KIGALI - As the year 2010 comes to an end, it will go into the records as a year in which Rwanda registered many political milestones and socio-economic successes.
A lot happened during the last 12 months and it would be a fair judgment to conclude for Rwanda, like Africa for hosting the World Cup, 2010, went down as a “historic year.”
The year during which a successful and peaceful Presidential election was held, saw a number of high profile visits, perhaps the most outstanding one being that of French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
The February visit of the French Head of State marked a major milestone in the renewed Franco-Rwanda relations following the re-establishment of diplomatic ties in November 2009.
During his visit, Sarkozy acknowledged that there were ‘errors’ on the side of France and the International Community during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but insisted that the renewed relations would not dwell much on the past.
Addressing a joint Press Conference with his host President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro, Sarkozy said that there were ‘grave errors’ not only on the side of France but also the international community in recognising the scale of the Genocide.
Shortly after holding talks, the two Presidents addressed a press conference during which they announced a new ‘forward-looking’ era of diplomatic relations with President Kagame stating that Sarkozy’s visit goes ‘beyond being just a gesture and soul-searching and understanding what happened in the past’.
Three months later, President Kagame went to Nice, France where he participated in the 25th France Africa Summit on the invitation from President Sarkozy.
It was President Kagame’s first visit to France in eight years, having last visited during the France-Afrique Summit held in Paris in 2002. During his visit, Sarkozy promised that France would apprehend genocide suspects on its soil.
Sarkozy’s visit was followed by yet another high profile visit of the Canadian Governor General at the time Michaëlle Jean in April.
What the two visits had in common was that the two leaders recognised the failure of the International Community during the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.
During her visit, Jean apologized on behalf of her government for the indifference and inaction of the international community in the lead up to, and during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Canadian Governor General said that April 7 was also declared by her country’s parliament as a day for remembering the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, reminding that it is also a time to reflect upon the lessons of the Genocide.
Another historic day of 2010 for Rwanda was March 8, when Rwanda’s flag was raised at Marlborough House-the headquarters of the Commonwealth, as the newest member of the 54-member state organisation.
President Kagame was present at the ceremony and he expressed Rwanda’s readiness to reap from the huge trade and education opportunities offered by the grouping, upon its official acceptance into the family of mainly former British colonies.
On June 6, all roads led to Kinigi, Musanze District, on the foot of Virunga Mountains, where thousands of people, both local and guests from around the globe, gathered to celebrate the 6th edition of the Gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina) and the World Environment Day (WED) that was celebrated in Rwanda.
The colourful ceremony had a fusion of local and international touch and attracted people from many countries, including Japan, China, the United States as well as Hollywood stars.
14 baby gorillas were named and President Kagame received the Energy Globe Honorary Award for Environment on behalf of the people of Rwanda, to whom he dedicated it for their daily contribution to the conservation of biodiversity.
American Actor Don Cheadle and Achem Steiner of UNEP hailed Rwanda for being a leading example in environment conservation, where even superpowers have failed.
“You would think that a super power like the United States, or some of the countries in Europe would be leading in this area, and we are trailing, in some regards, behind Rwanda,” said Cheadle.
This year’s Liberation Day saw 12 foreign personalities who played a role in the liberation struggle awarded medals.
The individuals were either awarded a medal or both of the two medals Umurinzi, Rwanda’s Campaign against Genocide Medal and Uruti, Rwanda’s Liberation Medal.
President Kagame, at the ceremony attended by thousands at Amahoro National Stadium, noted that Rwandans played the biggest part in the struggle to liberate themselves and they will be the ones to carry it on and define their destiny.
He said that Rwanda’s Liberation struggle has not yet ended and “is not ending soon” until Rwandan’s who have been part and parcel of the struggle for the last 16 years get to the level of development and be the people they want to be.
The subsequent weeks that followed the Liberation Day saw the country go into a pandemonium as the Presidential campaigns kicked off following the July 24 nomination of candidates.
The incumbent President Kagame was the first to submit his candidature as RPF’s flag bearer followed by Liberal Party’s Prosper Higiro.
The Social Democratic Party’s flag bearer Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo presenting his papers the second day followed by Dr. Alivera Mukabaramba of PPC.
With only three weeks left to the August 9 polls, the four candidates announced by the electoral commission hit the campaign trail around the country. The excitement and joy that prevailed during the campaigns were the first of their kind in Rwanda’s democratic history.
Voters turned up dancing and singing in party colours to show the support to their candidates. RPF rallies perhaps drew the biggest numbers as the campaign machine rolled on.
President Kagame’s popularity among the voters was clearly visible and could be evidenced through numbers that turned up for his rallies.
Despite fears and concerns by critics, the August 9 polls passed without an incident with President Kagame sweeping the votes with an unprecedented 93.6%. His modest challengers had no option but to accept defeat and pledge to work with the winner.
To the disappointment of critics, the Presidential polls did not have incidents of violence like it happens in most African countries.
On September 4, in a colourful ceremony attended by over 13 African heads of state and government and other high ranking officials, President Kagame took the oath, vowing to continue steering the country to another level of development during his seven-year term in office.
Kagame declared he would embark on a new chapter of development, without paying attention to what the country’s critics have to say and to that end, just a few days later, the critics had another attempt at tarnishing the country’s image using the leaked controversial UN DRC Human Rights Mapping Report.
The report which alleged that Rwandan troops committed atrocities in DRC similar to Genocide, was described as ‘flawed’ and a threat to regional security. Rwanda vowed to withdraw its forces from peacekeeping duties.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had to make an impromptu visit to Kigali aimed at discussing the stand-off with the Rwandan government.
On a happy note, President Kagame, who earlier in July was appointed as the co-chair of the UN MDG advocacy group, successfully convened a meeting of African leaders in Kigali to discuss the continent’s position and views during the UN General Assembly.
To crown it all, the 2010 National Dialogue, the 8th of its kind was a great success drawing massive participation of the Rwandan Diaspora and the use of technology to reach out to the masses.
2010 was an eventful year.