If it bleeds, it leads - Ask any journalist and he’ll tell you of how the old cliché has taken control of newsrooms from time memorial. If a news story contains tragedy, property loss, or - best of all - gory detail, you can bet that the story will take on the following morning headlines or kick-off the evening news casts.
Predictably, the false reports seeking to portray “bleeding” in Rwanda have masked so many of the positive things that are happening in the country. Too often, we only hear what is, supposedly, going wrong.
Despite Rwanda being one of the fastest recovery success stories in history, we now regularly hear words like “oppression”, “dictatorship”, “silencing” and “mistake.” I’d like to introduce a couple of new words that seem to be missing from the debate. How about words like “reconciliation”, “development”, “food security”, “peace”, “progress” and “success”?
The truth is, remarkable improvement is being recorded, and the accomplishments are mounting by the day.
The Rwandan people are getting their country back.
After decades of brutal dictatorship that climaxed with the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandans are, incredibly, turning from a terrible past to take control of their future.
Just a month ago, more than 95 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote, propelling Rwanda to the top of the league of countries with the highest voter turnout in free elections.
Of course, many factors are at play in electoral turnout, but an important one seems to be the perceived effect that an individual vote will have on how the country is run. For Rwanda, it is obvious that the people trust their country with President Kagame at the helm. After seven years, they wanted him back in office, and the only way to ensure that, was by turning out in large numbers to vote him.
One of the fascinating stories about the election was of Beatrice Utamuliza, a woman from the Northern Province who was super close to delivering her baby from the polling center. She could have gone straight to the health center, but the thought of not casting her vote was unbearable. Beatrice and her husband, arrived at the polling station two hours before they opened at 6 a.m., just to make sure her vote is not wasted.
“I got into the voting room and the labour pains intensified,” she told guests who had come to her house to congratulate and celebrate the arrival of a new baby girl.
You can bet that not many women in this world would be as daring as Beatrice. But, the transformation the country has undergone has created an extra-ordinary determination among the Rwandan people.
Across the country, critical infrastructure is being built and refurbished at an encouraging rate. Electricity and Water is being extended to rural families and businesses. The ability to use a telephone, is now within reach of more Rwandans than ever before.
The Government has placed education, public health and agriculture development at the top of its priority list. Today, 9 out of ten kids are in school, more than 90 percent of the population has medical insurance and food production has increased by about 20 per cent in just one year.
The private sector, foreign investment and cross border trade is burgeoning like never before.
All of this is happening, and yet you hardly hear a thing about it in the news. Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise considering the same media houses and networks that are so intent on highlighting the country’s perceived setbacks are the same that apparently didn’t find it necessary to report or broadcast the brutal slaughter of more than a million Tutsis, sixteen years ago.
The mainstream media’s obsession with doom-and-gloom stories undermines Rwanda’s breadth of success.
As a journalist, I understand that the media loves violence.
Newspapers, TV and radio, will for the most part have much higher ratings, if it’s about a scenario where all hell has broken lose. A celebrity beating up his wife would grab headlines rather than something nice, like a peaceful Kenyan election or record voter turnout in Rwanda.
Contrary to what you might hear, the Rwandan people are not failing in their endeavor to restore their dignity, fight poverty and maintain security – smashing the stereotype associated with the typical African country.
The media too may want to open up to the changing face of Africa.