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Rwanda and its ghosts

By Hakizimana Emmanuel

May 12, 2010

[Article translated from its original French version by Mamadou Kouyate. Only the French version shall prevail.]

The author has a doctorate in economics. He is specialist in international finance and a lecturer at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

During the controversial visit of Governor General Michaelle Jean in Rwanda, the journalist Agnes Gruda published a series of articles on this country in the newspaper La Presse.

The article titled "A country that runs faster than its ghosts" published on May 8, 2010 praises the economic development of Rwanda that president Paul Kagame and his supporters brandish as a success.

Mrs. Gruda writes: "10 years ago, the president [...] adopted his Vision 2020, a reform plan over 20 years aimed at making Rwanda a regional economic player in the foreground: An African version of Singapore with a touch of Silicone Valley.

But what is really Vision 2020? Before thinking at competing with Singapore, shouldn’t we ask ourselves how is Rwanda ranked compared to other African countries?

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) performed a mid-term review of the Vision 2020 and found a pretty disastrous situation: poverty is gaining ground and hits 62% of the Rwandan population in rural areas, while this proportion was 50% in 1990. Nearly a third of the Rwandan population suffers from food shortages and the gap between rich and poor has reached an unprecedented record that puts Rwanda in the top 15 percentile of the most unequal countries in the world.

In comparison with other African countries, Rwanda is a laggard for many crucial factors of economic development. For example, according to the data from the UNDP and the World Bank, life expectancy in Rwanda is 44 years, which is below the African average of 46 years. Less than 45% of children in Rwanda complete elementary school, while the average for sub-Saharan Africa is 60%.

The gross rate for secondary school enrollment is 17% compared to 28% for sub-Saharan Africa. In 2009, the overall ranking of countries by Human Development Index, which encompasses life expectancy, living standards and education levels, the UNDP puts Rwanda among the last fifteen countries worldwide, behind the majority of the thirty-eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In light of these data and knowing that Paul Kagame’s Rwanda is promoted by Western donors who provide a substantial assistance of $ 55 per capita nearly three times the African average of $ 20 per capita, the splendid Kigali City described by Mrs. Gruda has another face: the concentration of wealth and hoarding of the foreign aid in a tiny urban minority close to the current regime.

The absence of any trace of misery in Kigali City, unlike other African cities, is obtained at the cost of violating the rights of homeless and street children that are imprisoned for instance on the Iwawa island as this was revealed by the newspaper The New York Times on May 1, 2010.

Worse still, the contrast between the splendor of the city and the misery of the rural areas is the result of ethnic discrimination than is stronger than ever before, as evidenced by the story of captivity by Professor Susan Thomson of the University of Ottawa, in a reeducation camp in Rwanda, story found on her blog [“Democracy Watch - Rwanda 2010”].

One of the interlocutors of Mrs. Gruda, the Rwandan journalist Didas Gasana, confides that the Hutus, who comprise 84% of the Rwandan population, are almost totally excluded from power. They are considered collectively as "genocidaires".

The statistics speak for themselves about discrimination against the Hutus. Thus, the high command of the Rwandan army officer has a Hutu superior officer for every 1.59 million Hutu inhabitants compared to a Tutsi superior officer for every 34,600 Tutsi inhabitants.

Similarly, in Rwanda, there is a Hutu senior administrative official for every 500,000 Hutu inhabitants compared to a Tutsi senior administrative official for every 70,000 Tutsi inhabitants.

The Hutu orphans of the tragedy of 1994 are abandoned to their fate as opposed to Tutsi orphans who are supported by the assistance fund for genocide survivors. The slightest mention of the atrocities suffered by the Hutus is strongly repressed by vague laws on "divisionism" and "genocide ideology", which lead to arbitrary arrests.

Behind the make-up of urban modernity, Rwanda is more likely a volcano on the verge of an eruption rather than an island of prosperity in the midst of African poverty. This is the sad reality, no matter how unpleasant it may sound to the apologists of Paul Kagame’s regime.

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