People, companies, empires and countries all fall but some rise to become stronger than ever before; Rwanda fell and hit rock bottom in 1994 but two decades later, it can only rise.
What makes victory sweet is the pain that is endured in the process of struggle but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining- difficult times certainly lead to better days.
Rwanda has had its share of difficult times that attracted distressing stories in international press that are almost impossible to grasp when read two decades later.
Saturday April 9, 1994 saw an exodus of thousands of foreigners who fled Kigali to clear the stage for one of the world’s worst human catastrophes.
Helpless women and children hiding in hotels, churches and schools lugubriously watched as they were being abandoned to fend off mad machete wielding militia who roamed everywhere in search of lives to take.
The only hope was in the news that a force of about 4,000 liberation rebels was advancing to the capital to save them.
On Sunday April 10, 1994, Robert D. McFadden reported for the New York Times that about 250 Americans, 1,500 Belgians, 600 French, 300 Germans, 100 Dutch and 100 Britons had been airlifted from Rwanda as ‘fighting between the Tutsi and the majority Hutu tribe escalated.’
It wasn’t a fight but an attack by one armed group on another unarmed and aimed at killing them all for being who they were.
Ironically, that Sunday was the 100th day of the year 1994 but it signaled the start of the bloodiest 100 days in Rwandan history that would go on to claim over a million lives and be remembered thereafter as the ‘genocide committed against the Tutsi.’
Over 20, 000 people had already been reportedly massacred just three days after President Habyarimana’s fatal plane crush on April 6. Still, the situation was being downplayed as a civil war or merely ethnic violence; few yet saw it as a genocide unfolding.
Two decades later, the men and women at the vanguard of cutting the mustard for Rwanda deserve honor and support to register more success.
Last Week, a reader posted a comment from Nairobi accusing us Rwandan writers for being the government’s ‘praise choir,’ a largely unfair comment but one quite common among many people who find themselves caught between two stools whenever discussing Rwanda’s success story.
On one hand, they concede that what Rwanda has achieved after being almost written off as a failed state is wondrous yet in between statements they muster nerves to accuse the same leadership responsible for the renaissance of all sorts of evil and maladministration.
To state it idiomatically, there’s obviously a method to Rwanda’s madness otherwise there’s no way a country could persistently record success in all key areas of development when critics accuse its leadership of mismanagement.
There’s evidence that more girls are going to school, half of the legislators in national parliament are female, roads are paved, street lights are working, there’s security for all to move anywhere at any time, the government is one of the least corrupt, transparency and accountability of public resources is high, extreme poverty is on the wane, infant mortality is dwindling, there’s a functional health insurance for all, there’s unity and harmony among nationals and Rwanda is the easiest place to start a business.
Either mismanagement is good or Rwanda’s critics are clearly not playing with a full deck when they criticize therefore their arguments must be taken with a grain of salt.
One would be off their rocker to suggest that the country is worse off today than two decades ago especially after beating the mud off the diamond that has made Rwanda once again an attractive nation where tourists want to spend their holidays and investors want to multiply their fortune.
Between January and September 2013, Rwanda hosted some 227, 574 business visitors, according to RDB; a far cry from the Saturday April 9, 1994 situation when 2850 foreigners fled the country.
Most of all though, the political leadership must be applauded for keeping a cool headed and disciplined army and tightening room for impunity; this has prevented the risk of self- aggrandizement behavior that has ruined many states.
Rwanda’s experience is now being quoted in two ongoing cases, one in Central African Republic and the other in Southern Sudan. In both cases, the UN is already rallying the world to act fast in a bid to avoid mistakes committed in Rwanda’s case.
After twenty years, Rwanda is obviously not fully arisen but by investing in stronger institutions, leaders are erecting pillars of stability; with these, the country might occasionally slide but it won’t fall again.
The author is a Journalist currently on post-graduate studies at Communication University of China, Beijing