In defence of Paul Kagame

| October 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

 

Rwandan High Commissioner Edda Mukabagwiza argues that President Paul Kagame has provided “vision, energy and direction in improving the overall business climate.”

Rwandan High Commissioner Edda Mukabagwiza argues that President Paul Kagame has provided “vision, energy and direction in improving the overall business climate.”

In response to an article that appeared in your summer edition, permit me to indicate where Rwanda stands today and where we are heading under the leadership of President Paul Kagame.
While your readers know the agony Rwanda and its people went through during the 1994 genocide, and how it shattered our political and economic infrastructure, Rwanda is now a changed nation, one offering hope to all its people for the future, peaceful coexistence, freedom, development and national harmony.
Overcoming the challenges presented by the genocide has been a collective effort by every Rwandan. Developing and improving institutions have also transformed us into a nation that is currently praised for its recovery and admired by many.
On her recent African tour, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Rwanda for being one of the African countries successfully diversifying its economy, creating jobs in different sectors and reducing poverty. Rwanda has launched a remarkable turnaround by replacing a stagnant economy with steady growth, a vibrant democracy, improved governance and decreased poverty.
Rwanda continues for the fourth year in a row to outperform many countries in making it easy for business start-ups. It moved up 12 positions in 2011 according to the World Bank’s latest Doing Business report, which measures 183 countries annually on how easy or difficult it is for local entrepreneurs to open and run their businesses. In 2011 alone, Rwanda introduced several initiatives, which means that it now takes an average of 24 hours to start a business compared to the 45-day average for the African continent.
My country is one of the safest and most transparent countries in Africa and has a president who does all he can to attract new businesses. Paul Kagame has provided vision, energy and direction in improving the overall business climate. A host of reforms have positioned Rwanda as an investment destination and attracted foreign investment in agriculture and telecommunications. We are seeking even more investors as we move towards fulfillment of our Vision 2020. Rwanda has joined larger economic groupings, including the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and most recently the Commonwealth of Nations.
Rwandans prefer to develop home-grown solutions to problems. Fully 96 percent of us, for example, have access to affordable and available health care.
On Rwanda’s relations with the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have seen a steady improvement since the two countries resumed diplomatic relations a few years ago. In 2009, the two governments initiated a joint operation aimed at uprooting the genocidal forces that are still at large in the jungles of the Eastern DRC. Having been victims of its hate, Rwandans know how destructive having a group like the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in one’s territory can be.
Despite abandonment by the international community during the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been at the forefront of numerous peacekeeping missions in recent years. We were among the first countries to respond to the call to deploy our troops in the troubled Darfur region. Since then, we have seen our deployments expand to Haiti, Liberia and Chad.
These endeavours and others are what make Rwanda unique. Seventeen years ago, nobody would have imagined Rwanda as a leader in gender parity in the world. Currently 56 percent of the seats in Parliament are held by women, making Rwanda the world leader in female democratic representation.
This progress, coupled with our president’s strict accountability, is what has made individuals such as writer Wolfgang Depner get it wrong. Mr. Depner’s assertion that President Kagame outlawed major political parties except his own ruling party to ensure re-election is simply wrong. Mr. Kagame stood against three strong and seasoned politicians in a race of four political parties.
Rwandans generally seem more than satisfied with where our nation is headed. We won’t allow ourselves to be distracted by bickering. Development is our lifeline and we won’t accept anything less. I would encourage anybody who wishes to observe where Rwanda stands to visit the country. You will return inspired by its progress.

Edda Mukabagwiza is Rwanda’s high commissioner to Canada.

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