Let me first thank Mr. Richard Grant, whose article appeared in the Telegraph news paper dated 22nd July 2010 entitled “Paul Kagame: Rwanda’s redeemer or ruthless dictator?”.
The article was objective, however, living behind some questions to be answered. According to my experience as a researcher, it is a hypothetical question that needs to be proven positive or negative.
However, to come to the right conclusion about the hypothesis, one needs to critically examine variables factoring in the hypothesis, in this case, “redeemer” and “ruthless dictator”.
In this case, the above variables lead to different opposing directions whereby findings of each of them lead to antagonistic conclusions. Moreover, objectivity is an important element in the whole process. Therefore, after reading Grant’s article, one can straight away draw the conclusion on whether Kagame is a redeemer or ruthless dictator to Rwandans.
In his article, Richard Grant managed to come up with a list of more than ten areas in which Rwanda under the leadership of President Paul Kagame has registered remarkable successes in a period of only sixteen years.
According to the article, the registered achievements include; sustained rate of economic growth, least amount of corruption and red tape which was also mentioned in the transparency international report unveiled on 22nd July 2010, a majority of women in the parliament, ban of plastic bags for environmental reasons, rising of skyscrapers in Kigali, abolition of death the penalty, effective national health programs, national educational programs, co-existence of genocide survivors with genocide perpetrators and using national resources and grants efficiently and get results to mention but a few.
In addition to the above, it should be remembered that the military victory of RPF in July 1994 finally halted the Rwandan Genocide. Since then, Rwandan government managed to successfully integrate former opposing armies, and more than 3.5 million Rwandans have been repatriated and peacefully resettled.
In the economic sector, Rwanda has significantly made substantial progress in stabilizing and rehabilitating its economy. GDP has increased and the inflation has significantly been curbed.
Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) has had a tangible effect on the lives of Rwandans. Through this program, Rwandan income per capita has risen from $250 to $500 in sixteen years, with an objective of making it $1,300 in 2020. Rwanda has experienced a strong trade performance with exports growing at an average rate of 12.5% per year.
Today, Rwanda is one among very few African countries that have managed to establish preventive health measures and build the capacity to have high quality and accessible health care services for the population.
It is also worthy noting that under the leadership of president Kagame, frameworks for the representation and participation of citizens have been established, these include the existence of institutions like two chambers of parliament, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Auditor’s General Office and the Office of Ombudsman, among others.
The above institutions have been used as channels through which the citizens communicate to leaders, and this has eventually led to the citizens’ participation, empowerment, and transparency and accountability of leaders.
The Rwandan government has mainstreamed Information and Communication Technology in the Vision 2020 through ICT- led Socio-Economic Development policy and plan for Rwanda. To this effect, various programs have been established to enable the population access information and communication facilities, these include the One-Laptop-per-Child Program and the introduction of Broadband internet in the whole country. Today, Rwanda ranks among advanced countries in terms of ICT.
Recently, Rwanda was ranked among African countries with high score in terms of achieving Millennium Development Goals, being the reason why president Kagame was chosen as a co chair of the MDGs advocacy group.
However, the above achievements could not be realized if the president was working alone, it calls for robust institutions that embrace sound policies for sustainable development.
Therefore, due to the sustainability of these policies which are geared by robust institutions, it makes it easier to determine how much effort and how Rwandan leadership has been successful in institutional building.
According to the article, Richard Grant and indeed some other people who follow Rwandan progress from a distance, remain skeptical on the sustainability of some of the Rwandan achievements like reconciliation of Rwandans and get crippled in a static position that the situation is fragile.
However, it is laudable noting that some of the things do not happen out of magic, reconciliation is a plodding process which deals with changing people’s mindset, it therefore, understandable that in the Rwandan case, where the Genocide ideology was preached for more than forty years, sixteen years is not enough to attain full reconciliation.
What is important in the whole process, is registering continuous progress.