Rwanda has come a long way since the genocide.
Paul Kagame has won the 2017 Rwandan Presidential Election, garnering a whopping 98% of the vote. His opponents are crying foul once again, saying massive intimidation and voter suppression once again handed Kagame the victory. This continues his iron rule over the country that he has presided over since 1994, when his rebel forces took control of the capital Kigali to end the Rwandan Genocide. Kagame, a Tutsi military leader, managed to lead his rebels through the country to stop the genocide (which was against Tutsis). However, since taking over, Kagame continued the actions of dictators past and suppressed many freedoms of the people.
With his iron fist rule and suppression of voters for the opposition, why then do I call him benevolent? Since Paul Kagame took control in 1994, he has unified the once very divided nation. Rwanda was from shambles as a result the most brutally efficient genocide in history, killing nearly 1,000,000 Tutsis, Twa, and moderate Hutus in the span of 100 days. Kagame took power and immediately unified the country by building a coalition with some Hutu leaders. This allowed a unifying “sharing of power” to preside over the country.
Kagame also liberalized the economy creating unprecedented growth in the once failed state. Currently, using Singapore and South Korea as his models, Rwanda is growing at an unprecedented 7% a year in GDP growth. Today the people enjoy of one of the highest standards of living in Africa — south of the Sahara and north of the Southern African Customs Union.
It is this economic growth and liberalization that has kept Kagame sufficient by Western standards. The United States and European Union are close to the Kagame regime in Rwanda. The leaders of the West are most likely breathing a sigh of relief that Kagame’s policies will continue, even if it means turning our backs to our own values of free and fair elections. For Rwanda, economic growth will most likely continue as Kagame will continue his economic policies.
If this can continue, Kagame is most likely safe for now as the people will have increased standards of living — hopefully providing an economic model for other countries in Africa. However, suppression of the opposition is also likely to continue for the small mountainous nation. This could bring with it a whole host of other issues, but that can has been kicked down the road for now with Kagame’s supposed “mandate” in today’s election.
Follow this author on Twitter: @SamDemands