Defence minister: Visionary leadership central to Rwanda’s transformation

L-R: Stephen Rodrigues, the UNDP Resident Representative to Rwanda; Maj Gen Emmanuel Bayingana, the Air Force Chief of Staff, and Col. Jill Rutaremara, Director, Rwanda Peace Academy at the opening of a two-day regional conference on “Rwanda’s Journey Towards Sustainable Peace”, in Kigali yesterday. Participants are reflecting on the progress the country has made since the end of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and speakers on Day I largely attributed the gains made over the years to visionary leadership. / Emmanuel Kwizera

Defence Minister Albert Murasira on Thursday said that visionary and transformational leadership characterised by positive values such as unity, patriotism, selflessness, integrity, responsibility, volunteerism and humility is central to the ongoing transformation in Rwanda.

He made the observation while opening a two-day conference in Kigali aimed at evaluating the progress Rwanda has made since the end of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“Equally important is the constant struggle for dignity and self-reliance. Through the emphasis of these values by the leadership in Rwanda with President Paul Kagame at the helm, Rwandans are increasingly identifying themselves with these positive ideals,” the minister said.

The conference, titled “Rwanda’s Journey towards Sustainable Peace - 25 Years” is jointly organised by the Rwanda Peace Academy (RPA), the Government of Japan and the UNDP.

Its purpose is to evaluate the progress Rwanda has made since the end of the 1994 Genocide, identify challenges to the ongoing transformation in Rwanda, and come up with strategies to further propel the country forward.

Dr. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist, presented a paper on politics in post-Genocide Rwanda in which he shed light on, among other issues, how the country got where it is today.

There is a lot to do with how politics in Rwanda is organised, he said.

Delegates at the meeting in Kigali yesterday. / Emmanuel Kwizera

He added: “Critics and many of them are the armchair type, do not consider the country’s unique circumstances which have dictated the way things have been.”

The context that people need to bear in mind, he said, includes the psychological impact caused by past atrocities.

The other is the refugee experience of former exiles.

Shedding more light on the way things are done in a unique, positive way, Mutebi said that even civil society groups in Rwanda work more effectively “in ways that are unconventional” but play an important role in getting the country where it is today.

The country’s success is attributed to the policies and good choices made.

Stephen Rodrigues, the UNDP Resident Representative, couldn’t agree.

He noted that from a country almost completely destroyed physically, psychologically, socially and economically, Rwanda fought for survival and against all odds, rose from the ashes to become one of the best-performing countries in Africa “on almost any measure you think of” - security, good governance, social welfare, economic performance, and others.

Post-Genocide Rwanda’s growth has averaged 7 per cent annually for more than 10 years.

The country made significant strides in a raft of social indicators, with life expectancy increasing from 31 years a quarter-century ago to 69 years, higher than for most regional countries.

Poverty has been halved over the last two decades – now at less than 40 per cent of the population – and healthcare access is now over 80 per cent thanks in large part to a universal health insurance scheme, Mutuelle de Santé, rolled out several years ago.

Tremendous gains were also registered in education, security, agriculture, infrastructure development, among others.

Rodrigues said: “The data is there; rapid economic growth, a drastic reduction in poverty, vast improvements in access to education, in longevity, in access to health, in ease of doing business, in citizen confidence in the security organs, and so on.”

There is a lot to be learned from Rwanda’s experience in building peace, he noted, explain that, first, it is one of the few countries on the continent that has demonstrated true local ownership in peacebuilding, using local institutions such as the Gacaca courts and Abunzi or community mediators to address post-conflict transitional justice, reconciliation and mediation.  

“These local innovations, together with the root and branch reform of the security sector, the judicial system and other key institutions have led to one of very few post-conflict development success stories to date.”

Eugenia Kayitesi, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR-Rwanda), told The New Times that whenever she thinks about it, Rwanda’s triumph looks like something of a dream.

“It is a huge thing, really. It always surprises me how we can move forward despite all the challenges. It’s Rwanda’s miracle.”

To sustain everything, she noted, and especially now that a good foundation is in place “there is hope” that all the strategies the government is laying out can be implemented.

Rwanda’s Vision 2050 development ambitious target to achieve an upper-middle-income status by 2035 and high-income status by 2050.

Kayitesi said that the zeal and willingness of Rwandans to achieve will make it happen.

“I have high hopes that our country will reach even higher heights. We have challenges but if we could move on from the Genocide against the Tutsi and get here, we can achieve even much more,” she said.

Sustainability will come from, she said two things; implementation of strategies such as the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), and continued peace and security.

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