Another Beautiful African Bride: 5 Questions About Rwanda

If you were tuned in to CNN yesternight, you must have caught Richard Quest’s piece on CNN entitled “Kigali’s Bold Vision for 2020”. While our citizens are answering to charges of war crimes at Hague and the rest of our government is literally at a stand-still, a part of me paused momentarily to envy Rwanda and just how much the so-called “country of 1,000 hills” has been able to accomplish in just over a decade.
As we all know, yesterday marked the 17th commemoration of the genocide that left close to a million Rwandese dead in 100 days. Just as the whole world watched images of one ethnic community butcher another, we are now bearing witness to one of the most extraordinary economic and social recoveries on the continent and indeed even the world.

But all this doesn’t change the fact that I still have many unanswered questions about Rwanda.

Economically, I know that the reason Rwanda is where it is today is because the West felt a huge sense of guilt after standing by and doing nothing while Rwanda burnt to the ground, so now they sought to appease their collective conscience by pumping millions and millions of dollars in way of foreign aid to the country. Granted, all this money could have been misappropriated and misused had it not been for the benevolent dictator and CEO of Rwanda Inc., Paul Kagame. Kagame is no politician and certainly isn’t a democrat and his military-style leadership combined with his sharp business sense and capitalistic mindset is the reason Rwanda’s economy is recording staggering average GDP growth of 8% annually.

In this regard, I can picture Kagame sitting at the head of an executive board room table, surrounded by representatives from foreign nations, multinational corporations and other foreign stakeholders convincing them to pour more money in Rwanda and accounting for every last penny of the billions his country has recieved in the last fiscal year. We know the Rwandan economy is alive and well but the reason I’m not too impressed with Kagame’s ambitious 20/20 vision for Rwanda stems from the fact that we know nothing about how the Rwandese people themselves are benefitting from Kigali’s rising prominence.

Anyway, here are my 5 questions:

1. In light of Kenya’s revealing report on ethnicity and employment within the civil service, one asks what is the situation in Rwanda?
Is Kagame’s government filled with his people from his ethnic community? How does Kagame propose to deal with the growing disquiet in his country especially among “the other” ethnic community?

2. In light of Rwanda’s galloping economic growth, do the ends justify the means? Are these riches trickling down to the Rwandese people? What is being done in other parts of Rwanda, including Kigali, to deal with unemployment and raise the per capita incomes of the people?

3. Has Kigali become another beautiful African bride like Nairobi was in the 70s or Abidjan in the 90s, where the West flock to and invest heavily in, while ignoring human rights violations and denial of basic freedoms to the Rwandese people by Kagame’s government? What legal, institutional and social reforms are on Rwanda’s agenda?

3. Does Paul Kagame intend to become another live president/ Big Man or will he finally relinquish power after his current term in office?

4. Is Kagame really sincere about ridding Rwanda of foreign dependency or is he just selling Rwandans and other Africans a dream?

5. How does Rwanda intend to play a more active role through its foreign policy especially vis-a-vis other African states?

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It’s Friday. Let’s talk.

8 thoughts on “Another Beautiful African Bride: 5 Questions About Rwanda

  1. 1. I do not know but only 2 major ‘tribes’ in Rwanda though (publicly) Kagame has de-emphasized tribes.

    2. The roads in Rwanda seem to be much better than Kenya’s roads. Especially considering where Rwanda came from since 1994. Very clean too. At least Kigali. The good roads [infrastructure] will lead to better opportunities for most Rwandans especially farmers who can get their produce to the markets. It is naive to expect the government to provide jobs. The government’s job should be to enable an ENVIRONMENT for businesses & people to thrive. Of course, that means a ‘free’ economy as much as is practical. No NOCKs, KPCs, KPRLs, etc!

    3. No idea! We will find out in 20 years! Of course, the culture of theft in Nairobi by the political elite in the 60s, 70s & 80s does not bedevil Kigali at the moment. A huge challenge is the huge population [per sq km] in Rwanda. Family planning?

    3. I hope not! See museveni who made all the right noises 20 years ago then becomes the typical African Big Man. Kagame has said this is his last term.

    4. Kagame is pragmatic and he knows foreign aid & investments [read non-African] are needed at the moment to push development. I see moves to integrate regionally which means Kenya has a chance to be a major investor in Rwanda. Rwanda wants to become the Singapore/Israel of Africa & needs foreign investments/technology to fast-track it.

    5. Rwanda needs to keep out of African politics [except for words & votes] except the need to watch its neighbours [especially DRC, Burundi & Uganda]. Why should Rwanda bother with Gabon or Morocco or Angola… Too far away for Rwanda to make a real difference.

  2. To add on coldtuskers point 2. above the Government has setup various agricultural programs such as the “one-cow per family” to boost agricultural production as well as fight child-malnutrition in the rural areas.
    Starbucks also has come in to support the coffee farmers (http://allafrica.com/stories/200907090838.html) and this has made tangible difference in the rural areas.
    This is just an example of the various initiatives setup at grassroot level;
    so yes, the common mwanainchi is reaping the benefits of the economic growth.

  3. Rwanda could be a silent beneficiary from the conflict in the Congo for all we know, being as their troops had an active role in the conflict in the DRC for a while…
    But I digress.
    Rwanda is run very efficiently, with zero tolerance for corruption and an extremely business-friendly environment, so it has become a favourite attraction for investment, especially foreign direct investment. The looming shadow of the Genocide means there might be some lingering sympathies from countries that feel they could have done more, but that’s about it.

  4. I think @coldtusker above has informed us well on the well raised questions. Yeah, there is still that disquiet in Rwanda, especially so when right-abuse and media freedoms are highlighted. How all this pans out will be very intriguing now that Kagame is on his last term. Lets watch.

  5. Dude i just saw this leo i was soooo jazzed. I have visited the place a few times over the past couple of years and the one things that stands out is the fact that the “it” crowd and the movers and shakers in are 1. all Rwandese 2. under 40 is a good estimation. Am excited to see how things evolve i know for a fact that when it comes to health care which is my forte..they are killing it. Regardless of all the questions that surround Kagame and how he is running Rwanda Inc. i cant help but wish we had even one person like him running our country….oh wishes!!

  6. Crucial questions development is not only economic but sosocial. Look back at kibaki’s first term and t grievances that ODM used in their campaigns

  7. Pingback: Enlightened Self-Interest: Towards An East African Federation | Diasporadical

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