“When the citizens are the nation’s greatest assets, a country is bound to positively progress”.
Protogene Nsengumuremyi (Charge D’affaires (a.i), Rwanda High Commission- Nigeria)
21 years ago, ‘the country of a thousand hills’was synonymous with a series of horrendousc r i m e s a g a i n s t h u m a n i t y . T h e w o r d’Genocide’ and the word Rwanda literallywent hand in hand. Scores of lives were lostand the international media was flooded withhorrific images of a country so fragile.Fast-forward to 2015, Rwanda is one of thefastest growing nations in the world, one ofthe most respected democracies in Africa, oneof the cleanest countries in the continent, andone of the best in many sectors of economy.Montage Africa Magazine recently metand interviewed the Charge D’affaires (a.i) ofthe Rwanda High Commission in Nigeria, H.EProtogene Nsengumuremyi.MA: In 2013, The Economist listed Rwandaas one of the Top 10 fastest growingeconomies in the world. What are some oft h e c o n t r i b u t i n g f a c t o r s t o t h i sachievement?P.N: The truth is, all this was achieved after the1994 Genocide. It was not easy ensure aneconomy grows, but we as a Rwandan peopledecided to be committed to the growth of ourcountry. It all boils down to leadership. Ourleaders sat down and decided that RwandaMUST have good governance. Rwandansmust be decent, the welfare of the citizensmust be ensured, citizens must benefit fromavailable opportunities and various policiesmust be put in place and well implemented.These policies include the policies of doingbusiness, to ease formalities and facilitateinterested investors. We also formulatedpolicies to assist the citizens of Rwanda.For example, we formulated the “Have acow” initiative, -‘Giringa’ in Kinyarwanda. Itconsisted of empowering each Rwandesefamily with one cow. Each family was givenone quality cow that could produce at least 50liters of milk, manure for fertilizer, meat forconsumption and leather.In addition, the government ensured a’Corruption-free’ environment. To enforcezero tolerance to corruption, we set up a localcourt called the Gachacha Courts which dealtwith perpetrators of criminal acts usingtraditional methods.E v e r y t h i n g w a s a b o u t d i s c i p l i n e ,accountability and commitment to goodleadership.Rwanda is a wonderful country; we havejoined the East African Community (EAC)making the region a power hold of close to130million people. Rwanda was also recentlylisted as the 6th most efficient country in theworld.In terms of gender equality, 64% ofparliamentarians are women, 37% of thejustice system is run by women, and 49% ofour embassies across the globe are run bywomen, a sign that women are positivecontributors to a nation.In addition, our economy is currently aservice system. We generate more incomefrom services rendered than our mineralresources.Currently, 98% of Rwandese has qualityhealth insurance. Life expectancy in Rwandahas increased to 67 years for men and 69 yearsfor women.We are on an upward spiral of progress allthanks to our commitment as a people.We as a people also believe in the power ofentrepreneurship. We created somethingcalled the ‘Agachiro Development fund’.AGACHIRO means Dignity in Kinyarwanda.It is a fund to keep our nation progressing andexecute creative business plans that willcreate employment for our masses withoutdepending on foreign aid.The fund has also been replicated acrossbanks in Rwanda, enabling one to easily accessa loan with or without collateral.MA: 21 years after the Genocide inRwanda, there has been little or no iota ofconflict ever since. What strategies did thegovernment put in place to developsustainable peace in the country? P.N: As a people, we all decided, “GENOCIDENEVER AGAIN”. We also decided thatwhatever is available in the country must beshared equally. We put up processes of unityand reconciliation.
Uniting a society that wasbroken was a task, but we were all committedt o m a k i n g i t h a p p e n . W e u p h e l dtransparency, justice, and a strong spirit ofreconciliation. Today, our commitment hasplayed a very vital role. Genocide taught us alla lesson, we had thousands of widows,orphans, ex convicts were released back intosociety. We had to heal and reconcile. TheGachacha court is a homegrown solution toRwandese problems, especially for those thatperpetrated genocide. We use traditional lawst o h a n d l e c a s e s . T h e r e a r e n o m o r eperpetrators. All those who are guilty havefaced sanctions, there are those still carryingout their sentences and some have completedtheir sentences. We have moved on andvowed to uphold peace.MA: What’s the political situation inRwanda currently?P.N: Rwanda is currently a very democraticcountry. We have freedom of press andfreedom of opinion; we have a multipartysystem, and the political climate is calm rightnow. As you may know, we run a 7 yearpresidential term. The next presidentialelections are due in 2017.MA: Based on ICT, we have heard severalstories of Rwanda being the Silicon Valleyof Africa, how did you achieve that and howcan other countries borrow a leaf fromthat?P.N: Again, it all boils down to goodleadership and commitment. The Rwandeseare highly educated. We have a 75% literacyrate at the moment. We introduced aninitiative called the ‘One laptop per child’initiative where the Government gives onelaptop to each child right from primaryschool to improve our children’s knowledgeand skills in Information CommunicationTechnology.Right from nursery, children are givenartificial computers, keyboards and minilaptops to practice their skills. All ouru n i v e r s i t i e s a r e w e l l e q u i p p e d w i t hcomputers and laptops. We have seen thepower of technology and ICT and decided toensure our people have strong knowledge andskills in that sector.It has reached a point we now export ICTproducts to other countries, includingsoftware. We have software that can beutilized in banks, government, supermarkets,points of sales and more. In terms of ICT, weare proudly number one in Africa, andhopefully we will be number one in the worldone day. We are committed to get there.MA: Finally, as the Head of Mission ofRwanda in Nigeria, what should we expectfrom your mission?P.N: We have done a lot so far. In terms ofbilateral relations, Rwanda has a strongrepresentation in Nigeria. We currently haveRwanda Airlines flying to and fro Nigeria 5times a week.In addition, our mission was opened in2 0 1 1 a n d w e h a v e s i g n e d a g e n e r a lcooperation agreement, an instrument thatthe two governments can use to promotewhatever cooperation and develop variousMoU’s in various areas including peace andsecurity, education, transfer of knowledgeand skills.We also have a partnership called TEC:Technical Ed Corps, which consists ofNigerian doctors and nurses in Rwanda whoare there to render medical services in varioushospitals. There aren’t many, but it is a goodcooperation. On the business side, someNigerian banks have opened branches inRwanda including Ecobank, Access Bank andGTBank. From Rwanda, Rwanda-air operatesdirect flights from Kigali to Lagos 5 times aweek, and it started in December 2011, a fewmonths after opening the embassy here.Various businesses are ongoing and more isyet to come. We are here to make the process