Bankole Taiwo, Abeokuta
Former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday reflected on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and declared that 25 years after the strife, the East African country has emerged stronger, becoming a pride to African continent.
It will be recalled that the same month that South Africa emerged from apartheid to enjoy the warmth of global acclaim after its first democratic election in April 1994, Rwanda descended into genocide, loosing more than 800,000 people in about 100 days.
But, the former Chairman of the African Union (AU) in a release by his Media Aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, said the lessons of Rwanda served as useful motivation for international action against the former Yugoslavian crises saying that, “it was a monumental calamity that should have been avoided or put down by the international community by acting right in the early stage of the murderous acts”.
Commenting further, Obasanjo said “it was a tragedy that bestialised Rwandans and, by extension, Africans and created a great black spot on the conscience of the world. Never again should Africa experience such horrifying and tragic bestiality and never again should the international community allow such tragedy to take root anywhere in the world without immediate intervention in the interest of humanity.”
The former President in his speech titled: “From Recovery To Reform: Rwanda’s Marathon With No Finishing Line” delivered at the 25th Anniversary of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda on Thursday,however commended the efforts of the country’s leadership and citizens alike, for the remarkable achievement and progress made 25years after the genocide.
“Today, Rwanda is a country easily accessible to foreigners. It is one where it is increasingly easy to do business. It is one of clean and safe streets with traffic police that do not seek bribes but polite and helpful and, where the Rwanda Development Board actively and efficiently woos investors”.
“To the Rwanda authority, investor is a king and he or she must be so treated. The country is a standard-bearer for women, who make up the majority in parliament. It is a country where cabinet ministers are effectively held accountable for targets, where data drives policy, which is an example of how to roll out basic health insurance”, Obasanjo explained.
He further emphasized that, “a quarter of a century after its terrible trauma, Rwanda is cited as an exceptional African story, in terms of its economic development and growth rates enabling its 12 million citizens to lift themselves out of dire socio-economic and political circumstances in the early 1990s”.
“Behind much of this success is Rwanda’s leadership, which has an enviable record in driving the country’s transition, and with minimal resources. It is a leadership which is both impatient and focused. It is one that seems to believe through its actions that development is a marathon that must be run at a sprint. Yes, it is leadership that eschew corruption and work substantially on the basis of meritocracy”.
“This leadership has also managed to garner external support fairly successfully. And this has been achieved not on the basis of its hollow promises, but rather on the basis of its concrete delivery record”.
“Certainly Rwanda has managed to overcome formidable odds: a traumatic social history of frequent pogroms culminating in the genocide, its landlocked geography, its status as continental Africa’s most densely populated country (at 440 per km2, compared to the sub-Saharan average of ten times less, and a world average of 57 km2”.
Despite all these obstacles, Obasanjo said Rwanda has achieved spectacular economic progress saying for example, between 2005 and 2016, the income per capita grew at an annual rate of 5.2%, second in Africa only to Ethiopia. Literacy has increased from 60% in 1994 to 70% two decades later, while child mortality was halved and primary school attendance has trebled. Poverty fell from 56% of the population to 39% between 2005 and 2013.
“I salute Rwandans, the leadership and citizens alike, for this remarkable achievement and progress,” Obasanjo was quoted as saying.
He advised that the lessons of the tragedy of Rwanda “must not be lost on Rwanda, on Africa and indeed on the world as a whole. “Let the blood of the victims and the stench in the country twenty-five years ago continue to water and invigorate unity, development, growth and progress in Rwanda and remain an object lesson for Africa and the rest of the world”.
“Let us continue to use the lesson of the evil perpetrated on the dead a quarter of a century ago for the good of the living today. Let us all go with the theme of this conference, preserving memory without bitterness and without amnesia and championing humanity with common security and shared prosperity,” Obasanjo posited.
The 100 days of slaughter in the 1994 Rwanda genocide left behind more than 300,000 orphans and two million refugees many of who fled mostly to DRC and Tanzania.