The Cost of Resilience – a Rwandan Perspective


by Eunice Kayitare and Ivy Tirok, United World College Maastricht
May 2nd, 2018


[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

My country, Rwanda, has been known as a war zone; a hateful nation; a trouble spot for a long time. Having had a history of genocide based on “ethnic” groups which was fueled by the ideology of Belgian colonizers, the union of Rwandans as a people was destroyed. By mere factors such as physical appearance, 1 million Tutsis were massacred within one hundred days. If I was tasked with discussing this atrocity, it would take me more than a day and tear me apart in the end.
a
Although this may seem as a catastrophe that befell us, it is in contrary, a pillar that holds Rwanda together as a country making its way out of poverty; an uneasy transition which is taking less time compared to other countries which have endured similar tragedies. This sounds ironic but view it as “understanding the meaning of sweetness having tasted that which is bitter”.
a
The struggle of rebuilding a country that recently recovered from the harm of genocide was not an easy task for the government, the people nor their hearts. I cannot describe the feeling of living peacefully next to the murderer of your family and working together to restore your country to its former glory. Having the same man who put an end to the life of your mother’s family visit occasionally and sit at the same table with you- that; it’s beyond words. This spirit makes me proud to be Rwandan.
a
I attribute all the positive changes that Rwanda is experiencing to good governance, that has greatly been promoted by the honourable president, Paul Kagame. Besides contributing to the end of the genocide, he has significantly boosted the country’s economy. Many, especially the “western world”, may view him as a dictator that is allegedly interested in gaining power for his own good. It is true that he has been president for 15 years to date (since 2003). However, that does not qualify him as a dictator. It was the majority’s choice. The Rwandan population asked for a referendum to change the constitution in order to allow for a third presidential term. The results were astonishing with 98% of voters voting in favor of extending his presidency until 2034.
a
During the 2017 presidential elections, Paul Kagame won the election with 98% of the votes; and this marked the beginning of his third term. Undoubtedly, one may question the extraordinarily high number of votes in favour of one candidate set against two other qualified candidates. I was in Rwanda during the August elections and the multitude of people who attended his campaigns was astonishing. Whether critics claim that the polls were rigged or not, one thing is certain- his popularity remains higher than any of his opponents.

 

[/aesop_content]

[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” width=”600px” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”left” innerposition=”0px, 0px, auto, auto” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]


Paul Kagame introduced the national motto “Unity, Work and Patriotism”, with self-reliance (“Kwigira” in Kinyarwanda) being central to the meaning. This was in view to motivate Rwandans to rely on themselves for their development.


 

[/aesop_content]

[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]In view of maintaining a growing economy, the Rwandan government has zero tolerance for corruption or policy breaching. The more recent and popular pieces of legislation include the ban on plastic bags and second-hand clothes. Failure to abide by them results in penalties such as payment of high fines as well as serving jail time. As a result of the ban on plastic bags along with other measures, Rwanda has been classified as one of the cleanest countries in Africa. Consequently, there has been an increased number of foreign direct investments to the country. Although the policy has its challenges such as difficulty in packaging while trading with countries that lack similar legislation, the benefits outweigh the setbacks. If you intend on visiting Rwanda, save yourself the trouble and leave all plastic bags behind.
a
On the other hand, the impact of the recent ban on second-hand clothing has left an indelible mark on the Rwandan people. Keep in mind that Rwanda falls under the category of developing countries, thus, majority of its population cannot afford new, let alone designer clothing. As such, there is great reliance on used clothes which are donated rather “dumped” by western countries, in particular, the United States of America. These clothes are in decent condition but they are certainly not dignifying to wear. As a result of the ban, President Donald Trump withdrew Rwanda from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a platform which allows the reduction of taxes on exports from African countries to the USA. This was a tough call for the local government but President Kagame stood by his decision which was fueled by the Rwandan value of self-reliance. “It is very disrespectful to penalize a country by the mere fact that it refused to use your used clothes. We as Rwandans will not accept such inconsideration,” said Paul Kagame. I believe that the entirety of this problem is rooted in a global poverty system that we all take part in. Unable to see the manipulation we are involved in, we hinder the opportunity for growth of local entrepreneurs.
a
Surely growing up and learning how to walk independently involves falling down. Nevertheless, as a country, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure a better reality for the future generation of e the Rwandan people.

[/aesop_content]

426 views