Rwanda? A failing state? The record speaks for itself

It’s been an interesting week for anyone interested in all things Rwanda. On Monday Victoire Ingabire’s criminal trial on charges of funding terrorism, attempting to cause state insecurity and genocide ideology was supposed to begin after being postponed for almost a month. However, I, along with the massed crowd of journalists, were disappointed to discovery that we’d have to wait till September 5th to observe the Rwandan ‘Trial of the Century’. Although the Prosecution was ready to try, the defence team and an impassioned Ingabire told the court that they needed more time to prepare their defence. Quite an anti-climax in my opinion.

But as soon as I put that controversial case to rest, temporarily at least, I was broadsided by a Fund for Peace report called ‘The Failed State Index 2011’. Going through the report, which to be honest, was barely a page long, I was shocked to find that Rwanda was deemed a state in, and I quote, “in danger”. I assume they meant a state ‘in danger’ of being deemed a failure. Our ranking, 36, is nothing but a slap in the face of us all. Especially when countries such as Bahrain, Libya and the West Bank (although not a country, it was lumped with Israel) were better ranked.

I’ve railed against reports time and time again and to be honest, I’m getting tired of spouting the same arguments that these reports are ‘unfair, lacking relevant facts, unhelpful, biased and based on methodology that is suspect’. But again, I must.

The Index based its ranking on these indicators; demographic pressure, refugees/internally displaced persons, group grievances, human flight, uneven development, economic decline, legitimacy of the state, public services, human rights, security apparatus, fractionalized elites and external intervention. As in any discussion, there must be a riposte for every argument made by the opposing side. The Fund for Peace has made its arguments, and although I’m loath to call myself any kind of spokesperson for the Rwandan government, I would like to reply to them using this humble forum, The New Times.

Let’s start with the ‘demographic pressure’ issue. While it’s a fact that Rwanda has one of the highest population densities in the world, to call it a symptom of ‘failed state’ status is misleading. Is the Fund for Peace equating population density with unstable government? If our high density (380 people per square kilometer) is an issue, then why isn’t it an issue in Holland (which has 4o2 people people per square kilometer and is still ranked 166)?Looking at the demographics, and not the people that make up the demographics is unfortunate. In Rwanda we believe that the greatest resource that the country has its people. Rwandans aren’t causes of instability but rather resources that will help the nation fulfill its destiny.

The issue of refugees/internally displaced people is almost null and void in my opinion. First of all, Rwanda doesn’t have internally displaced people. Secondly, its been on news for awhile now that the UN High Commission for Refugees is debating invoking the Cessation Clause at the end of this year, which will remove the word ‘Rwandan refugee’ from the international lexicon.

I cannot comment on each and every indicator but I shall comment on two more indicators; public services and economic decline. The fact of the matter is that public services such as roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, optic fibre networks have hugely increased over the last few years. Just one indicator. From 1964 to  1994, Rwanda produced 1,900 graduates. Today, the National University of Rwanda is home to 8,000 students. If that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is. To call Rwanda’s economy one in ‘decline’ is foolhardy. You can’t argue with these statistics: Rwanda has averaged 7% growth over the last 8 years and Gross Domestic Product has increased from a mere US $290 to over US $600.

I challenge the Fund for Peace, and anyone who doesn’t take their ‘Index’ with a pinch of salt to dispute these figures.


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