Independent Online

Friday, June 24, 2022

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

Rwanda: 28 years after the genocide

After the civil war triumph of the Rwanda Patriotic Front forces led by the current regime with its leader President Paul Kagame, the task of rebuilding Rwanda was daunting, says the writer. Picture: AP/John Muchucha

After the civil war triumph of the Rwanda Patriotic Front forces led by the current regime with its leader President Paul Kagame, the task of rebuilding Rwanda was daunting, says the writer. Picture: AP/John Muchucha

Published Jun 12, 2022

Share

By David Kiwuwa

Rwanda has come a long way since the 1994 genocidal orgy of violence against the Tutsis and murderous rampage against moderate Hutus. It was estimated that for 100 days, between 800 000 and 1 million people were slaughtered, families wiped out, the country’s social fabric decimated and the economy was left in ruins.

Story continues below Advertisement

Rwanda became the byword for a failed state. After the civil war triumph of the Rwanda Patriotic Front forces led by the current regime with its leader President Paul Kagame, the task of rebuilding Rwanda was daunting.

The country has stitched itself back together, fostering unity and reconciliation, conventional and retributive justice and positioning itself as a knowledge-based service-oriented economy with enormous potential. So what has changed?

For a start, the country has enjoyed a sustained period of stability and peace given the strong government of Paul Kagame and the preoccupation with security, law and order. From a virtually empty treasury and decimated economy with a 25-30% decrease in per capita GDP to an average 5% GDP annual growth, economic growth of 7.2% year on year, Rwanda has strongly rebounded from this collapse and is currently positioned as one of the fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Regionally, it has led in green innovation, technology and a knowledge-based economy alongside its traditional areas of comparative advantage in agriculture and tourism.

From a victim of genocide, the country has positioned itself as one of the world’s least corrupt countries in Africa, if not the world and ranks high when coming to the efficiency of conducting business and also has one of the highest rates in the world of women parliamentarians and is a darling of wildlife conservationists.

To this end, US TV personality and actor Ellen DeGeneres opened a conservation centre for endangered mountain gorillas with millions of dollars in investment. Elsewhere, Starbucks, Costco CEOs, and Warren

Story continues below Advertisement

Buffet among other US investment titans have all invested in the country. The “Visit Rwanda” shirt sponsorship campaign with the English Arsenal and French Paris Saint-Germain soccer clubs will ensure the Rwanda brand reaches millions of viewers around the world. But it has not all been a bed of roses. Rwanda is still one of the poorest countries in the world.

Investments and innovation have helped to alleviate acute poverty, national social insurance mediated acute health needs but struggles in especially rural areas persist. Unity and reconciliation were the overriding imperative of post-genocide Rwanda. Significant progress has been made by aggressively confronting genocidal ideologies and overt hatred. But some communal tensions persist albeit less overt.

Feelings of discriminatory practices while not official policy persist especially in rural areas. The sharpest criticisms are that the country is an authoritarian regime, stifling free speech, and freedom of association and intolerant of critical opposition internal and external. Exiled regime critics have turned up dead in hotel rooms, shot on the streets, died in mysterious circumstances or “unlawfully” kidnapped.

Story continues below Advertisement

The case of regime critic Paul Rusesabagina is instructive. “Never again” was the nearly universal mantra to frame the social and political response to the genocide. Questions are asked if there ever will be another Rwanda? For now, it is highly unlikely that the world can muster the moral authority and political will to ensure “never means never”.

Rwanda has been thought of as a modern-day miracle. From the broken infrastructure after the genocide to impeccable roads and high rises, from a collapsed health system to universal healthcare, coexistence and rule of law, from incessant wars to sustained peace and stability, the journey Rwanda has trodden has been truly transformative all shortcomings notwithstanding.

* Kiwuwa is an Associate Professor in the School of International Studies.

Story continues below Advertisement

Share