Why Is Rwanda Praised As The Diamond Of Governance And Progress In Africa?

Why Is Rwanda Praised As The Diamond Of Governance And Progress In Africa?


Photo: Senegal's President Macky Sall, left, and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame speak at the U.S. Africa Business Forum, Aug. 5, 2014, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Rwanda, a small landlocked country in East Africa, rose from the ashes of genocide in 1994 to become the “Africa Rising” tale of good governance and progress on the continent with reduced poverty, increased equality, and one of the best economic growth rates.

The hilly and fertile country of about 13 million people has been praised by World Bank, the World Economic Forum, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and United Nations. Chicago-based authors Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond wrote of this transformation in their book “Rwanda, Inc.

Under the iron-fist stewardship of President Paul Kagame, who was feted by the World Economic Forum as a father figure and savior of the nation, Rwanda has managed what many would consider an impossible miracle of rebirth.

In economic terms, Rwanda’s growth has been astonishing since the 1994 genocide, which claimed the lives of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus massacred in a bloody 100 days. The country has achieved near-miraculous growth rates of more than 6 percent (excluding 2003 and 2013) since 1994, as its gross domestic product has expanded nearly tenfold to more than $10 billion.

The country now aspires to achieve middle-income status by 2035 and high-income status by 2050.

“The fact that agriculture has been a key contributor to poverty reduction in Rwanda is of course not an accident. Rwanda’s Vision 2020, articulated in 2000, set out to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country,” World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa said in a note that praised Rwanda for lifting 1 million people out of poverty.

This growth and relative peace, which led to Rwanda being named one of the easiest nations in Africa to do business, according to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, has happened largely under the ruling political party, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).

Kagame, a former child refugee now seen by some as an authoritarian dictator, is one of the most respected leaders in Africa because of his progressive ways and the way he has steered the country to new heights.

The RPF government, under Kagame’s stewardship, has facilitated massive foreign investment, increased agriculture production, manufacturing, and tourism. Rwanda is self-sufficient, producing much of what its population eats.

The country has also made significant progress with gender equality. Women are more visible in prominent leadership positions across business, politics, and other sectors. Rwanda was the first country in the world to have a majority of women in its government. Women hold 64 percent of seats in the Rwandan government.

Corruption is also seen as being low in the East African nation, according to the Corruption Perception Index.

Despite the progress and achievements, Kagame’s critics say that the country has traded its freedoms for economic prosperity.

Human rights in Rwanda seems to be an area where Kagame, and by extension the RPF, have not been able to score well. Opposition to the Kagame government has often been met with cruelty and the few brave enough to challenge him end up in prison or jail.

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The media is also muzzled and rarely speaks of these violations or lack of freedoms.

Author Michela Wrong, in her book title “Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad“, describes how in the wake of genocide, Kagame rebuilt Rwanda into a militaristic surveillance state that earns praise from the World Bank for ease of doing business while denying an independent press or genuine democracy. Kagame has also been accused of deploying hit squads to eliminate dissidents in foreign countries.

Wrong portrays Rwanda’s “development miracle” as a mirage that reflects badly on the support the repressive government is getting from the west.

“There’s a development paradigm playing out in Rwanda which goes quite deep and it’s sinister,” Wrong wrote. “It’s this idea that the West can deliver development irrespective of what the local government is like and that you can strip the politics out of the development agenda by focusing on education, health, mosquito nets, vaccination rates.”