The story of the two Ugandan communities at Nshenyi and Kyarwehunde parishes in Ruhaama county, Ntungamo district who want to secede and join Rwanda is a demonstration of Kigali’s newfound soft-power, a good thing.
Even Kigali’s fiercest critics would admit that Rwanda today is an attractive country drawing friendship from some of the world’s most respected personalities such as former US president Bill Clinton and UK’s Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Developed by Harvard University Professor Joseph Nye, Soft power is a country’s ability to attract and co-opt rather than use force or give money as a means of persuasion. It’s an antonym of ‘hard-power’ where superpowers such as the USA would use their military or economic might to force smaller powers to toe the ‘correct line.’
The ‘American dream’ for instance is aimed at selling USA as the land for opportunities for all; opportunities made possible ‘through good democratic governance and market based economies with no government regulation.’
The movie directors in Holly Wood have kept that theme alive in their movies and when viewed abroad in Africa, Middle East or Asia, nationals there gradually fall in love with that ‘imaginary American dream’ many selling their belongings to chase after it or in other cases, inspiring mass uprisings demanding for better governance in their own countries.
Of late, countries have also discovered soft power in sports. China’s successful hosting of the 2008 Olympics was seen by analysts as the country’s chance to right its national image to the world and to a large extent, succeeded in doing so.
When South Africa successfully hosted the 2010 world cup, it was a positive story for the continent proving to the rest of the World that the continent is making progress.
Russia is currently showcasing the Russian story to the world after it was handed the opportunity to host the winter Olympics in Sochi, an opportunity President Putin has embraced with both arms.
Brazil is working around the clock to get ready to host the 20th World cup set to start in June this year, an opportunity to show-off to the world and also market some of its tourism potential.
Britain may no-longer be the world’s leading super power but the English Premier League continues to fly the Union Jack/flag overseas in the process preserving the English glory with popular English football clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea having millions of fans even in hostile countries around the world.
America is unwelcome in North Korea yet Basketball is readily welcomed.
Where’s Rwanda’s soft power?
The post-genocide Rwanda has plenty of soft power all rooted in its political and economic success since 1994.
Once a journalist asked Bill Clinton during an interview; how he felt working closely with a government that’s accused by critics of being ‘dictatorial’ and in response Clinton said: “Rwanda organises elections and peaceful elections are a vital element of a democratic country.
Rwanda’s new democratic politics could be an attraction but it’s the social-economic benefits of such a governance system to the people that gives the country its current soft power.
For instance, a stable political environment under the RPF has made Rwanda one of the most secure countries today making it a hot spot for both business and leisure tourism, something that wasn’t the case before 1994.
Political stability has also provided firm grounds to support a robust economy whose progress has seen the country become one of the most competitive and business friendliest in Africa, a major attraction for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).
Rwanda’s transparency and choking room for corruption is another aspect that has endeared it to many foreigners especially investors who can count on services without backdoor payments.
The determined development of ICT infrastructure and services across the country is another key attraction for especially foreign Western expatriates who find very little difference between internet speeds back home and Rwanda’s.
But most of all, the efficiency with which Rwanda delivers public goods and services to the populace can be regarded as the main factor attracting the two Ugandan border communities especially considering that Nshenyi and Kyarwehunde parishes are near Rwanda and Tanzania yet the locals clearly stress their wish to be part of Rwanda where they say they ‘get everything.’
For instance, Rwanda is the only country in the region running a public healthcare system, a benefit the want-away border communities can’t get from either Tanzania or Uganda.
It’s these new attractions to Rwanda that have to be celebrated today as the country marks two decades since the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.
These new national attractions made possible through stable and transparent governance and strong economic policies must be consolidated if Rwanda is to retain its newfound attraction; soft-power.