URUGWIRO VILLAGE - President Paul Kagame, yesterday, hosted students from the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, with whom he shared insights on how Rwanda has managed to come up with the right policies to rebuild herself after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
The 12 policy students, led by Professor Charles Wheelan, were in the country under the auspices of the International Policy Practicum (IPP), an annual programme which sees policy students travel to a selected country to draw lessons from its policies.
Speaking to the press shortly after the meeting at Village Urugwiro, Prof. Wheelan said that Rwanda was chosen as the international topic because it has registered commendable success, over the last 16 years, which can be attributed to good governance and policies.
“We chose Rwanda because in every other country that we had visited, people who are trying to solve problems like education and poverty were frustrated by the lack of good governance, corruption and other kinds of problems,” Wheelan said
“So we actually began to ask people in the development community what would be a good country for us to visit in order to learn more about creating good governance out of difficult situations and Rwanda was recommended to us.”
Prof. Wheelan said that for the one week the students have been in the country, they interviewed a range of people including, Ministers and other policy makers, NGO staff and ordinary citizens, to get insight into the successful policies instituted by the government.
He added that when the group met President Kagame, they were interested in knowing how the country was rebuilt and how the government managed to build effective institutions.
“We wanted to know what lessons can be applied from Rwanda to other countries. We also asked the President how the United States policies can be improved, vis-à-vis Rwanda and Africa, so that we can improve both the interests of the US and Rwanda,” Wheelan said.
He added that the policy students were amazed at how efficiently the government demands accountability at every level; from the very top all the way down to “the folks at the bottom”.
“What we found was that a combination of expecting complete honesty and confidence and then monitoring and enforcing, actually leads to institutions that are not corrupt and efficiently delivering the services they are supposed to be delivering.” Wheelan said
The Minister of Local Government, James Musoni, pointed out that the policy students wanted to know what “magic” was applied for the country to be where it is today, in terms of development and good governance.
“They were interested in the magic the government applied for the country to come from where it was to where it is today. They particularly commended the good leadership and its role in fostering development,” Musoni said.
“They were particularly happy that the President took time off to explain to them, first hand, how the country managed to do it and also gave them the lessons they can draw from Rwanda’s experience,”
The IPP was conceived in 2005 as a tool for connecting the University of Chicago to the world and providing international policy experience to a select group of Harris School students.
Each year, 12 second-year Harris School students are chosen to study a specific international topic.
Upon their return to Chicago, the participating students are required to produce a collaborative 40-50 page memo with policy recommendations on their topic.
This memo is distributed to officials whom the group met during the study and other relevant policy actors in the U.S. and the country of study. It is typically published in the Chicago Policy Review, a student produced policy journal at the Harris School.