As happens every year, that report on failed states is out again and as perplexed and perplexing as before.
Rwanda is not among the top league of failed states all right – the likes of Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad, D. R. Congo and even Kenya are there to jostle for such ranks – but I take offence at the temerity of some armchair ‘researchers’ who sit in their caffeine-filled offices in the West and make pronouncements on who is failing and who is not.
In its words, the Failed States Index (FSI) “focuses on the indicators of risk and is based on thousands of articles and reports that are possessed by our CAST software from electronically available sources”.
Whether they are thousands or millions, what can articles and reports tell anybody about the livelihood of a people, even if “electronically available”? We know, for instance, that articles and reports on Rwanda are about its ‘ethnic and genocide’ past and no one is interested in knowing what Rwandans are “reporting” today.
So, out of 177 countries in the world, Rwanda is placed at 45th position, being at more risk than all of 26 African countries that include Equatorial Guinea, whose president is richer than its combined population of 300,000!
Anyway, what indicators do these idle characters at FSI use to show that we are failing?
1. Mounting demographic pressures: true, our land is overpopulated, but isn’t that why the development of our economy is human-resource based? In fact, once equipped with knowledge, our population will be an indicator of our strength.
2. Massive movement of refugees or internally displaced persons creating complex humanitarian emergencies: well, do these chaps know the opposite of unity and reconciliation? If FSI wants a lesson in harmonious co-existence, Rwanda is glaringly there for it.
3. Legacy of vengeance-seeking, group grievance or group paranoia: there is no doubt that, without focused leadership, some Rwandans would have descended into avenging past injustices. However, Rwanda has left that past behind and is decidedly set for a future of togetherness.
4. Chronic and sustained human flight: sure, Rwanda is not without a Diaspora but the leadership, true to its creative form, has turned ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain retain’ by harnessing that Diaspora. In or outside the country, Rwandans contribute equally to their country’s development. In fact, not only Rwandans, as Tony Blair would hasten to tell FSI anytime!
5. Uneven economic development along group lines: again, unknown in Rwanda. Access to education, health, jobs, etc. is open to all and is by merit. All forms of segregation and exclusion are dead and were buried with the Habyarimana regime and the vampire regimes before him.
6. Sharp and/or severe economic decline: per capita income may be low, but 15 years of positive growth give Rwandans the hope that the future will be better. With its emphasis on trade and investment in an environment of clean and transparent management, the Rwandan leadership is sure to oversee a country of continually improved fortunes.
7. Criminalisation and/or de-legitimisation of the state: with a clean and accountable leadership that enjoys popular support, Rwanda is the envy of many a country. Corruption, clique-formation, civil misbehaviour and disaffection are alien to Rwandans.
8. Progressive deterioration of public services: the Rwanda government is renowned as a government of the people. Essential services like health, education, sanitation, public transport, etc. are available to a citizen in the remotest part of the country.
9. Suspension or arbitrary application of the rule of law and widespread violation of human rights: in Rwanda, legal and social rights of individuals, groups or cultural institutions are sacrosanct. There is no abuse of any form in the name of politics.
10. Security apparatus operates as a “State within a State”: this is unknown in Rwanda, where all institutions work in harmony. In fact, this institutional harmony exists even in political parties, to the extent that the West sees it as lack of ‘political space’.
11. Rise of factionalised elites: also, alien to Rwanda. The reverse has been the case, where fragmented groups and institutions have been premised on strong foundations so as to eradicate the use of nationalistic political rhetoric and, instead, build national solidarity.
12. Intervention of other states or external political actors: yes, guilty as charged. Outside groups, countries and agencies, especially donors, have definitely attempted to dictate terms but in Rwanda they’ve found a country that can stand against the strongest of the bully boys.
So, with none of their twelve indicators holding any water, where do these hobos stand to pronounce the judgement that Rwanda is anywhere near being a failed state? Personally, I see no reason why they should not place it in the elite group of countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
All said and done, however, it does not matter what others think. It matters that we know that we draw our strength from upholding our dignity. Our state is as strong as they come.