The week was a mixed bag of fortune where Rwanda was acclaimed by World Bank among the globe’s top 50 investment-friendly countries, got ranked 4th globally by World Economic Forum among nations with the least gender gap. However, these wins came amid regional body scratches.
Although body scratches taint the image of a beautiful car, they often don’t affect the engine’s capacity to continue performing efficiently; for today, let’s have this analogy in mind as we reflect on one neighbour’s rather messy megaphone diplomacy campaign against Kigali.
Rwanda has suffered countless body scratches ever since it set out on its path to self-re-discovery, renaissance and transformation; it is a path that has no space for the half-hearted as the President said in a recent speech. It’s a path that requires full commitment, to follow.
Like body tattoos, these scratches are lined all over Rwanda but they have never succeeded in stopping its engine from powering the country towards its development agenda, this explains why, in spite of many setbacks, this country has never lost its winning attitude.
Also, these scratches are inferior, compared to the deep scars of history sustained through the tough battles to liberate this nation from the abyss. But entropy is one major obstacle that stands in Rwanda’s way as it firmly continues walking the path towards further transformation.
To define it, entropy is a lack of order or predictability of a situation, leading to gradual decline into disorder - one thing Rwanda hasn’t had on its side is time. While for most countries, the epoch of colonialism helped build firm economic foundations to support future governments.
In Rwanda’s case, colonialism instead of building, destroyed the social stratum of the nation when it embarked on the campaign of sowing seeds of ethnic hatred; the result wasn’t just a body scratch, it was a blow that blew the engine causing a national standstill.
The engine would be restarted in July 1994, after bringing the car to a grinding halt from its mad rush down the hill before it could hit the bottom potentially killing everyone onboard. The survivors of that national tragedy have since been running a game of catch-up, building from almost zero.
As the life-span of Rwandans rose above 70 years of age, that of regional fortune continues to suffer, often dying before the age of five, in many a neighbour’s case. With entropy entrenched in the region’s politics, the spirit of planning for long-term development has suffered great damage.
EAC integration projects are among those that are suffocating underneath the heavy weight and bad breathe of this regional entropy.
On July 1, 2013, I wrote: “So when the trinity of Kagame, Kenyatta and Kaguta met in Kampala last week, it was good news when Rwandans, Kenyans and Ugandans heard that their leaders had discussed not politics but projects that would ease trade and increase business opportunities for them.”
Thousands of words were typed in positive commentary about the then ‘new hope for EAC regional integration, the collaboration of the three states to invest in infrastructural projects on the northern corridor and help East Africans move faster towards their transformation.
A secretariat was set up to coordinate these projects and every quarter, Presidents of the three countries would meet to get updated by their technical teams, to sign off things and command action on ready to implement projects.
In the media, we loved to call it ‘a new wave of political will.” We all hoped. We all almost thought, after all, politicians can be trusted.
We though for once, they had added their respective national dreams to create one big dream that would have space for all our aspirations. The dream had even started expanding in all directions, spreading to South Sudan, Ethiopia and at some point, DR Congo.
Fast forward into 2017; the dream has fazed. For all the positive commentary, it appears we were all in a slumber; there was never a dream. I mean, what else would explain this tendency to move five steps forward and then eight backwards?
Thanks to our entropy, the real issues that should concern the attention of our governments have been thrown under the bus as focus shifted to domestic political squabbles.
In Kenya, a second presidential election in two months was concluded recently but a 3rd might be on the cards and demos have brought business to a standstill including in Mombasa where at least 30 percent of Rwanda’s external trade is processed.
No one is talking about the Standard Gauge railway anymore; there’s no more talk about developing infrastructure that would connect the three countries to and enable Rwanda to buy additional electricity from Kenya and Ethiopia. There’s no talk of the joint oil refinery investment; nothing.
The last time our leaders met over this business was in April 2016. It is almost 2018; seven meetings skipped without explanation and I hear some partners have even developed new ideas, totally different from the agreed to direction; a classical example of entropy.
Borders were opened; travel processes eased to allow for free movement and let people sell their labour freely; instead, some partner states are now making cheap and undiplomatic claims of espionage. It is this entropy that is gradually sipping the life out of the EAC integration dream.
Views, expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the New Times Publications.