Hello, friends! Imagine a country whose GDP growth rate has fallen to -50%. A country in which 15% of the population died in a horrifying genocide. 25 years later, the same country becomes so neat and clean that it is now known as the Singapore of Africa. Friends, this is Rwanda. In today’s ground report, come let’s get to know this country’s interesting story.
Let’s look at the scary history of this country. Friends, Rwanda is a small country in Central Africa. It is also known as the Land of Thousand Hills. Because there are many small hills here. It is a land-locked country. If you look it up on a map, Uganda is in the North, Tanzania in the East, Burundi in the South, And Congo in the West. Historically, there were 18 different clans in Rwanda. Tribes. Each tribe has their way of socio-economic categorisation. People were divided into Hutu and Tutsi. Basically, similar to the caste system in India.
That’s also a socio-economic categorisation of people. Initially, the classification wasn’t very strict. But with time, they started becoming 2 different ethnic groups. Similar to the British Rule in India, Rwanda was first colonised by Germany and later by Belgium. Like the British used the Divide and Rule policy in India, the wedges between Hindus and Muslims, and the differences among the castes, were enhanced after the British came to India, Similarly, when the colonisers came to Rwanda, after their arrival, the differences between Hutu and Tutsi people, were so enhanced that they began to be considered different races. This happened especially when Belgium issued Racial Identity Cards. In 1932. They defined the strict criteria for who will be Hutu and who will be Tutsi. Even using their physical features as a basis. Like, people with a certain shape of a nose would be Hutu, or people with a certain shape of mouth would be Tutsi. In fact, they even said that a person with more than 10 cows, would be a Tutsi. And those with 10 cows or less, would be a Hutu. After this racial categorisation, they estimated that about 15% of the Rwandan population were Tutsi. And 85% population were Hutu.
The Tutsi community could be considered the elites in the country. Because they were the ruling monarchy at the time. As per the classification, people with more than 10 cows were Tutsi, So obviously the rich were Tutsi more often than not. When Rwanda got freedom in 1962, there was a lot of hatred between the communities. Some Rwandan politicians helped in making the situation worse. There were politicians that spread so much hatred by saying things like Do you recall such dialogues? These dialogues seem familiar. Hatred was brewing between the two communities for a long time, But it escalated slowly, step-by-step. “There’d be outbreaks of ethnically motivated violence that would send hundreds of thousands of Tutsi refugees into neighbouring countries.” Children were separated in schools. The Tutsi and Hutu children would sit in segregated areas. Militia groups began forming. Claiming that they were advocating ‘Hutuness’. You can see the photos. Basically, civilians picked up weapons saying that they were proud Hutu. That they want to establish a Hutu country. Calling Hutu as a way of life. Talking about Hutuness. Any hope of peace was squashed by their media. The Radia Rwanda spewed hatred.
Today, many people compare India’s pliable media with Radio Rwanda. Such pamphlets were printed. Saying that any Hutu married to a Tutsi, should break their marriage. No Hutu should do any business with the Tutsi. On 6th April 1994, things reached the tipping point. Their President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu was on an aeroplane, and the aeroplane was shot down. All the people aboard the plane were killed. Including the country’s President. “At 9:30 in the evening, local time, two loud explosions were heard. And the plane carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, and six other people crashed in flames.” Till today, we still don’t know clearly exactly who shot down the plane. But the Hutu extremists blame RPF. RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front. A Tutsi rebel group.
On the other hand, RPF lays the blame on the Hutu extremists saying that they shot down the plane because they were looking for an excuse to start a genocide. Whatever the truth was, one incident became the trigger point of a horrible genocide. That we know as the Rwandan Genocide today. In the next 100 days, more than 800,000 people are killed in Rwanda by the Hutu extremists. Most of the people killed were obviously Tutsi. But several moderate Hutu were also killed. “Over the course of 100 days, from April 6th to July 16th, an estimated 1 million Tutsi and some moderate Hutu were slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide.” Cases were seen of neighbours killing each other. Many people were shocked to see the people they thought were friends, were the ones coming to kill them. These stories are so terrifying that I can’t even share them in this post. You can imagine that the population of Rwanda at the time was 7 million. Almost 1 million people were killed in this genocide. This was the time when the GDP growth rate of the country fell to -50%. But the story of the next 20 years, is about the astounding rebound of the country. This genocide ended when the Tutsi dominated rebel group RPF recaptures Kigali.
