The book is reviewed by Dr. Fredric Goloba Mutebi, a senior research fellow, Makerere Institute of Social Research.
This colourful and absorbing book is intended to highlight the strides Rwanda has made in all sectors of the economy and society since the election of President Paul Kagame in 2003. In development circles Rwanda is often characterized as “a country in a hurry”, not least because of the big ambitions of its highly driven and confident leadership.
The book shows how, from its association with mass violence and state collapse, Rwanda has achieved high levels of security and stability. It demonstrates the fruits of the country’s focus on eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal education, promoting gender equity and empowering women, reducing child and maternal mortality, combating killer diseases, and protecting its environment.
In a strange sort of way, the book is as much about the post-genocide period as it is about the ancient régimes of Juvenal Habyarimana and Grégoire Kayibanda, for one of the ways in which New Rwanda distinguishes itself from Old Rwanda is in its resolute determination to cast aside the old baggage of ethnic discrimination and accompanying evils, results of which it highlights in words and pictures.
The book is peppered with arresting photos of Rwanda, showing flora and fauna as well as physical features of amazing beauty. They are the kind of images which would make even the most reluctant traveler and tourist wants to visit and see for themselves. Also included are images infrastructural development projects, key pointers to the country’s rapid transformation since the genocide against the Tutsi, a transformation that gathered tremendous pace during President Kagame’s first election.
Then there are photos of Rwandans from all walks of life and corners of the country, and of foreign visitors who provide personal testimonies about life in the New Rwanda and how they have experienced it.
Committed skeptics and knee-jerk critics may wish to question whether what is on show is sustainable. However, ordinary Rwandans and outside observers with more than passing familiarity with the country will find the testimonies all too familiar.
They capture the deep feelings of farmers, traders and professionals of all kinds, who have witnessed and also been part of the once unthinkable emergence of this tiny, poor, proud, and determined country from the depths to which the genocide and its aftermath had plunged it.
It is easy to debate claims made by seemingly self-interested analysts and commentators, as it is to question statistics, knowing too well that numbers often reveal as much as they obscure.
It is, however, difficult to debate the personal testimonies of people who have lived through Rwanda’s almost miraculous transformation. The testimonies of the people who were interviewed reveal not only their hopes and aspirations for themselves and their families, but also for their country, and point to a patriotism of which Rwanda’s neighbours should be envious.
In this one book a reader is able to discover what it is that makes the New Rwanda tick and, for some, controversial. A good read, it is.
The book can be available on request to the publishers, Great Lakes Communications and Media Centre, located at Rue de Ministere, Kimihurura, Kigali. It can also be accessed on www.glcmc.com.