF-NALU, which are a threat to stability in Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
However, the Congolese government is not bothered about these foreign groups. Ruchogoza also said Congo has some of the world’s worst indicators in health, education and governance.
“M23 is a consequence of all these claims. Social exclusion by government against the people of eastern DRC has achieved this.”
But Tshibanda retorted: “Any exercise of this nature has rules. We were requested to make opening statements, but M23 took advantage of this chance to use the media and intoxicate national and international opinion. We cannot construct ourselves on the basis of misunderstanding.”
“Before we continue our deliberations, the delegation of DRC would like to make a statement so that we can defend the truth regarding M23. I don’t think it is acceptable that people who only have Kalashnikovs as a mode of legitimacy come here and attack people who were elected by Congolese,” Tshibanda said.
The M23 rebellion began in April this year when nearly 300 soldiers, most of them former members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People, turned against the Congolese government.
The rebels cited poor conditions in the army and the government’s unwillingness to implement the 23 March 2009 peace accord.
The M23 delegation includes Abandi Munyarugerero Rene and John Serge Kambasu, the principal negotiator.
Source: By Raymond Baguma, Publish Date: Dec 10, 2012, newvision.co.ug
Photo: Antony Robbins/Overseas Development Institute
Development discourse has long underscored the importance of home grown solutions and national ownership of development policies. This school of thought has been echoed by President Paul Kagame over the years. He re-echoed the same view in a speech to members of the private sector in a dialogue known as Presidential Investors Round Table on Saturday in Kigali.
Kagame said that ‘providing for ourselves is a foundation of our dignity.
We haven’t started using Agaciro Fund, but if it starts the benefits will be immense’. Agaciro fund, the latest home grown initiative, seeks to voluntarily mobilise resources from Rwandans at home and abroad, to supplement existing revenues so as to accelerate national development.
The fund has so fair grossed close to Rwf30 billion.
Kagame’s remarks come against a back drop of several initiatives of home grown solutions that have set the country on a clear growth path over the last 18 years.
Gacaca, Hang’Umurimo, Umuganda and Imihigo are other examples of home grown solutions that have spurred the country’s development as well as helped improve the welfare of the Rwanda people.
Through the Imihigo, leaders from all levels of government in consultation with the people have set out priorities and annual targets upon which their performance is are evaluated.
After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda resorted to traditional conflict resolution mechanisms – Gacaca. This profoundly impacted on reconciliation in Rwanda. And Hang’Umurimo programme has already benefited the youth immensely. The programme is on course to meet its objective of creating more than 200,000 off farm jobs annually.
These among other local initiatives give a clear indication that home grown solutions if well thought out can be a magic bullet to poverty reduction in the developing countries.
Source: 10.12.12, The New Times
Kigali, 3 December 2012
President Kagame today met with ambassadors and representatives of international organisations based in Kigali to discuss partnership in light of current affairs linked to the security crisis in Eastern DRC. He explained that the current crisis began at a time when relations with DRC were moving solidly in the right direction, following the rapprochement in August 2009, and with the armed forces of both countries working together effectively to counter the FDLR génocidaires based in Eastern DRC.
President Kagame pointed out emphatically that Rwanda was not the origin of the ongoing problems in the DRC and that the allegations that have come up, especially in the media, haven’t been backed by solid, believable evidence, although judgment had already been made.
“The talk of DRC is actually about Rwanda, when we have our own burdens to carry. The world misses the point by thinking that heaping the problems on Rwanda resolves the crisis; it doesn’t, it only creates a second problem by disrupting Rwanda’s development.”
President Kagame said that Rwanda was committed to engaging on a fair basis and that partnerships have so far have resulted in progress because the means provided are used well with experience showing that money poured into Rwanda in other ways won’t have the same impact:
“When the lessons for Africa are given from the moral platform of human rights and governance, the unjust treatment of recipients undermines that platform. It is ridiculous to want to help the suffering people by bypassing their government.”
On the issue of FDLR, President Kagame said that these DRC-based génocidaires had practically been forgotten even when their leaders were living in western capitals but that would not destabilise the security in which Rwanda had invested so much, for so long.
President Kagame concluded the consultation noting that there was no reason for donors and recipients not to have a mutually respectful relationship despite unequal levels of economic and political power and said that all sides should and must work toward this goal.
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National payment system developer, RSwitch, is expected to introduce new electronic cards to be used to pay for goods and services around the country.
The move is also aimed at easing the flow of liquid cash in the economy.
Credit and debit cards are presently widely used to purchase goods and services around the country.
The latest innovation is a locally made product that will enable bank clients to use their normal ATM cards to pay for goods and services (Photo: New Times).
