The secret behind Rwanda's resilience

One of the theories of political science states that institutions are manmade and, at the same time, men are products of their own institutions.
Nyamagabe residents during President Kagame's tour of the district in July. (Net photo)
Nyamagabe residents during President Kagame's tour of the district in July. (Net photo)

One of the theories of political science states that institutions are manmade and, at the same time, men are products of their own institutions.

For the last two decades, Rwanda and its process of developing a shift in paradigms has really been an inspiring example and a case study for all those who are interested in the future of post-conflict societies.


Many analysts fail to understand how, after so much suffering and within only twenty years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda has managed to globally position itself among stable countries and with tremendous socio-political and economic performance.


Some even speak of the Rwandan miracle to define Rwanda’s experience after the Genocide. But, in reality, it is not a matter of a miracle, if we are to understand the dynamics that occurred in this country of A Thousand Hills.
These changes are the result of a purely Rwandan architecture that comes with interrelated factors.


Revolutionary style of the new leadership

According to M. Weber (1947), a revolutionary leader is the one who, faced with an improper situation in his society, strives to usher in quick and profound change in all aspects of the society under consideration.

He is characterised by a high level of commitment, courage and sacrifice for the society in general and for the community as a whole.

After the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Rwanda embraced a revolutionary leadership as defined by principles of political science.

This leadership is epitomised by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and, especially, by the personality of President Paul Kagame who has provided leadership and vision for most of the last two decades.

Not only is RPF the engine for development, but also an engine for the Rwandan spirit, socio-political and economic inclusion and an engine for dignity. The strength of the RPF lies in its inclusive ideology, its structural and organisational dimension, its vibrant society project and a continuous training of its cadres.

Alongside the RPF, we must acknowledge that the charismatic personality of Kagame has positively shaped the post-genocide Rwanda in all aspects. As stated by Uma S. Jha and Surya N.Yadav, “Paul Kagame is the philosopher, the architect, the engineer and the voice of modern Rwanda”.

Paul Kagame has become the symbol of unity for all Rwandans irrespective of the communities they belong to which are commonly known as Twa, Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. He believes that politics is about “the ability to bring about human and economic development and progress, not the ability to bring about divisionism and destruction”.

Paul Kagame, first as Vice President and then as President, played a crucial role in the transformation of Rwanda after 1994 genocide, in promoting unity and reconciliation, in strengthening social justice, fostering effective mechanisms for state management and decentralisation as well as initiating a clear vision for overall socio-economic development.

He worked tirelessly to promote peace, stability and development of Rwanda. Under the leadership of President Kagame, the rule of law is respected by everyone, including his comrades, while discipline and attention to detail apply in all sectors of national life.

President Kagame is a hands-on type of man who is close to and is willing to listen to the people. Under his guidance, the country has embarked on developing new technologies. Within two decades, more than thirty awards were bestowed upon him, a vivid sign of his tremendous contribution to Rwanda’s development for which the Rwandan people are grateful.

Historical narrative and shared lessons

The principle of dialectics states that contradictions help advance a society. Contradictions within a socio-political system may serve as a basis to search for lasting solutions to develop a given society.

This is valid given the emergence of a group of actors who are supportive of the change to draw historical lessons and to build a brighter future for an entire people. This is what happened in Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide following the emergence of a visionary, inclusive and revolutionary leadership.

Starting from Rwanda’s dark history, this leadership embarked on a project to rebuild the Rwandan society as a State that belongs to all Rwandans irrespective of their differences in identity and ideology.

Instead of perpetuating a political and identity divide and fostering a governance system based on ethnicity and monopoly of power, as had been the case, Rwanda’s new architects set up governance structures that promote national unity and social equity.

This new position and shift in politics as well as the advantage taken from the consequences linked to Rwandan historical narrative enabled Rwanda to successfully manage its situation after the genocide and position itself into a unified, stable and prosperous society.

Given the scale of consequences linked to Rwanda’s history, choosing a model for the management of the Rwandan society after the Genocide was not an easy task. It took the ingenuity of RPF leaders under the guidance of President Kagame.

