Today, I’ll be discussing how Rwanda bounced back from the ethnic cleansing. Rwanda isn’t a big country and its economy is been mostly based on agriculture. Its population density in one of the highest in all of Africa. 85% of the population is Hutu, while the rest are mostly Tutsi, along with a very minute population of Twa. Even though most of the population is Hutu, the Tutsi dominated the country. Inevitably, the Hutus eventually overthrew the Tutsi monarchy in 1959. This forced the Tutsi minority to seek safety in neighboring countries, such as Uganda.
The exiled Tutsis formed a rebel group called the Rwandan Patriotic force (RPF). The RPF invaded Rwanda in the year 1990 and the fight didn’t die till 1993 till the peace treaty was signed. This, however, was short-lived. In April 1994, a plane boarded by the President Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down, effectively killing everyone on board. Both of them were Hutus so naturally, the Hutus blamed the Tutsis. The RPF’s narrative varied. According to them, the Hutus shot down the plane so they would have a reason for the genocide. After the incident, the Hutu extremists started the slaughter of Tutsis.
It truly shocks me how meticulously the Hutus carried out the killings. The names of the opponents were given to militias, that not only killed them but also their families. The events that occurred were appalling. Neighbors turned on each other. Husband killed their wives for being Tutsi, claiming they would be murdered if they refused. During those years, the ethnic group of a person was written on their ID card. This made spotting a Tutsi much easier for the extremist Hutus. Tutsi women were taken from their homes. The radio broadcasted the names of the prominent Tutsi individuals who were successfully murdered. The French government sent help in order to evacuate their citizens and also set up a safe zone. However, I think they did not do enough to help stop the ongoing slaughter in Rwanda. The current President of Rwanda accused the French government for supporting the massacres. Of course, this charge is denied by the French.
Thankfully, it ended by July 1994, thanks to RPF and Uganda. Uganda backed RPF by giving them men to help seize more territory. On 4th July, the forces marched into Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Around 2 million Hutus fled across the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo because they were scared that that the RPF would take revenge. Others fled to Burundi and Tanzania.
According to human rights groups, RPF was responsible for thousands of deaths of Hutu civilians when they took power and later, they killed more Hutus when they went to the Democratic Republic of Congo to pursue Interahamwe. Not surprisingly, the RPF denies these accusations. Cholera killed thousands in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and aid groups were accused of giving most of their assistance to Hulu militants.
You must be wondering what happened in DR Congo. When the RPF came to power in Rwanda, it accepted the militias who were fighting Hutu militants and the Congolese army, which had sided with Hutus. The rebel group backed by Rwanda, marched to the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa, and succeeded in overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko’s government. They installed Laurent Kabila as president. However, the newly appointed president was hesitant is tackling the Hutu militants which led to another war which dragged 6 countries into it. Countless militant groups formed and fought for the control of Rwanda. This conflict led to the death of 5 million people and lasted until 2003. There are still some active armed groups in areas near the border of Rwanda.
I’m sure this question is looming over your heads: Has anyone faced the consequences of their actions? Well, to some extent, yes. In 2002, long after the genocide in Rwanda, the International Criminal Court was made. Due to the fact that it was made so long after the genocide, it couldn’t actually put those at fault to justice. The reason the UN created it was to prosecute the ringleaders. Nighty three individuals were indicted and after very expensive and lengthy trials, they were convicted of genocide. All of the convicted people were Hutus.
Community courts called gacaca were made in order to speed up the trails of the many genocide suspects. According to correspondents, around ten thousand people died in prison waiting for the trail. For the next 10 years, 12,000 gacaca courts met once a week in order to decide the fate of 1.2 million cases. The purpose of this was to uncover the truth and deliver justice.
Rwanda was transformed with the help of President Kagame. He is praised for transforming the small, miserable country with his policies and helping the economy grow. He also made a lot of effort to make Rwanda a technological hub. However, his critics suspect he is responsible for the death of his opponents, as several have died unexplainably.
The genocide remains a highly sensitive topic in Rwanda. I was shocked to discover that it is illegal to even talk about ethnicity. The explanation given by the government for this is to prevent hate speech and further bloodshed. However, in my opinion, this hinders with true reconciliation. Some of Kagame’s critics face charges of ethnic hatred but they claim this is just his way if sidelining them.
It took a quarter century after the Tutsi genocide for Rwanda to recover and for it to have a thriving economy. The annual GDP growth has an average of 7.76% from 2000 to 2019. This growth is expected to keep the same pace over in the future.
