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The secret to Rwanda’s success

By Silver Bugingo

The political resolve, consensus on priorities, a crude lessons learned from the past have made the people resilient

The circus and bizarre media headlines on the mess and resultant belligerent battlefields in the neighbouring Eastern DR Congo are back. But, at least this time, Rwandan citizens in the neighbourhood may take a deep sleep- and that is Rwandan citizens’ primary concern- and undoubtedly that of their Government.

Even the UN chief Ban Ki-moon on his recent visit sounded optimistic; that the deployment of the African intervention brigade would help the situation in the country return to normal. Nevertheless, I personally contend that unless the Joseph Kabila administration does what it takes to keep their head above water, the external intervention will be but a brief smokescreen.


Moreover, the lacuna may get more complicated by involving contingents from Tanzanian and South African armies to the so-called neutral intervention brigade. When President Jakaya Kikwete proposed that Rwandan government initiates peace talks with the notorious Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, it was neither a joke, ignorance, nor a slip of tongue.

Yet the FDLR outfits are remnants of Habyarimana army and interahamwe militias that planned and committed the 1994 genocide against Tutsis and are designated as a terrorist group.

On the surface, therefore, this may be a diplomatic blunder for Tanzanian government but it is literally more than that. President Kikwete- himself a retired Colonel has been part of leadership in the country for 18 years.

It has been little made public, but it’s an open secret that Kikwete has been and is still a close ally to Rwanda renegades, Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and Col. Patrick Karegeya, believed to be strategists and financiers to FDLR armed outfits.

The duo is holed in Johannesburg and for the last three years, the Jacob Zuma regime has undoubtedly sympathised with the two former chief spies; a fact that has since darkened diplomatic ties with Rwanda. So, with such flawed bilateral relations, will contingents from Tanzania and South Africa replicate the required neutrality in DR Congo crisis?

If I may quote the renowned Nigerian writer, the late Chinua Achebe: “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised”. The accused mass killers must be subjected to the rule of law, be convicted and punished accordingly or acquitted if not proved guilty by the competent courts. And the Kagame government has never minced words on her firm stand on even more controversial issues including the intimidating donor aid-cuts.

People do not know where they are going unless they know exactly where they have been and exactly how they arrived at such destinations. After enduring the more than three decades of statelessness and witnessing global neglect as a fascist regime planned and executed genocide against a million Tutsis, Rwandans learned crude lessons.

That’s why more than 4.5 million refugees have voluntarily returned and are invaluable actors in their national development agenda. The end of last month marked a major step to ending the longest refugee chapters in the world when the Cessation Clause came into effect.

Thus, from the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own. Unlike in the neighborhood where politicians with affluent politico-social-economic credentials messed up in hypocrisies and swindling trillions of taxpayers sweat with impunity, the Rwandan story is different.

All this reminds me of an interesting book I read about a decade ago titled: “The contradictions in Politics”. What is still at the bottom of my mind about the book is an observation that: “If democratic principles were replicated in practical terms, the world would be a paradise”.

The principles referred to are the governance ingredients; the rule of law, periodic free and fair elections, separation of powers, press freedom, freedom of opinions and assembly, accountability… name it. So, are these renowned democratic benchmarks not being gradually replicated in our post-genocide Rwanda?

Any proverbial ‘doubting Thomas’ can be referred to a divergent number of annual Survey /reports on governance, anti-corruption and best investment climate by credible independent global nonprofit organisations.

Rwanda is the fifth-best destination for investment in the world, according the 2013 Baseline Profitability Index. The ranking is topped by Hong Kong, with Botswana in second, and Ghana (10th), as the only other African country in the Top 10.

Readers could have as well accessed the  World Bank’s Doing Business rankings and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report where again, three African countries–Botswana, Rwanda, and Ghana,” feature respectively among best ten.

The latest survey by an American-based governance/ corruption watchdog- Global Integrity place Rwanda second best to Boswana among the eight African countries that were included in the 2009 Annually Report. Transparent International, another governance /corruption whistleblower has successively spotted Rwanda on top of neighboring EA and other African countries in terms of fight the vices.

And these enticing findings by impartial global watchdogs that put poor Rwanda in the category of rich Hong Kong and Singapore which regularly top indexes like World Bank’s Doing Business rekindles a spark- a spark of bravery to aspire higher- how can such a resolve fade?

The secret in this success story is nothing other than the political will and vision for a better future. It is only this focused resilience that put in place the current strong institutional framework to implement the development targets.

By institutional framework, I mean the effective civil service, Rwanda Revenue Authority, National Police, Auditor General’s Office, Public Procurement Authority, Ombudsman’s Office, the National Human Rights Commission, the National Electoral Commission to mention but a few.

I’m not saying the institutions aforementioned are nonexistent in other countries that are faring poorly but the difference is the political resolve and consensus on priorities. In essence, no matter how complex the tasks ahead may be, the financial challenges notwithstanding, if Rwandan leaders continue to practice what they preach, development will be the inevitable outcome.

Contrary to proponents of the controversial President Kagame third term ploy, in a democratic setup like ours,   institutions appear bigger and stronger than personalities. I, therefore, believe we should not worry about whether or not the President retires at the end of his mandate.

The author is a lawyer and private investigator

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