By Lambert Rusoke
Beaten and yet not out. Harmed but now healing. Or, what of trailing the opponent by a further four goals, only to shrug your way back, and score three at the turn of the ninetieth minute, and the equalizer in more emphatic dramatic fashion, in the last kick of the game. This is the story of Rwanda. Sometimes in April, so the story went. It’s a tale that had the negative press from regional and international media, which prevailed largely in the immediate aftermath of the horrors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Rwanda defied the world when it resisted and refused to comply with the colonial and missionary perennial and serial definitions of Africans.
Rwanda’s neighbors, have years after come to find out for themselves the real crux of the matter, if what was being said about the tiny nation, was factual or fictious. Being a small but well organised country so to say, it is easy to move around unperturbed and discover the real image of the country and its inhabitants.
What makes Rwanda Tick?
Recently, the Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR) ranked Rwanda sixth in closing gender gaps around the world. To arrive at the conclusion, the 2016 report considered economic opportunity, political empowerment, health and education for both men and women. To fix the previous hitches hampering female enrolment, the Ministry of Education together with other actors identified initiatives to promote equal prospects of girls at school. “We have a department in charge of girls’ education at the ministry; obviously we try to see that in all the plans, girls are not left out. The target is to see that many of them have an equal opportunity of accessing school just like their male counterparts,” says Dr. Celestin Ntivuguruzwa, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education.
Amidst other strategies, for example, there is provision of intensive remedial holiday courses for those women/girls wishing to enter male dominated fields but also entry cut-off points into higher education have been kept lower for girls. This gives room for girls to express their creativity, among other skills. Sometime back in 2010, a white friend I met in Gulu on a Research Post war mission in Northern Uganda, made a trip to Rwanda to see the various hotel opportunities in this tiny African nation that was trying to rebuild. An appointment was made with the minister then, of Infrastructure & Tourism. They were at his office at the scheduled time, having taken the early morning flight out of Nairobi. They were kept waiting for close to 30 minutes and finally we were told, that they couldn’t meet the minister due to an abrupt busy schedule listed. Thoughts of, ‘this is Africa after all’, started creeping in, these minds of white foreigners. They went back to their hotel, as a contemplation of the next move was sought. Well after an hour or so, the concierge came to alert them that they had a visitor.
A young man in his 30’s, with an athlete’s physique came to where they were seated. He apologized profusely for keeping them waiting. As they were trying to hurry up so that they could accompany him to go and meet the minister, little did they know that he was indeed the minister! He finally introduced himself. Just imagine, a minister in Africa coming to look for you? Just think about our local ministers here. Here and then, they held the meeting over a cup of tea, with no personal assistant, no bodyguards, and he was taking his own notes. On seeing them off, they walked him to the reception expecting to see a chauffeur driven limousine, for a Minister of course.
Nothing of such a kind! He walked across the car park, they followed him only to see the man fetch his car and off he drove away. They couldn’t believe it. This just doesn’t happen in other parts of Africa. Even an empty minister’s car, will have the noise of the sirens, displacing normal road users. Well, it takes a culture shift to adopt what my friend and his team witnessed in Rwanda. To them, (the Minister), Rwanda lost many years, so they know they have a lot of catch up with and to do hence the sense of ownership and sense of urgency. And catching up, they have done it.
Handling the bull by the Horns
President Paul Kagame, has of late been a leader at the forefront of spearheading a country to the top. He is the man charged with the belief of having African countries take ownership of global goals, if effective implementation is to be achieved. Leading Africa’s reform team that is charged with proposing policies and strategies to end African Union poverty problems, Kagame is keen on calling for faster and more efficient execution of government policies. ‘The reform agenda will come to nothing, unless member states resolve to do things differently’, the president is quoted in the East African of February 4th-10th.
Here is a president, walking the talk. The structure set up of Kigali and other major towns are envy to the neighbours. A planned capital city, albeit its limitations to being a landlocked country haven’t stopped the tiny nation from forming partnerships that look to lean trading and economic growth. And as recently witnessed from the Kagame report, that proposes many reforms to be undertaken by the AU, as discussed by the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Kagame calls upon the continent to leverage engagements with say China.
Here is a president, whose love for Football is never hidden. Well knowing that football and sports in general can exude talent that can fetch millions for the sportsmen and the country, the efforts to have a sports value chain worked on, can be left unmentioned. Sport in Rwanda is supported by the Rwandan government’s Sports Development Policy of October 2012. This argues that sport has a number of benefits, including bringing people together, improving national pride and unity, and improving health. The policy identifies challenges to the development of sport in the country, including limited infrastructure and financial capacity.
It sets the “inspirational target” that, by 2020, Rwanda should have “a higher percentage of population playing sport than in any other African nation” and be ranked amongst the top three African countries in basketball, volleyball, cycling, athletics and Paralympic sports, and the top ten in football. Now, this is a strategy set, at least. In 1999, Rwanda’s team won the CECAFA (Confederation of east and Central Football Association) Cup, when the country hosted the tournament. The CECAFA Club Cup has been known as the Kagame Interclub Cup since 2002, when Rwandan President Kagame started to sponsor the competition.
Sport is seen by some as a means of achieving post-conflict reconciliation in Rwanda, and a number of organizations are involved in using sports to promote reconciliation. The country’s Sports Development Policy includes amongst its aims promotion of “the use of sports as a strong avenue for development and peace building”, and the government has made commitments to advancing the use of sport for a variety of other development objectives, including education, something unheard of in many African countries.
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