YEAR IN REVIEW : Rwanda in 2009: the year of great milestones

Since 1994, Rwanda has been registering commendable progress on all fronts of development, but the year 2009 has been an exception. The outcome of hard work, commitment and precise vision cannot be exhibited better.  Who would have ever imagined that Rwanda, described as a failed state after 1994, would evolve into a force to reckon with on the world scene? Few nations have indeed managed to rise from the ashes and stand firm but Rwanda’s case is unique in that the entire process is a result of the resilience and hard work of its people who have been facing a myriad of odds, including modest endowment with natural resources that would largely contribute to recovery.
Rwanda joined the common wealth this year.
Rwanda joined the common wealth this year.

Since 1994, Rwanda has been registering commendable progress on all fronts of development, but the year 2009 has been an exception. The outcome of hard work, commitment and precise vision cannot be exhibited better.  Who would have ever imagined that Rwanda, described as a failed state after 1994, would evolve into a force to reckon with on the world scene? Few nations have indeed managed to rise from the ashes and stand firm but Rwanda’s case is unique in that the entire process is a result of the resilience and hard work of its people who have been facing a myriad of odds, including modest endowment with natural resources that would largely contribute to recovery.

On the road towards recovery, Rwanda has been able to effectively defy many odds that some times made it look like the nation would give in and succumb to pressure, sliding back to anarchy.

Indeed ‘experts’ on global political matters were quick to release lengthy analyses detailing how under Rwanda’s circumstances it is difficult to experience full recovery because according to them, there were just too many forces pulling and therefore in no way can Rwanda avoid going ‘the Somalia way.’

Many people believed the so called experts except the Rwandans themselves. By employing a combination of homegrown solutions and meticulous methods of leadership, the world watched as we overcame huddle after huddle, leaving the prophets of doom awe-struck.

15 years later, the question is not whether Rwanda is capable of going back to 1994 situation but whether Rwanda will not be a middle-income nation by the year 2020.

As things stand, this is quite possible.
Perhaps the biggest milestone of all time is the fact that Rwandans are now a dignified and respected people. It is quite difficult to place a price on this one but there can’t be anything as valuable as dignity.

No nation can prosper when its people have issues with their dignity because this would affect their self esteem. 

Wherever they go, now Rwandans do command respect not only because they are no longer regarded as globe-trotting stateless people but because they originate from one of the very few nations that have been able to surpass common thinking and emerge from ruins at an unprecedented speed.

Once, one of the most insecure nations in the world, Rwanda is now the safest on the continent.

As we bid farewell to 2009, a year that I should say will go down in our memories as one of the most favourable years for our political, economic and social transformation, we can look back and be proud for all that we have managed to achieve.

Another milestone that we take into 2010 is the fact that we are now at peace with all our neighbours, including the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our being at peace with the Democratic Republic of Congo specifically carries more weight because of our long history of misunderstandings resulting from that country being haven for people bent on distracting us from our resolve not to go back to the dark days .

Being in good terms with that country means that now we can work together not only to solve our problems diplomatically but people from the two countries can now freely interact and trade without any suspicions.

Rwanda is now a full member of the East African Community and already the benefits of being part of a population of 130 million people and different economies are starting to show.

Rwanda held the chairmanship of the East African Heads of State Summit since June 2008 until 20th November this year. During that time, the ‘Rwandan touch’ was evident as most of the processes of the community started flowing at an unprecedented pace.

During the one year with Rwanda at the helm, a strategic retreat took was organized in Rwanda where all stakeholders in the community were had a common understanding on the way forward.

Apparently the retreat did instill new energy into the process implementers as they started to work on the implementation of the Customs Union and speeded up processes leading to the creation of a Common Market; two basic components of the union that will serve to improve inter-community trade and relations, thereby improving the lives of the people of the five nations.

But the biggest achievement was the elimination of the non-tariff barriers which was accelerated after then East African Investment Conference held in June in Kigali.

However, what put Rwanda in the global limelight was the accent to the Common Wealth of Nations. Before the meeting that unanimously decided that Rwanda actually had what it takes to be a member of the Commonwealth, the many detractors of our country came out strongly to try and score a milestone for themselves by having Rwanda discredited and bashed before the whole world so that they can make their point that Rwanda’s progress is actually a sham.

These detractors thought they had a chance this time around and gathered their voices and all other means that they could use from all corners of the world to try and convince members of the Commonwealth not to approve Rwanda.

Ostensibly, once their wishes were granted, their work would be made easier henceforth since they could now use the rejection of Rwanda as arsenal to advance their ill-will propaganda against Rwanda.

But then, actions indeed do speak louder than howls and Rwanda was unanimously admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations on the very grounds that the detractors had said that Rwanda lacked and hence should not be admitted.

They also came up with other theories afterwards concerning the reasons of Rwanda wanting to join the commonwealth. But Rwanda made it clear that her reasons are purely to seek for abundant opportunities available in the Commonwealth.

Their reasoning that Rwanda wanted to distance herself from France suffered a big blow when Rwanda and France embraced each other and decided to restore diplomatic ties.

The detractors suddenly found themselves without any more ammunition to fight their evil and meaningless war.  They gave Rwanda a break.

In September 2009, Rwanda was ranked in the top 20 global reformers in the Doing Business 2009 Report published by the World Bank.

It was the first time since Doing Business started tracking reforms that a Sub-Saharan African economy led the world in reforms.

Overall, Rwanda introduced reforms in 7 out of the 10 categories, rising from 143rd to 67th place on the ease of doing business rankings. With one of the fastest growing GDP rate, Rwanda is also reputed to have the best tax machinery in east and central Africa.

On the social scene, Rwanda did take East Africa by storm. For the first time, Rwanda was brought on board the Tusker Project Fame, a music talent reality show that was hitherto predominantly a Kenya-Uganda-Tanzania affair.

Three young Rwandan talents were chosen to take part and most East Africans were amazed as they realized that actually the Rwandan is home to rich talent as the three Rwandan contestants fitted quite well and progressed through the gruelling selection process.

At the end of the competition, a Rwandan, Alpha Rwirangira emerged the deserving winner.

As Rwandans were busy mourning about the failure of the national soccer team Amavubi’s failure to make it to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, a young Rwandan team consoled them by felling regional giants, including Zimbabwe and Tanzania, and made it to the finals.

Although the youngsters fell to Uganda, Rwandans were contented by the fact that they reached thus far, and now look ahead with enthusiasm again.

Before Rwandans could recover from their joyful emotions, another Rwandan, Cynthia Akazuba was crowned Miss East Africa. This happened as Rwandans were for the first time busy trying to decide who among the land’s young daughters is the fairest.

Now that we are past the most turbulent times of our political, economical and social struggles, it is time to focus, work hard because apparently there are still many turbulent times ahead and only commitment, hard work and our usual resilience can make us go around them and forge ahead. 

We hope that we will be able to achieve even more milestones during 2010.

Happy New Year.