Rwanda ranking in Peace Index: No cause for alarm?

Only a few days ago, the 2013 Global Peace Index (GPI) report was released and painted a rather bleak picture of today’s global peace.
Joe B. Jakes
Joe B. Jakes

Only a few days ago, the 2013 Global Peace Index (GPI) report was released and painted a rather bleak picture of today’s global peace.

Some of the worrying trends include increasing conflicts, continuing high degree of militarisation and the 5% drop at the levels of peace around the world since 2008.

The GPI however, is no different from other reports and people ought to question the methods utilized to compile and analyse such data and more importantly, the quality of sources and evidences in possession while making such conclusions.

According to the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), they use 23 indicators some of which include access to weapons, political instability and external organised wars just to name a few.

In practical terms for example, the domestic peace would be measured by using the levels of perceived criminality, number of police per 100,000 people and level of organised crime, whereas external peace indicators would include defence expenditure as percentage of Growth Domestic Product (GDP), external military conflicts and nuclear arsenals capabilities.

Clearly, the means by which the research is conducted might be still unclear to many, but what is certainly clear to all is that measuring a country’s peacefulness requires a close examination of both the internal and external dimensions in which case levels of domestic security and harmonious relations with neighbours must be considered.

Given that the word peace is central here, how does one define it? In one’s opinion, the term is often used and abused, it lacks a common definition, it is hard to conceptualize and some would go further to say that it is unreal and utopian. For the purpose of the article however, peace should be understood as the absence of violence or absence of the fear of violence in any country under the microscope. In other words, this is what peace theorists call ‘negative peace’- conditions for moving closer to peace or at least not leading to violence.

One should note that this is the reality in which we live, where conflicts are inevitable due to some countries’ economic, military and political dominance over others. Thus counting such domination or avoiding wars, one would say; peace prescriptions include multilateral management of disputes, arms control, international conventions, and balance of power strategies and so on.

In relation to Rwanda being ranked 135th out 162, the question is whether (1) the ranking position reflects the reality on the ground, and (2) if the country should be alarmed at all as this can potentially affects the country’s image.

 In theory, one could think of potential impact on Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), businesses and tourisms and alike being affected as a result, right? Well, Rwanda has had a share of negative reports in recent times including the infamous United Nations (UN) report on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which led to the suspension of aid from the donor countries.

With aid restored and Rwanda’s relations with donor countries remained positive, it is therefore hard to tell to what extent the country’s image has been dented; and also there is no evidence to suggest the UN report had any direct impact on private investment, business and tourism. That being said, it is a fact that some governmental projects were affected due to the temporary halt of aid, and also a simple dismissal of any potential negative impact to the country’s image would be unwarranted.

Some people believe, or at least think that reports by the UN carry a more credible and authoritative voice than those of organisations such IEP for instance, hence choosing to ignore the issues being raised and positive recommendations in work. Whether or not that is correct, one’s concern should not be about who produce reports (true or false) instead their ability to change the public opinion; and potential to affect the country by derailing its progress.

No single country on the planet that is beyond rebuke and immune from scrutiny and constructive criticisms. Rwanda is no exception to the rule in this regard, but any thought that a sovereign country’s direction can be greatly influenced by written reports is just fanciful. Sovereign countries, small or big are in fact governed by their constitutional documents; not report documents from organisations and institutions however reputable they might be. That is a fact.

On the report, Rwanda is above countries of great importance and influence in world’s politics such as Russia, Mexico, India and Israel, but is this the benchmark against which to measure the country’s peace? Rwanda should never be measured against any country, be the first or last on the list; in the end the country’s story and journey to peace is unique and more importantly Rwandan.

Can anyone be worried about the low ranking? For the reasons already mentioned, one can argue that it has absolutely no impact on Rwanda; as the country is already progressing towards ‘positive peace’ which is about consolidating the gains, creating and building institutions and strengthening structures that will lead to a more prosperous and peaceful Rwanda. The clear example being the recent first graduation of high ranking army officers from Rwanda’s Army Command and Staff College whose training went beyond military strategies to encompass socio-economic and political issues.

In concluding, Rwanda and its people have made a deliberate and conscious approach to work for sustainable development which is the only guarantee for peace in their country, and this is also because they fully understand the cost of war. The barometer by which to measure the country’s peace or security is not in the hands of research organisations, but in the real people who live together and try to create a reconciled and harmonious society. The same applies to Rwanda’s journey to economic independence. The real success cannot be judged by the international financial institutions (IFIs) reports; but by Rwandans need food, affordable health care, and education and employment opportunities.

In as much as these international reports are important to pressure governments to improve, Rwanda is trying to create a new image of itself to the world by letting the actions on the ground speak for themselves. In the business of country branding, sometimes one’s left at the messy of others to report the truth or lie and portray positively or negatively. For Rwanda, the positive contributions to peace need writing, and that would counter the perpetual image of a violent society.

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