Rwanda since the Genocide

Rwandan President Paul Kagame looked back over 20 years of development in his country since the 1994 genocide, and said that Rwanda had succeeded in restoring “life, hope and dignity to its people” – and that it could serve as an example to other developing countries in Africa and around the world. Speaking to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on Wednesday night, the Rwandan leader said: “If a country as severely damaged and geographically isolated as Rwanda can rise to its feet again, then it is possible to do the same in countries with less constrained circumstances.”

Some 800,000 people were killed in 100 days in 1994, as Hutu mobs slaughtered Tutsis and moderate Hutus before Kagame’s rebel forces put an end to the killings. “The genocide almost destroyed the nation of Rwanda… Twenty years ago, we sank to the very bottom,” said Kagame. At the time, many Rwandans saw their country “as a failed state”, and the past two decades has been a constant effort “to avert the total collapse of the state, rebuild the social fabric, create functioning institutions and build a sustainable economy.” Kagame’s recipe was to reestablish the rule of law, create a free market economy and to crack down hard on corruption. The government also had to “devise inventive ways to balance peace and justice”, to restore trust to the population, which after the genocide he said was “a daunting task.”

The results speak for themselves. “The economy has been growing between 7-8% for the last 10 years.” Rwanda is among the top 25 fastest-growing economies in the world, and the third most competitive country in Africa. Since 2006, 1 million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty. In addition to the economic statistics, Kagame cited a Gallup survey that said Rwanda was the safest country to live in on the African continent. He said that extensive investment in education and health care was paying off – literacy rates have increased now that the government gives 12 years of free schooling, and “the incidence of deaths from malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have been drastically reduced.”

To a question about security concerns and fears of outside interference, Kagame said international cooperation was the key, and he glossed over the conflict across Rwanda’s border in Congo.

When asked about where Rwanda would be in 20 years, and which African countries would be at the same level as Rwanda, Kagame said that he hoped the country would continue on its development arc, but he hoped that other countries in Africa would follow – eliciting applause from the audience. “I don’t want just Rwanda to prosper - I want all Africa to do well... if your neighbor is not well, at some point that will come back on you.”

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