When President Paul Kagame was, May this year, listed by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2009, it took some, especially those out of Rwanda, by surprise.
But for ordinary Rwandans, who have witnessed the astounding recovery of this nation, as well keen observers of the dynamics in this region, this recognition was simply an endorsement that was well deserved.
The recognition by Time magazine was, last week, re-affirmed by an equally respected global publication, The Financial Times. The FT listed Kagame among the World’s 50 most influential people who shaped the past decade.
He was the only African leader on a list dominated by Western heavy weights including US President Barrack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, celebrated TV talk show host, Oprah Winfrey and the founders of the search engine Google.
Today, many people must be wondering as to what magic this leader of a Sub-Saharan African country has performed to warrant all these prestigious recognitions.
But the answer is simple; he has brought hope where it was completely lost.
While it is hard to measure influence, Richard Stengel, an Editor with TIME Magazine said that usually ‘influence’ is measured on the basis of social innovation, activism or the ability of a leader to change people’s lives for the better.
In Rwanda, this is exactly what President Kagame has done for his people. For the last 15 years, this country has been uplifted from the abyss of destruction and political hopelessness, to one whose people have hope in themselves and in the future, largely due to his steward leadership.
His vision for a prosperous nation characterised by a leadership that is accountable to its people has become a model for many other nations.
Rwanda continues to provide lessons for successful post-conflict recovery for numerous countries. Many have visited Rwanda to learn from the home grown solutions that have produced tangible results like the reconciliation process, Gacaca system, Imihigo or performance contracts, Umuganda, Mutuelle de santé---the list goes on.
Probably Kagame’s greatest achievement is that he has laid a foundation that will define and shape the future of this country, which should be a yardstick for the future generation of leaders.