In 1994, for a a period of 3 months, the world looked on as more than a million innocent people were killed simply because of who they were. This was the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. One man (Paul Kagame) at the helm of an outnumbered army (RPA: Rwandan Patriotic Army) decided to defy the odds and stepped in to stop the killings. In July 1994, the bloodthirsty government with their thug militia (Interahamawe) were defeated and driven out of the country. On their trail to exile in Congo (the then Zaire), they took with them over 3 million people, some followers of the genocide ideology and others used as human shield hostages.
The struggle to liberate Rwanda from killers and the genocidal regime was defeated when RPA marched into the streets of Kigali and a government of national unity formed. The country had been ruined beyond imagination. To so many, the task of designing and implementing the reconstruction plan was as gargantuan as landing a man to mars. Unprecedented challenges required unconventional approaches. Such bullish determination by the new leadership of Rwanda, that puts national interests first, attracted virulent criticism from so many in the west, whom for decades were not used to an African leadership daring to challenge their narrative on African perspective.
To succeed in the reconstruction of Rwanda, several stakeholders with differing expectations, outcomes and values had to be brought together under a clear vision of the nation. The process has not been an easy one. Rwanda’s relationship with some western development partners has at time been restrained but remains broadly excellent, thanks to the leadership in Kigali, to never yield even an inch in its development vision landscape, at the same time respecting international norms.
However, Rwanda is constantly criticised in the international media. The most malignant criticism comes from the HRW (Human Right Watch) which seems to deliberately refuse to acknowledge the tremendous progress Rwanda has made in promoting and protecting human rights despite unparalleled challenges she faced since the Genocide against the Tutsi. Nonetheless, for the past 28 years, Rwanda has evinced the will and the resolve to play significant role in getting to grips with global issues which could be discussed in three major points.
First, armed conflicts and terrorism in Africa. Rwanda has deliberately decided to be the spearhead, providing peacekeeping forces to the UNP (United Nations Peacekeeping missions). In Sudan, it is understood that the UN exceedingly counts upon Rwandan peacekeeping contingent to safely guard their operations across the concerned territories. From Sudan to Haiti to Central African Republic (CAR) to Mali, Rwanda’s peacekeeping missions are crucial. When armed rebels and militias came close to overthrow a legitimately elected government in CAR, through the bilateral agreement with Bangui government, Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) swiftly stepped in and restored order and a relative calm reign over the city and its surrounding areas.
In Mozambique, attacks have been reported in the districts of Palma, Mocimboa da Praia, Macomia, Nangade, Quissanga, Muidumbe, Meluco, Ancuabe, Metuge, Chiure Ibo, and Mueda, as well as the islands off the coast, in Cabo Delgado since late 2017. These attacks have links to islamist extremism. Outside of these zones, attacks might occur. Armed militants have carried out deadly attacks, including assaults on vehicles, using bombs, machetes, and weapons. The first incident for which Islamic State claimed credit was in June 2019. Numerous individuals were murdered in a significant attack on Palma in March/April 2021 that was also claimed by the Islamic State. Since mid-2022, Memba and Erati districts have also seen attacks by groups with ties to islamist extremism. At the request of Mozambican government, Rwanda agreed to send troops into Cabo Delgado area.
The terrorists, known locally as Al Shabaab, tried to ambuscade Rwandan troops, but RDF’s troops do counterattack with excellent success, outperforming by far other forces in the country (Mozambique), according to independent observers, such as Cabo Ligado which additionally postulates that people in Mozambique exhibits visible adoration to Rwandan troops.
Second, protection against COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 outbreak has re-emphasised the impact of inequality across the world and the vulnerability of the human species. Having ascertained all facts behind lack of adequate vaccination against COVID-19, Rwanda has embarked on a noble mission. Working with international NGOs, Corporations and different governments’ initiatives, the Rwandan government speared by HE Paul Kagame, is set to see COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in Africa and Rwanda in particular. This will allow African health systems to appropriately procure vaccines as needed.
Third, international migration (illegal migration) and Human trafficking. Illegal immigration is the movement of persons into a country in violation of that nation’s immigration laws or their continuing abode there without a valid visa. Illegal immigration typically moves upward in terms of wealth, from poorer to richer nations. Illegal residents in another nation run the risk of being detained, expatriated, or subject to other penalties.
The conflict in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and poverty across the sub-Saharan Africa, have for a considerable time, been the major factors pushing a wave of immigration into Europe. Following the collapse of Gaddafi regime in Libya, mayhem reigns over the country. Black immigrants stranded on their way to Europe to try their luck there, were subjected to horrid treatment including slavery. Espying such mistreatments, the Rwandan government stepped up and offered a relief solution the international community through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), whereby migrants in Libya are relocated to Rwanda, whilst the UNHCR finds suitable settlement on case-by-case basis.
Europe continues to grapple with the issue of illegal migration. The stable political systems that Europeans have been accustomed to for decades are at risk in some countries as anti-immigration sentiments fuel the rise of fascists and extreme political parties. The United Kingdom (UK), appears to be most attractive place for migrants. Most analysts attribute such attraction to the flexibility of British economy, openness, tolerance of the British people and the fact that Britain used to rule almost the entire world through its empire. The UK pollical class has for some time wrestled with challenge of bringing immigration to levels British people would comfortably live with. All kinds of ideas, manifestos and legislations have been tried in vain.
Recently, the UK government under Prime Minster Boris Johnson, approached Rwanda in search for possible solution to the problem of illegal migration. An economic development partnership agreement between Rwanda and the UK was signed in April this year. Under the agreement, all illegally arriving migrants in the UK would be sent to Rwanda where their cases will be assessed. Those who qualify for asylum or protection will be settled in Rwanda. In return, the UK will provide economic assistance to meet their needs.
This initiative met considerable opposition from civil society (Human rights organisations), and the opposition parties including His Majesty official opposition; Labour party. A battalion of lawyers is busy filing court cases against the Home Office with the aim of stopping deportation planes to Kigali taking off and hope for the plan to kill off the agreement all together. Some of the arguments advanced by the opponents to the UK-Rwanda migration deal, is “Rwanda human rights record”.
The recent High court verdict, which clears the Home Office and reinforces that the UK is right and proper to engage in such a deal, is also a vindication of Rwanda and an indication that the leadership and able and willing to bring about necessary reforms for the good of its people and humanity as a whole.
The country has come a long way from the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. The remarkable achievements despite continuous challenges, are signals that Rwanda can be respected, trusted and relied up on to play an incredible role in tackling global issues.