Instead of avenging historical events of which they had fallen victims, they opted for an inclusive society and integration for all Rwandans and all generations. The architects of the new Rwanda managed to draw lessons from the consequences of the country’s dark history to redevelop positive political and ideological values currently underlying the country’s stability and dignity.

All Rwandans who suffered though, at different levels, the consequences of the country’s recent history, have reason to stick together as one and work towards rebuilding the country while jealously safeguarding the fruits of liberation.

People and cultural values

At a first glance, Rwanda seems to be disadvantaged by its size, geographical location, limited natural resources and recent history related to the Genocide against the Tutsi.

On the contrary, in spite of its perceived or real limitations, in just twenty years time after the 1994 Genocide, Rwanda made a difference in many areas, especially at the level of national stability, national cohesion, good governance and promotion of economic and social development.

These achievements were attributed to the style of the new leadership in power, which is inclusive, revolutionary and visionary, but also to the exploitation of the consequences of our history in order to create new living conditions taking into account all the sons and daughters of this country.

But that is not all; we believe that Rwandans are unique in their ways of thinking, feeling and acting. These ways can make a difference even in complex situations like the one that prevailed in Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide.

The actual Rwandan common cultural values produce a people capable of adapting to a complex situation and finding common local solutions before resorting to external support. Local cultural values which contributed to Rwanda’s achievements over the two last decades can be divided into four behavioral values namely: a high level of patriotism and attachment to the homeland; a permanent quest for success and self sacrifice; a high level of discipline and integrity; and, finally, a sense of cooperation and mutual assistance.

These four virtues drawn from the Rwandan culture have been utilised by the new leadership to engage the population in the process of socio-political and economic transformation of the country. Several programs initiated by the government have been successful due to the process of mobilisation and intervention of the people through community development work known as umuganda, community solidarity interventions and people’s voluntary actions.

Geopolitical contradictions and national consciousness

The post 1994 Genocide period came with a new era characterized by the promotion of the Rwandan spirit, inclusive ideology and national dignity. The Rwandan leaders and people agreed to prioritise the Rwandan spirit as national identity, strive for inclusion, promote their culture and traditions to find modern solutions to their problems and, finally, advocate for national dignity.

Three fundamental and deliberate choices were made as stated by President Kagame: “First, we chose to stay together. Second, we chose to be accountable to ourselves. Third, we chose to think big”.

These fundamental and nationalistic choices often create problems for former colonial and hegemonic powers concerned about repositioning themselves as new masters. The reality is that Rwanda and its leaders have made radical choices to be in control of their own destiny.

This view is in stark contrast with some global order, so to speak, which distinguishes two types of actors – teachers and students, the stronger and the weaker, decision makers and recipients of orders, those who should speak and those who should not dare.

With what happened in April 1994, that is, the worst tragedy of genocide in which all humanity failed to intervene to put to a stop, Rwanda has come out stronger and is telling nothing but the truth. The outspokenness from Rwandan leadership is not common to many leaders, especially those in the developing world, while addressing former colonial powers or oligarchy.

This causes a lot of embarrassment to those who are hurt by the truth. They constantly scrutinise Rwanda and do not want to give the leaders of the new Rwanda or its people time to breathe and focus on the large-scale projects ensuring stability and development.

Every day, new allegations are levelled against Rwanda and its leaders and it looks like there is strategic machinery meant for that purpose. Even if it is not hidden, the only crime for Rwanda and its leaders is their courage to defy the world police by refusing any blind submission and making national strategic choices without their blessing.

Despite all accusations, Rwanda has stayed the course towards transformation. The promotion of national unity has been a solid foundation in all policies and strategies for economic and social development.

Together, along with their leaders, Rwandans are working tirelessly to change the image of Rwanda from a devastated and desperate society to a reconciled and prosperous society with dignity.

Unfair treatment and conspiracy which are sometimes inflicted upon Rwanda, its people and leaders eventually turn into positive development of a national consciousness and solidarity likely to generate a rapid and sustainable change to reward future generations.

From the 1994 despair to the current inspiring situation, there is a reason for hope and delight. No doubt, the Rwandan future generations will inherit a better Rwanda where the Rwandan spirit shall prevail and constitute a trigger for a prosperous Nation-State.

The writer is a former Prime Minister of Rwanda and currently the Chairman, Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour.

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