A new year, 2019, is here. Before we know it, it will have ended and a new one come. That is how fast time passes. Or perhaps it is not that but how busy we are with the business of living that we do not notice its passage. Maybe it is a sense of guilt over unfinished business that makes us say time flies.
Whatever the reason for the year apparently flying by, people do not want to be caught off guard and express regret only later. They must get things done at the individual and collective level and that is why they make plans.
This year has particular significance in Rwanda. It is a jubilee year of two contrasting experiences, one a tragedy of unimaginable horror, the other a renewal of limitless possibilities.
On April 7, it will be twenty five years since the genocide against the Tutsi began in 1994. For the next one hundred days more than a million innocent people died in a killing frenzy never seen before. It was the culmination of a process of extermination that had started in 1959 and continued periodically until 1994.
Rwandans will be commemorating that period of horror. They will be remembering those who perished, comforting the survivors, and expressing hope in a future they determine themselves, where no such horrors happen again. They will also be affirming their resolve to live and prosper as a united nation.
July 4 this year will mark the silver jubilee of the liberation of Rwanda by the Rwanda Patriotic Front. Its fighters, the Rwanda Patriotic Army, put up a relentless fight against the genocidal government and its forces, and went on to stop the genocide. That date heralded the beginning of a period of renewal and progress, and Rwanda has never looked back since. And so this will be a celebration.
There will be other practical matters to attend to during the year. For instance, there is work to complete various infrastructure developments.
One of these is the new airport in Bugesera, so necessary for handling more visitors to Rwanda that the Visit Rwanda campaign, national tourist attractions and conference facilities will bring.
Then there are the roads linking all districts of the country, facilitating easier communication, trade, and making the many beautiful spots that dot the country more accessible to tourists.
Given recent pronouncements by top leaders and reports from international agencies, we can expect increased focus on improvements of human capital – in education and health.
In education, for instance, whatever improvements have to be made, must be informed by a vision of the future we desire for our country and be based on correct evaluation and proper plans.
In my view, the main issues to be addressed should be the delivery and quality assurance systems. Tinkering with structures, or looking back to the past because that is what is familiar, and unending reforms only take the country back.
On the continental stage, President Kagame will handover as Chair of the African Union (AU) to his successor. It will be a more robust AU and better functioning bureaucracy that he will leave behind. We do not expect he will take a holiday, much as he deserves one, but can be sure he will turn all his apparently inexhaustible energy to other matters.
Prospects for improved relations with France looked good as 2018 came to an end. Investigation of the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane in 1994 in which top Rwandan officials had been falsely accused has finally been closed. There simply was never any evidence to link them to the shooting.
The expectation now is that France could be more forthright on other issues that have strained relations with Rwanda, especially its role in the genocide against the Tutsi.
Nearer home, there are neighbours with issues that need to be sorted out. Some of them have serious internal problems and think they can resolve them by visiting them on others. They need help to make them realise their folly. Others are schemers and instigators of instability, which they have turned into a central plank of their foreign policy. They too must be made to recognise the futility of this policy and abandon it.
Eastern Africa remains the continent’s toughest neighbourhood. 2019 should see more efforts to make it more peaceful. That means restraining the sponsors of instability, making it difficult and costly for combat-happy leaders to benefit from conflict, implementing existing peace plans, and focussing on the needs of ordinary people and their development.
There is no doubt this year will be as busy as all the others. Don’t get surprised when 2020 is upon us faster than we thought and perhaps some of the issues we have listed will still be with us. For now we have reason to celebrate the arrival of this new one.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2019.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.