Rwandans should proclaim at the mountaintops that these are the good days, in spite of what anyone may say. This is because no one else will say it for them, even if the number of know-alls about the country grows by the day. These know-alls come with a mindset that is decidedly unbending and unwilling to appreciate anything good on the African continent.
For instance, in an edition of the ‘Newsweek’ magazine a few weeks ago, the magazine’s internationally recognised Silvia Spring points to the good developments in Rwanda, then turns round to paint a picture of a country with prospects so bleak that you’d think it is on the brink of collapse. How she chooses to report on a country that she seems not to have even once visited is anyone’s guess.
I am further baffled by the fact that she uses notes from her colleague, Mr. Scott Johnson, whom she purports to be based in Kigali. I say ‘purports’ because I know Mr. Johnson to be for long based in Baghdad as a respected ‘Newsweek’ reporter, and a man who goes for the hard facts and has the spine to say them himself.
Anyway, in the article, Ms Spring acknowledges the gigantic steps Rwanda has achieved in her recovery from the genocide of 1994. She recognises the facts: that the country’s reconstruction is well underway; that GDP has grown at a steady 6 per cent; that the household poverty rate has dropped from 70 to below 60 per cent; and that the Ibrahim Index has rightly mentioned Rwanda as the most improved sub-Saharan country over the past five years. ….
Just to remind you, the Ibrahim Index of African Governance is a ranking of sub-Saharan African nations according to governance quality. It uses a very comprehensive, objective and quantifiable method of measuring, and considers five key areas: safety and security; rule of law, transparency and corruption control; participation and human rights; sustainable economic development; and human development. ….
Yet, in a bizarre twist of her own acknowledgement, Ms Spring unabashedly avers that these internationally recognised positive attributes are apparent only to the outsider! Inside the country, she states with a straight face, “anyone who tries to incite Rwandans to genocide” faces the death penalty. She heaps every evil on President Paul Kagame, including the accusation that journalists “have been beaten, driven into exile and jailed” just for publishing bad photos!
It gets even more bizarre, to the point that repeating her allegations here is tantamount to mouthing blatant lies! Suffice it to say that anybody who does not know that Rwanda has abolished the death penalty, with President Kagame last August receiving the ‘Abolitionist of the Year 2007 Award’ in Rome on behalf of Rwandans, is not worthy of the title of ‘reporter of international repute’.
Moreover, harping on “the media is harassed” refrain, when organisations like ‘Amnesty International’ and ‘Reporters without Borders’ have consistently failed to pinpoint any case of reporter-harassment, is defending a misguided cause.
However, she does not stop there. Indeed, she goes over the edge by accusing the government of Rwanda and President Kagame of restricting information. We know that whoever has the slightest knowledge of Rwanda and her president will know that their pursuit of human resource development and a knowledge-based economy verges on obsession.
In fact, Ms Spring admits as much when she says: “Kagame’s Vision 2020 plan aims to raise incomes and reduce the percentage of the population relying on agriculture by making Rwanda an IT services hub…” Never mind that, like so many of the other reporters, she talks of President Kagame as representing a self-entity, not the people of Rwanda – Rwandans should by now be used to that.
As to her claims, it is a well-known fact that Rwanda ranks among the top African countries that have developed a comprehensive set of ICT policies and strategies. The objective of these policies for Rwanda is to transform into an information and knowledge-based economy. So, how can anybody talk of restrictions in such an environment? Information dissemination and information restriction would make for very strange bedfellows, if you ask me!
Ms Spring says donors and investors will soon turn their backs on Rwanda. I think there is no need to state the obvious here, which is that budget support from development partners has multiplied more than fivefold, over the last thirteen years. Foreign direct investment has equally registered impressive growth, exceeding even the $ 30 million that Ms Spring quotes.
To say that these foreign development partners are “getting the jitters” is to sink into wishful thinking. I know Rwandans as a people who do not bank on the idea of being dependent on anybody as a long-term enterprise, but they are appreciative of a helping hand where it is tendered, and they are not ashamed to say it.
In her conclusion, Ms Spring predictably meanders into the all-too-familiar murky mire of “Tutsi elite” and “Hutu majority”, as peddled all over the Internet by agents of the genocidaire opposition groups ensconced in foreign capitals. There is no doubt as to why this is a favourite song of the genocidaires: to rationalise the crime of genocide. The least a Western reporter wants is to fall prey to their machinations.
Suppose Ms Silvia Spring were asked to point out a member of the “Tutsi elite” or a member of the “Hutu majority” on the streets of Kigali, would she? Maybe she would be interested in knowing that even her cousins of the colonial days found out, to their disappointment, that measurements of the nose and counting cattle came to naught. Even the infamous genocidaires relied more on the identity card than their naked eye, to identify Tutsi neighbours for the 1994 slaughter.
While Rwanda is busy consolidating her peace and stability, her rule of law and observance of human rights, she can do without a media that relies on tired stereotypes. Look at her socio-economic growth, her efforts at fighting corruption and mismanagement and look at her record-breaking performance in gender balance, and you will appreciate that Rwanda has come a really, really long way in a mere dozen years. The least we in the media can do is cheer her on!