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]
GOVERNMENT OF RWANDA (Kigali)
Photo: The New Times (09/07/2013)
Kigali — With the rise of non-communicable diseases like cancer, a state of the art cancer referral centre, the Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence, was established in Butaro Hospital, Northern Province, in July 2012, to provide comprehensive care to cancer patients in Rwanda and the region. Part of the Centre now includes the Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Center (BACC), inaugurated yesterday.
BACC will provide outpatient care including chemotherapy infusion services, clinical consultation, education sessions, and multidisciplinary counseling for patients and their families. The Centre is an important part of Rwanda’s five-year plan to institute cancer prevention, screening and treatment on a national level.
“The establishment of the Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Center is an indication of government’s commitment to providing universal access for cancer treatment,” Dr Agnes Binagwaho Minister of Health speaking at the inauguration.
Dr. Paul Farmer, Co-founder of Partners in Health (PIH/IMB), which has partnered with the Ministry of Health to treat cancer in rural Rwanda since 2006, said that to reduce cancer related deaths it is important to integrate prevention, diagnosis and treatment. “The Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Center, inaugurated today will make it possible to attain this,” Dr. Paul Farmer Co-founder of Partners in Health.
Adelphine Musabyeyezu, 34, a cancer survivor from Rusizi District, who completed chemotherapy treatment at the Centre said, “I received timely treatment at the Butaro Cancer Center. I encourage my fellow women to opt for early detection as the best option.”
Since its inauguration on July 18, 2012, the Cancer Center has delivered high-quality cancer care that was previously inaccessible to those who needed it most. Over 1,000 new patients from every district in Rwanda and several neighboring countries have been registered in the oncology program since it opened.
Other registered successes include the development of endorsed national protocols for cancer care, the expansion of Butaro’s pathology lab to a national referral facility and the implementation of an electronic medical record system to support national registry inputs.
The inauguration was hosted by Burera District, the Ministry of Health, the Rwandan Biomedical Center (RBC), and Partners In Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima (PIH/IMB), in partnership with the Cummings Foundation, Dana Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School.
President Clinton visits Rwanda (The New Times, 05/08/13)
Photo: Tami Hultman
Former US President Bill Clinton arrived in Rwanda last evening for a two-day visit during which he will tour several projects under the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and Clinton Global Initiative project. [read more…]
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.