Looking back as Rwanda’s eventful 2008 elapsed, one is not unaware of what I consider as its most noteworthy highlights. While shifting gears and trying to keep a steady course along the line of traffic, there have been numerous encouraging sights, albeit the fact that some good-for-nothing spoilers have worked had to dig pot holes in a usually well constructed country road.
Most of the events, especially towards the year end are springboards for 2009 as they will most probably influence what is yet to come.
With the global financial crisis as an underlying socio-economic influence, is added the world oil price fluctuations. But these, are not entirely the only external factors that have contributed indirectly to unenthusiastic internal developments.
2008 has well been a mixed bag of ups and downs, but first, the ups. I don’t believe anyone would be oblivious to the fact that our Rose’s homecoming is at the top, but more still, the fact that the year end saw masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi convicted by a United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was a big token in the justice arena.
The court for once ever since its first day on January 9, 1997 has done something but this is not enough. Recent Rwanda–DR Congo break thoroughs in the peace path are also noteworthy achievements despite the numerous attempts by determined spoilers to derail the process.
The two neighbours are determined to put the region’s reconstruction and development at the fore front and, have recently agreed to a joint operational plan against the ex-FAR.
More still, this African nation of 9 million people with over 500,000 coffee farmers has coffee of excellent quality and this can not be left unmentioned.
In 2008, Rwanda hosted the first Cup of Excellence event ever held in Africa.
Rwanda also became the first and only country in the world with a female majority in parliament, as women now well deservedly boast of 56 per cent of parliamentary seats (45 out of 80) up from 48 per cent in the previous parliament.
This too is not an isolated incident, since very important legislations have been endorsed. One particular case is the bill banning the manufacture, importation, use and sale of polythene bags.
Rwanda took serious steps to stop the use of polythene bags, which pose many dangers to the environment and this has been applauded by many, including its East African neighbours who remain bewildered and awed by this small nations worthy positive strides.
Furthermore, crucial tax laws have been streamlined to meet East African Community’s (EAC) standards as the country marches towards merging into the larger bloc.
Government has modified several laws on taxation and trade in order to harmonize them with the entire EAC tax system as the Common Market negotiation continue and are expected to conclude early next year.
The very recent launching of the construction works for a 27.5 MW hydro plant also heralds tremendous hope for energy self-sustenance in the nearby future.
Construction works for the 27.5 MW Nyabarongo hydro power plant, the biggest of its kind in the country, means Rwandans have more to be happy about as it indeed heralds an end to the country’s energy woes.
The current global economic difficulties have inevitably affected Rwanda. However, this has not stopped several success stories from being told.
The country has remained on track in trying to meet the Millennium Development Goals targets on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating infectious diseases.
It has indeed been lauded internationally as one of the few African countries to have met the MDGs to do with the eradication of Malaria and HIV/Aids, as part of the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS).
Rwanda too has received many awards in different fields including sanitation. Another important aspect is the fact that the country faired well in face of the recent global food crisis. Rwandan agricultural production is reported to have upped by at least 14.7 percent this past year.
Also noteworthy is the country’s resilience in front of the current regional fuel woes. While most neighboring countries continue to suffer a fuel scourge that started with the Kenyan post election debacle, we have maintained some considerable breathing space.
Nonetheless, the year also had very many other forces trying to derail the country and its people from this unwavering positive course and, this is not unusual.
Apart from the underlying economic impacts from the world economic instabilities, the disturbing issue is the well intended principle – universal jurisdiction – that is being abused to Rwanda’s disadvantage.
This matter was prompted by French and Spanish judges’ indictments of senior government officials on international criminal charges, despite massive international condemnation of the case.
The issue has increasingly raised controversial questions about the appropriateness of trying such cases in the domestic courts of nations with little connection to the crimes charged.
What is even more baffling is the apparent fraudulent nature of the case. And as the saying goes – when trouble comes, it comes with all its children and grandchildren.
Of recent, this too, has been followed by another damning UN experts’ report alleging that Rwanda is helping churn trouble in neighboring DRCongo.
This report’s substance and timing too leave much to be desired. Following the uncorroborated allegations in the UN report, Sweden and the Netherlands chopped aid to Rwanda, even before the report was either concluded or corroborated.
The bag of sorrows is not empty as the year ends but what is most important is that Rwandans seem determined to turn all negatives into positives or opportunities as they march on.