Diaspora in perspective: the Rwandan context

Rwandans today have a country, a President and government of their choice that embodies the spirit of unity and progressive leadership at myriad fronts. Members of the Rwandan Diaspora continue to enjoy their civic rights across the board.

Rwandans today have a country, a President and government of their choice that embodies the spirit of unity and progressive leadership at myriad fronts. Members of the Rwandan Diaspora continue to enjoy their civic rights across the board.

Rwanda’s diplomatic missions across the globe have a responsibility to raise awareness among Rwandans living in their respective areas of jurisdiction to know and enjoy their civic rights as well as be part and parcel of the country’s developmental agenda.

In December 2015 Rwanda’s diplomatic missions afforded all Rwandans living abroad the opportunity to participate in the East African nation’s successful constitutional national referendum.

Relatedly with Rwandans inside the country set to go to polls on 4th August 2017, those living abroad who are all fondly acknowledged as Rwanda’s “sixth province”, will once again be afforded the opportunity to exercise their civic rights by casting their ballot in the 2017 presidential election.

Comparatively it is worth noting that the level of organisation of Diaspora in different countries is globally at different stages. As an example, in 2015, worldwide remittance flows are estimated to have exceeded $601 billion.

Of that amount, developing countries are reported to have received an estimated $441 billion, nearly three times the amount of official development assistance. Countries such as Mali, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal, for example, lead the way in this regard, while many others have only recently joined the arena. 

A glance at nations outside the continent reveal that Israel, China, Philippines, and India as among those with a proven organised Diaspora with Diaspora contributions significantly contributing in transforming respective economies.

The approaches adopted by the aforesaid nations point to country-driven initiatives that are built on shared development objectives between the government and the Diaspora. This is also underpinned by comprehensive policies, effective administrative structures and incentives to foster an enabling environment for mobilizing Diaspora resources.

From this general diasporic phenomenon around the world, the derivative deduced is that Diaspora relations in aforementioned countries is not entirely unique and that important lessons can be learned from other diasporas as well as their commitment to their respective nations.

In terms of national development, governments on the continent are increasingly recognising the critical role their citizens abroad have towards nation building and socio-economic development.

In essence it is imperative that Diaspora is considered not just as a source of periphery financing (through remittances), but as development partners crucial to the national economic growth process.

Indeed, remittances provide benefits and great vaults of opportunity at varying extents. According to the 2015 World Bank Migration and Remittance Factbook, the top ten remittance Sub-Saharan African senders in 2014 (in $US billions) were Angola ($1.3bn), South Africa ($1.1bn), Liberia ($0.4bn), Uganda ($0.3bn), Mozambique ($0.2bn), Mauritania ($0.2bn), Kenya ($0.2bn), Rwanda ($0.1bn), Tanzania ($0.1bn) and Zambia ($0.1bn).

In many instances, owing to their patriotic linkages, some members of the Diaspora prefer to invest in their home countries by establishing businesses in the hope that they might one day repatriate and thus need a source of local income.

They invest land and other immovable assets, transfer of technology and skills and perhaps even more importantly their business engagement opens up regional markets through value added cross-border trade which in turn contributes to the much sought after intra-African trade albeit at micro levels.

Additionally, some members of Diaspora play a key development role in their countries of origin by being promoters of trade and foreign direct investment (FDI), of business development as well as entrepreneurship and in the field of skills and knowledge transfer.

Indeed it is with motivation to facilitate own Diaspora that countries like Rwanda and lately Zambia, allow Dual Citizenship.

The Government of Rwanda through its respective diplomatic missions such aims to continue empowering the Rwandan Diaspora as change agents for the development of Rwanda.

One of the assignments of Rwandan Diplomatic Missions is to contribute towards creating an environment where Diaspora in the area of jurisdiction independently maximise its potential – capital, knowledge and networks – that in turn will help in positively impacting not only on the good image of their motherland but also in strengthening bilateral relations between the respective countries of jurisdiction and Rwanda as well as support in building the people-to-people relations.

In order for the Rwandan Diaspora members to actively participate in the social, cultural and economic development of their home nation it is crucial that harmony and collective concordance is prevalent in the Rwandan Diaspora community.

In other words, maintaining Rwanda’s creed of promoting peace, unity and reconciliation among Rwandans at home and abroad ought to remain a bedrock and foundation for an effective and enlightened Diaspora that substantially contribute to promotion of Rwandan values in their respective countries of residence and the socio-economic development of their motherland.

Unfortunately, following the end of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, there are some few extremist elements that still harbor genocide ideology and continue to endeavor to spread with a motivation of galvanising support from unsuspecting members within the community.

Against all odds and albeit without much success, they continue trying to undermine Rwanda’s milliard of achievements across all sectors. These individuals shamelessly opt for projecting an opposite image of the country in a vile effort to perpetuate apprehension and disunity in the Rwandan Diaspora community.

Fortunately, the objective outlook of Rwanda today amongst an overwhelming majority of Rwandans as well as non-Rwandans and friends of Rwanda continues to debunk that malicious and virulent propaganda.

Indeed, strong national ethos will undoubtedly thrive and endure these attempts of a few individuals who find delight in engaging in unbridled counterproductive activities involving disseminating of negative, divisive and antagonising propaganda that aim at undermining bona-fide good governance and developmental efforts invested by the Government and Rwandans in general after a near failed-state status two decades ago.

Of concern, however, it is worth delineating that this baseless negative discourse not only attempts to undermine Rwanda’s progress but also undermines efforts such as the laudable decision made by Government of Zambia to invoke the Cessation Clause of 2013 which effectively nullified the refugee status for Rwandans living in Zambia, thereby calling on all former refugees to legalise their stay in the host country or voluntarily repatriate to Rwanda.

In conclusion, a major pre-requisite for attaining an organised Diaspora community is sustainable Diaspora engagement on a shared national development vision that is in tandem with its respective Governments’ national development agenda whilst observing and respecting National Laws of the host country.

The writer is Rwanda’s Charge d’Affaires (a.i) at the High Commission in Zambia.

This is a slightly edited version of an article was first published in the Daily Nation of Zambia.

 

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