KIGALI — it’s 6.30 pm. I am walking along the road from the University of Rwanda Gikondo Campus on my way home. There’s the usual noise of the rush hour: voices of pedestrians, the whistle of policemen on duty, horns from cars and motorbikes, and harsh sounds from loaded lorries. In two kilometers or so away stands a domelike building. It is the spectacular Kigali Convention Center. Blue, yellow and green, colors of the Rwandan flag, are the lights rolling on its spiral structure. Since its opening in 2016, the KCC has held hundreds of conferences, including World Economic Forum and African Union Summit. Rwanda has a story to tell.
After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was stopped by the RPA, Rwandans have since driven reforms spearheaded by President Paul Kagame. There have been remarkable changes in the country; ranging from governance, diplomacy and business to education, agriculture and health sector.
Kagame has been president since 2000. He led an interim government until he was democratically elected in 2003. He is now serving his third term in office. There has been a fast economic growth over the fifteen years. According to the World Bank, Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from $1.846 billion in 2003 to $8.476 billion in 2016. The country’s development has been facilitated by Kagame’s leadership and courage. He walks the talk.
He is the chairman of the African Union, the position he assumed in 2018, after leading the bloc’s institutional reforms in 2017. In his first speech as chairman he said that Africa “must act now” to save itself from “permanent deprivation”.
Three agreements have since been signed by the African heads of state. The Single African Air Transport Market, Continental Free Trade Area and Free Movement of Persons treaty will help the continent’s development if member-states implement these projects. However, these agreements (and many other projects) will not be successful if leaders are not committed to implement them. At a number of meetings, Mr. Kagame has urged the political will.
The president never rests. Here is a simple but meaningful example: On July 2, Kagame was in Nouakchott, Mauritania for the African Union assembly. On July 4, he was at the 24th anniversary of Liberation Day in Muhanga, Rwanda. The next day, he attended the inauguration of Djibouti International Free Trade.
Africa needs visionary leaders, so does Rwanda. President Kagame is such a leader. On July 7, addressing graduates at the African Leadership University, ALU Kigali, he pointed out this need. “You are graduating as leaders of this century with the ability and capacity to deal with today’s challenges,” he said. By leaders, he means ambitious, hardworking and responsible citizens.
Besides Kagame, is Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs since 2009 and government spokesperson. She is one of the longest serving cabinet members. Her courage and outspokenness for the country’s image have strengthened Rwanda’s diplomatic relations. She is a member of the team dealing with AU reforms.
Kagame and Mushikiwabo advocate for cooperation of countries. In March, Minister Mushikiwabo presented her candidacy for the position of the Secretary General of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF), the organization of French-speaking countries. Her candidacy was backed by the French president Emmanuel Macron. All African member-states of the organization have endorsed the minister’s candidacy. She is likely to win.
Since we will not all be political leaders like Kagame and Mushikiwabo, at least we are responsible for the future of Rwanda. The courage and energy of the president and minister should be a lesson for Rwandan youth. We have heroes to emulate; all we need is open our eyes and take part in the development of our country and the African continent at large.