It is truly remarkable how a country, marred by death and conflict, managed to develop its economy to this extent that by 2035, it could be classified as an upper-middle in come country and by 2050, it could be a high-income country. RPF has helped businesses. It was 143rd in the Word Bank’s Doing Business report in 2009 and it jumped to 29th by 2019. It beat France, Spain and Russia. Rwanda has to diversify its economy in order to maintain its economic growth.
Many countries have aided Rwanda since the genocide ended. 50% of Rwanda’s 2019 and 2020 budget is coming from domestic and foreign loans. Such a heavy reliance on foreign aid has made Rwanda’s economy very unstable. In 2012, the financial aid was stopped after the Rwandan Government was suspected of sending troops in order to the rebels to fight in the DRC. Since 1964, United States has continuously supported Rwanda financially on the condition thar it would try to finish the corruption in the country. Rwanda has, also, tactfully developed trade links with its neighboring countries. Rwanda has realized that in needs to improve it relations with the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to trade more effectively. According to research, the political and security relations have drastically increased between the two countries. Word Bank has committed over four billion dollars to Rwanda since the end of the genocide.
Even though there has been great economic growth in Rwanda in the past few years, it is undeniable that Rwanda’s dependence on its agricultural industry makes it hard for it to come up with an accurate number for the GDP growth each year. This is due to fact that unexpected droughts can occur. We all know that climate change makes it harder to predict the weather.
In order to be more sustainable and lessen the effects on climate change, Rwanda has made an active effort to decarbonize the energy sector. In 2009, only 10% of Rwanda’s population had electricity in their homes and now, 50% of them have access to it. However, the cost of electricity is still high. In order to decarbonize the country and produce less expensive electricity, the government has to provide incentives to the population to encourage them to switch to renewable sources.
All countries talk about gender equality but what impressed me about Rwanda is that they managed to accomplish more than most countries in the West. Sixty one percent of the members of the parliament of Rwanda are women. Do you know the percentage of women in US’ parliament? Just twenty six percent. Rwanda beat most western democracies in this aspect. Due to the involvement of more women in the parliament, Rwanda has passed laws which greatly benefit women, such as women are allowed to own and inherit land and paid maternity leave was made compulsory.
Rwanda’s government is well-aware of the significance of education and its role in ensuring that the economy continues to grow. According to research, Rwanda has one of the highest rates of primary enrolment in sub-Saharan Africa but only 4% of the citizens, above the age of 25, seek higher education. In order to overcome this problem, the Rwandan government has made a plan to expand access to basic education to twelve years. This, in turn, would increase equitable access to higher education that people can easily afford.
Rwanda has made impressive advancement in adopting new technology. Recently, it introduced drones which are capable of delivering blood across the country. With just a text or even a WhatsApp message by someone in need, the drone can supply blood within minutes. They can supply blood to twenty-one transfusion clinics in the country. Rwanda has greatly improved its health system. Recently, it launched a cervical cancer screening and vaccination in order to protect females.
Despite all of the impressive economic developments and advancements, people are concerned that these improvements strengthen the control of the authoritarian regime. Violence is still being used as a tool to control citizen. It is clear that the Rwandan economy has developed significantly over the past twenty-five years but the reason Rwanda’s model for economic development can’t be used in other places is that it required a very dominating government and centralized control to be successful. A researcher said that even though Rwanda’s technocratic government may be the best in Africa, it has deeply flawed political governance. I’ll put it in simpler words: the democracy of Rwanda has been compromised for the sake of development. This may have dire consequences in the future. Due to the frustrations caused by the authoritarian rule, there is a huge risk of losing all the socioeconomics gains after the genocide. Some people think that the government of Rwanda has justified its authoritarian ruling style by the decreased poverty and economic growth. I agree that poverty is a huge issue and reducing it is applaudable, however, completely ignoring democracy could lead to catastrophic. If the people get tired of not having any democratic rights or the opposition party strengthens, then Rwanda may have a huge problem at hand and the government could get overthrown.
The point that international analysists and people who are pro-democracy fail to understand is that we cannot view Rwanda’s politics the same way we view Western politics. The complexity of ruling after a genocide can not be overlooked while judging Kagame’s approach to governing Rwanda. The transformational of Rwanda in just twenty-five years has been incredible and cannot be ignored.
Mothers is Rwanda get ante and post-natal healthcare. The number of women dying while giving birth has decreased by 77% from 2000 to 2013. Vaccinations of newborns are done. The city is clean and people feel safe walking at night. The progress is undeniable.
A major plan of the President Paul Kagame was Umuganda. It can be described as the practice and culture of self-help and cooperation which promote communities to come together and help each other in rebuilding. It was an effort to reconcile the two ethnicities after the horrible events of the past. It proved to be a success in bringing the communities together and rebuilding the nation.
Written By: Ekow Shalders
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