Two of them, Visa and MasterCard, are provided by some banking institutions whereas two other international electronic cards, Diner’s Club and China UnionPay cards are acceptable at several points of sales in the country.
However, RSwitch’s latest and unique innovation is a locally made product that will enable bank clients to use their normal ATM cards to purchase goods and services, according to Konde Bugingo, the company’s Chief Executive Officer.
“Bank clients have been using their ATM cards to only withdraw money from the machines. But now they will be able to use it for a variety of services including paying for their daily expenses,” Bugingo said in an interview with The New Times.
“Equivalent to what Visa or MasterCard launched in the early years, we are creating our own type of ‘visa card’ in Rwanda. The cards that already exist in the market are also within the brand; the only difference is that they don’t have the logo. We are going to add the logo and then add more services.”
RSwitch currently manages the inter-operable bank system that controls all automated ATM money transactions.
“We are currently branding those cards, with a logo that clients will be looking for. Once they are on the market, they will only be looking for the point of sale with the logo that matches the one on their card, and will be able to purchase goods and services from that place,” he said.
He said that the initiative is driven by the desire for a “cash free world” where Rwandans do not have to carry bulk money.
When it comes into effect, RSwitch’s target is to make the cards accessible at regional points of sale, and thereafter, internationally.
The central bank welcomed the initiative as yet another technological innovation to facilitate both banking and retail businesses to thrive on in the future.
“It is a very positive development because electronic payment service is one the most important gateway to financial inclusion,” John Bosco Sebabi, the Director General for Operations said in a phone interview.
“Having a cashless economy will increase liquidity in the banks, meaning that banks will have more to lend out to the public. The initiative will also attract more people into the banking industry.”
BNR statistics indicate that a total of 330,185 credit and debit cards are currently in circulation (as of September 2012).
There are 256 ATM machines spread across the country, as well as 440 points of sale.
Source: IVAN R. MUGISHA, for The New Times, 20 NOVEMBER 2012, allAfrica.com
Photo: Jared Nyataya
Rwanda’s public higher learning education would count no more than one multi-campus university soon if the ongoing project to merge all public higher learning institutions gets processed fast.
The Minister of Education Dr Vincent Biruta recently told lawmakers that the project to merge seven higher-learning institutions into University of Rwanda (UR) would be implemented starting with the next academic year of 2013/14 if the bill gets passed in time.
Biruta explained that the idea behind it is to ensure better quality of education and proper management of human and capital resources.
“It’s to transform the country’s higher education by increasing assets, promoting equity, ensuring quality of education and building infrastructure of high quality,” the Minister told university students last Tuesday while officiating the graduation ceremony at the National University of Rwanda (NUR).
The merger of the institutions would follow several government departments that have also been merged in the recent past to form stronger bodies such as the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) among others.
UR would be made of the fusion of seven higher learning institutions – NUR, KIST, KIE, ISAE, SFB, Umutara Polytechnic and KHI – including other schools affiliated to these institutions. Together, they host about 32,000 students; an average that the minister says is normal at big universities across the world. This population makes an average of 25 students per lecturer though accommodation remains insufficient.
Currently, some institutions such as NUR offer a diversity of courses in different specializations and the same courses can be found in other institutions; this will no longer be the same case with the new setting.
According to the project, the current institutions would be turned into six specialized colleges that will be operating under the single university. “If we talk of colleges, we mean specialized colleges: say a college of medicine, agriculture… not geographical colleges,” the Minister explained.
The UR will get another chancellor rather than the minister of education as it is provided in the current setting. Though the chancellor will be the overall leader, the actual management will be held by the vice chancellor who will be assisted by three deputies.
The project provides that the headquarter will be based in Kigali, but this will only be an administrative office rather than being on a campus as usual. Therefore, principals will be heading the colleges.
The colleges will be comprised of schools and departments whose responsibilities will be held by deans and heads of departments respectively. However, there will not be faculties.
Though the new setting is expected to take Rwanda’s tertiary education to another level, some remain skeptical about what it will really bring about. But the education ministry remains optimistic that the merger will facilitate a suitable management.
“One of the advantages of merging higher learning institutions will be the efficient use of the available equipment and human resources,” the Minister observed, adding that the single university will help to improve its standing on the global ranking of universities by Unesco.
Stakeholders also say the idea is good. Prof Silas Lwakabamba, the rector of the National University of Rwanda, said it will facilitate better coordination.
“It will ensure better coordination of our programs, human resources, and infrastructure and so on and everyone will stand to benefit,” he observed.
If the bill gets passed, Rwanda would be among the first countries to make such a move in the region.