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?
It’s Friday. Let’s talk.