Rwanda is a landlocked country of about 12.5 million people in East Africa. Rwanda emerged from one of the most disturbing events in modern history; a genocide. This genocide almost brought the country to its heels in 1994. Prompted by the two major tribes in the country, the Hutus and the Tutsis, over 800,000 lives were lost in the 100-day slaughter. Rwanda’s situation is not particularly unique. Other African countries have faced the same tribal conflicts; Nigeria’s Igbo tribe have been in conflict with the Fulani herdsmen in Northern Nigeria. In 1967-1970, Eastern Nigeria attempted to declare itself an independent state over the killings of the Christian Igbos. And in this war against the Islamic Fulani men, a million people perished. It seems as though the threat of tribal conflict may always loom over African countries, a legacy that Western imperialism has left on the continent. Tribes that did not particularly like each other were forced together for economic gains and the consequence of that have been intertribal wars over power and resources.
Even in light of these setbacks, Rwanda seems to have managed to temper the effects of the conflict. Rwanda is now one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and a major export of coffee and tea. Coffee makes up for about 50 percent to 80 percent of their total export. To a large extent the country has been stabilized, and the threat of tribal war that looms over most African countries seems to have abated. Yet, there are humanitarians who question Paul Kagame’s legitimacy as President and regard him as an authoritarian. President Kagame has been in power for about 20 years. Perhaps he could be afforded some leniency because he did not exactly inherit a stable country, and a fragile state like Rwanda needs a benevolent yet strong hand. It is not always the case that dictators work out for the country, hence the apprehension surrounding President Kagame’s extended time in office is understandable. Yet, during his tenure, he has managed to pull Rwanda out of crisis and is leading a path toward economic sustainability. Perhaps he might be the only dictator that needs a different level of scrutiny, a gentle scrutiny. Scrutiny that is based on what he has done and not focused on his title as a dictator.
Rwanda has come far, and still has a long way to go, like most countries in Africa. Rwanda still has a very low per capita income. Rwanda is landlocked and do not have too many resources to export. Like most African countries, they depend on the few raw materials they export, and those raw materials’ prices are dependent on the West who profit more because they are industrialized. Perhaps, Rwanda, and other African countries would do better if they were able to industrialize in the near future.
Even though Rwanda’s problems are deep and difficult, there are still some positive aspects to look at. The countries growth from 20 years ago is commendable.