President Paul Kagame becomes our ‘Star’ for 2017 having taken a middle-income nation far.
President Paul Kagame is AfricaWorld Man of the Year 2017
“Our economy, our security, the well-being of Rwandans and the peaceful elections that brought us all together; these are all achievements that marked the past year,” President Kagame said in his brief televised End-of-Year speech marking the beginning of the year 2018.
Joining other eminent personalities who have won AFRICAWORLD MAN OF THE YEAR, President Paul Kagame becomes our ‘Star’ for 2017 having taken a middle-income nation far.
President Kagame was born on 23rd October 1957 in Rwanda to a Tutsi family believed to have royal links. Maternally, he descended from the last Rwandan Queen and the father had links to King Mutara III. King Mutara III Rudahigwa was Rwanda’s monarch between 1931 and 1959. He was the first Rwandan king to be baptized, thus establishing Roman Catholicism in Rwanda during his reign.
His family fled to Uganda after crises engulfed post independence Rwanda. With his family in exile, his early education started near a refugee camp before moving to the Rwengoro Primary School, then Ntare School where he excelled. The loss of his father in the 1970s affected his academic performance and pursuit.
While in Uganda, Paul Kagame enrolled at Makerere University in Kampala, before joining Yoweri Museveni forces, which toppled President Milton Obote in 1986. Gaining a reputation for incorruptibility and severity by enforcing a stringent code of behavior, Kagame was appointed Museveni’s chief of intelligence in the Uganda Bush war. While in exile, many Tutsi in Uganda never felt at home due to the resentment from natives. As such Kagame led other exiles to form
Rwandan Patriot Front (Front Patriotique Rwandais; FPR) and plotted an invasion of their homeland. In 1990, Kagame went for further studies at the United States Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was during this period that an attempted invasion, mostly involving his cadres and Tutsi veterans of the Ugandan army was undertaken and repulsed, leading to the death of senior FPR Commanders. As a matter of fact, Paul Kagame came back and took command of the civil war, which was halted in an August 1993 peace agreement that promised power sharing, but never implemented.
Genocide and Rwanda Rebirth
The death of Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, in early April 1994 sparked genocide against the minority Tutsi and moderate Hutu. Habyarimana was killed when the aircraft in which he travelled was shot down over Kigali, and 'hell was let loose'. It took Paul Kagame's force of 14,000 FPR soldiers against the Hutu forces involved in the killing spree. According to a public commentator, "By eschewing direct assaults and utilizing protracted artillery attacks on enemy strongholds, Kagame’s forces were able to minimize casualties and retake the capital, Kigali, in early July". Although it was too late as genocide was rife, having taken more than 750,000 lives. However, FPR formed a new central government that had a Hutu, Pasteur Bizimungu as president. Having brought calm to Rwanda while the world ignored, Paul Kagame, at a young age of 37, became vice president and minister of defense. The National Assembly elected him president of Rwanda’s transitional government in 2000, thus paving way for the rebirth of Rwanda.
The accelerated progress made by President Paul Kagame is drumming up encomiums far and wide, even drowning sporadic voices of criticism to his policies for a new Rwanda. From security and conflict resolution, promoting agriculture and animal husbandry, infrastructure, science and technology and more, it has been from one success story to another. And these key areas form the cornerstone for the party (RPF) economic blueprint for Rwanda.
According to the ruling party, Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi, the economic progress of the past years are a result of the citizen being the nucleus of the country’s economic plans. “The party’s primary objective is to promote the welfare of every Rwandan, as is evident in various programs such as Vision 2020 and in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS)”, states the party’s manifesto.
In looking at what he has achieved since bringing stability to Rwanda, many will be impressed. His government takes credit for a growing and stable economy. Rwanda grew by 45.6 per cent from $5.77 billion in 2010 to $8.4 billion in 2016, and this has reduced poverty tremendously. Catalysts to this economic rise include, the strong GDP growth, the country’s commitment to reforms and good business environment. The implementation of the strategy to raise services, productivity and diversification also counts. Rwanda has effectively integrated into regional projects, thus expanding and linking-up for labour and capital in the East African markets. According to official data, over one million people have been lifted out of poverty, and lifespan increase.
Rwanda invested significantly in cheaper sources of energy to boost industries and bring down the tariffs. In further aid to help manufacturers’ products remain competitive, government has continued to subsidize electricity costs.
Jean Claude Kalisa, electricity utility corporation ltd managing director said the subsidies have helped bring down the power costs from $0.27 per kilowatt-hour to $0.11 for manufacturers.
Rwanda’s growth in agriculture and animal husbandry extend to the consolidation of land so farmers can grow the crops and rear livestock best suited for its soil in different part of the country. The result of this key reform is more income for families and increased food productivity. More so, the continuous supply of quality fertilizer has improved the fertility of weary plots of land and reduces food import bills.
The Rwandan government also targets their nation becoming a hub for IT and tech industries in East Africa. A nationwide fibre optic infrastructure ensured secure connectivity to e-health, e-governance, tourism, environment and smart agriculture.
Attracting foreign investment and capital
Industry players in Rwanda and beyond believe the appetite for credit to fund businesses is set to increase as the Kagame government domestic borrowing reduces, non-performing loans improve and lending costs diminish. With his travels around the globe's finance centres and parley with Captains of industry, investor confidence is renewed.
Strengthening the private sector
According to President Paul Kagame, elevating the role of the private sector through trade, industry, craft, tourism and investment is key to making enormous progress. True to that, sectors that needed reforms and expertise were liberalized and strengthened for growth.
Sustainable peace and conflict resolution
As a true leader, President Paul Kagame sought deep programs and national dialogue for sustainable peace. Umushyikirano and Umuganda are key programs that set examples.
Umushyikirano brings together over 1000 Rwandan leaders and members of the diaspora. Umuganda means ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’ while Umushyikirano translates to a meeting where participants are able to exchange ideas, share experiences and question each other. Today Umushyikirano is known as the National Dialogue Council. These national programs help a lot in the drive for reconciliation looking back at the scars of the 1994 genocide.
Women in leadership
As an African proverb says, "Train a woman, and you train a community", Kagame's Rwanda has sought to enlighten his people and invest in human abilities.
Rwanda was ranked highest country in the world with most women in parliament as of January 2017, and this national policy and behaviour has helped a lot.
President Paul Kagame has distinguished himself as an African leader, looking at what was Rwanda after the genocide. His Vision 2020 prioritizes national development, notwithstanding Rwanda as a middle-income country. His influence has grown beyond Africa as he tirelessly advocates a homegrown solution to the continent’s myriad of problems. Adding to his task of reforming the African Union so it will be financially independent, he has set up motion for debates on the continent’s socio-political and cultural future.
President Paul Kagame is married to Jeannette Kagame, and they have children: Ange Kagame, Ivan Cyomoro Kagame, Brian Kagame and Ian Kagame.
Ukachukwu Okorie is the editor-in-chief, AfricaWorld News Dublin.