The existing Hutu government get overthrown. And they seize the power. A new Constitution of the country is drafted guaranteeing equal rights for all Rwandans. A transitional government was formed with a Hutu President and a Tutsi Vice-President named Paul Kagame. Later, in April 2000, Paul Kagame became the President of Rwanda. And he is still the President of Rwanda. Over the next 20 years, amazing growth can be seen in Rwanda. An on average 7% GDP growth rate every year, for 20 years. Their GDP per capita also increases to almost 4 times. If you compare the years 2000 and 2020. Apart from this, they specifically focus on the education and healthcare sectors. Where they allocate 15% of their budget for education. And almost 8% of the budget is for healthcare. Because of this, the literacy growth rate takes a huge leap. In 1978, the literacy rate was 38% and in 2018, it was at 73%. The average life expectancy was at 55 years in 2005, crosses 69 years in 2020. There is so much improvement in the ease of doing business, that Rwanda ranks 29 worldwide.
Rwanda becomes the only low-income country in the top 30. They claim that it is so easy to register and authorise a business here that it takes only 24 hours. In the 2017 rankings of the Corruption Perception Index, Rwanda becomes the third least corrupt country in Africa. Things improved so rapidly that Rwanda comes to be known as the Singapore of Africa. The Rwandan government has been very open to new technologies. Like in 2020, their government had allocated a dedicated budget for blockchains. A minister of their government has said that blockchains will be a part of the upcoming fourth industrial revolution. In 2020, the first Blockchain Training School was established in Rwanda. Surprisingly friends, even after the major turnaround, even today, this is a poor country. Approximately 90% of the population in this country is employed in the agriculture sector and farming. The poverty rate here is worse than in India. They’re at 38% while India is at a bit less than 30%. Their GDP per capita, is less than half of India’s GDP per capita. Even though the population in India is much more as compared to here. But despite these things, the cleanliness here has no comparison. It is next to impossible to see this much cleanliness in any Indian city. So the biggest question arising is that How did this country achieve so much cleanliness? Some things are very basic. Like the government building good roads. Building footpaths.
Looking after their maintenance. Regular cleaning of the roads by the municipality. Along with banning plastic bags. In India too, many governments have tried to ban plastic bags. But the bans were ineffective because of improper implementation. But when plastic bags were banned here in 2008, the ban proved so effective, that when I was on the flight while to here, it was announced on the aeroplane that if anyone was carrying plastic bags in their suitcases they need to throw them out or else they wouldn’t let us enter with the plastic bags. It is so effective that you won’t be able to find any plastic bags on the roads here. Friends, in most of the developing countries, there is a shortage of dustbins in public places. Not only there are dustbins here, but there are different dustbins for different types of waste. This is for the recyclables, paper, glass, metal, plastic, the rest of the waste here and a separate place for disposing of batteries. It can be rarely seen in a country like India. The beautiful flowers that you can see here, there are no tankers to water them. Instead, they’ve put automatic pipe systems that keeps watering the plants. Apart from this, they have another secret for maintaining cleanliness.
This secret is called Umuganda. ‘Umuganda’ literally means coming together to achieve a common purpose. Coming together to achieve a common outcome. A practice that has been a part of the Rwandan culture for decades. But in the last few years, this has become a mandatory community service. Earlier, if a villager had to build his house, the neighbouring villagers would come together to help the villager build his house. So it was a community initiative where everyone worked together for each other. Their President Paul Kagame used Umuganda to clean the country. He said that going forward, it would be a formal event. On the last Saturday of each month. On the last Saturday of every month, from 8 to 11 in the morning every citizen of the country would come out of their homes and would clean the country.
They would clean the roads and streets around them. Or if any maintenance work is required, they’d do that. And it would be compulsory for every person to participate. As long as they are able-bodied. If anyone is disabled, obviously they are excluded from it. An age limit has been set. Every citizen over 18 years and below 65 years would participate in it. And if someone doesn’t participate, a penalty would be levied on them. They would be fined. Can you understand the implications? Cleaning the country has been turned into a patriotic duty in Rwanda. Not only the common people. Every politician in Rwanda, even Rwanda’s President himself, come out on the streets and clean them every month. Unlike other politicians. Like it happens in India, they hold brooms, throw some leaves on the ground and take the photos of the politicians holding the brooms. Did it once, only to forget about it later. Here, every month all their politicians do that the President does that And when consistency is reached only then can the cleanliness be maintained here. It is done regularly. And obviously, when it will be done like this, people will start to feel how important it is to maintain cleanliness outside. When they clean the places themselves, they come to understand that one shouldn’t litter. Obviously, people were motivated not to litter. And to clean instead. So today, their roads could become so clean. Now, I’m not saying that Rwanda has become a model country.
There are many shortcomings in the country. Like, their President got 98.8% votes in the last elections. But all the people that I talked with here, I agree that he is quite popular, but getting 99% of the votes is next to impossible. International observers believe that the elections conducted here aren’t free and fair. Neither does this country have high freedom of speech. Nor freedom of media. The press freedom ranking here is worse than India’s. Here, people do not have the freedom to protest. They don’t have the freedom to criticise the government.
Thank you very much!