By Simbowo Antony EAC Coordinator- East Africa
The Rwanda genocide of the 1994 where Hutu militias known as the Interahamwe ruthlessly butchered their Tutsi brothers left many wondering and asking many questions as to the relevance and influence of ethnicity in today’s world. Many lost their brothers, mothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, guardians and other relatives in the spine-chilling, cold blooded massacre which unfortunately for the then endangered Rwandans, did not elicit a positive response from the international community. Socially miscreant dimwits used radio stations to propagate ethnic propaganda as the machete-armed Hutu mercenaries marauding prowled the villages, estates, roads and fields hunting down their Tutsi brothers akin to the way predators scrounge for their prey.
The African brotherhood was thrown to the dungeon gutters of myopic ethnicism. Many escaped abroad to neighbouring countries, Europe and America. Yet many others in their bid to escape were breathlessly tracked down by the Interahamwe, caught and heartlessly butchered under the presence of the Belgian, French and other international troops working under umbrella of the UN authorities.
Rwanda ceased to be a country but an amalgamation of the Hutu and the Tutsi with a section of the Hutu seeing themselves as superior to their erstwhile brothers who they scornfully and jeeringly referred to as “cockroaches”. The United Nations, the United States, the European Union all admitted to their callous handling of the entire genocide perpetration in Rwanda.
The Rwandan economy deteriorated, its tourism collapsed, as the wealthy sponsors of the heinous ethnic cleansing conflict took to their heels in first class planes to pompous exile. Many were psychosocially and economically scarred looking to a future with no one to cry to but God. Homeless, clothe-less, foodless and stripped of their human dignity, the Rwandans were made refugees in their own continent. They were an anathema, outcasts in their own country.
Ten years later, the Rwandese President, Paul Kagame, a visionary lieutenant of African renaissance is rebuilding the country from the rubbles of ethnic miasma. President Kagame, who viciously condemned the negative portrayal of Africa in the international and Western media during the 52nd International Press Institute General Assembly and International Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, has never rested in efforts to see his country receiving its fair share of global trade and excelling in their development aspirations.
Due to his relentless development-focused efforts, Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product is currently encroaching on the 6% plus margins, with heavy foreign direct investment to the nation once seen as a negative icon of bigotry in Africa. To ensure that the genocide suspects were fairly and decidedly tried, he introduced traditional court systems known as the ‘Gacaca’, where the villagers and other genocide survivors identified and condemned the suspects to imprisonment and community service depending on their degree of involvement in the genocide barbarity.
Foreign tourists are now flocking Rwanda in their droves, with substantial foreign exchange flowing into Rwanda from the same. The industry and infrastructure in Rwanda has undergone and is still is undergoing a massive transformation with good roads and air transport systems getting their leeway in the central African state. The development of Rwanda’s flagship air carrier Rwanda Airlines (Rwandair) has gone a long way in improving cross boundary trade between the country and the external world.
The country is also experiencing an influx of expatriates moving in to offer their expertise as teachers, engineers, architects, development consultants as well as research scientists among other professionals. This has seen Rwanda’s professional sectors growing at unprecedented rates contrary to doomsayers who predicted a collapse of the country’s economic fabric. Moreover, President Kagame banned the use of tribal epithets within the nation such that everyone refers to each other as Banyarwanda and not as Tutsi or as Hutu.
Indeed, President Kagame is setting standards for other African leaders by showing that nothing can ever stop them from making their nations the best that they can be. With positive coverage by the African media, Rwanda has shown that a positive image is a vital aspect of development and thus the same should be done for Africa by the international media if investors are to flock to the continent and help shape its destiny.
As it struggles to introduce English as one of the national languages, Rwanda has proved all negative critics wrong. Africa is not just about wars, poverty, famine and hunger but also about good and visionary leadership, better management of resources and cultural ingenuity. Let the critics expect more where Rwanda came from. The positive story in Africa will not certainly end with the Rwandan success.