As a novice to Rwanda, I find it to be fascinating. The genocide of 1994, which killed approximately 800,000 people (1/5th of the population!) in ten days by approximately 150,000 perpetrators(!) should have decimated the country for years to come. There should have been backlash, acting out, PTSD, mistrust, and more for quite a period of time to come.
But after twenty years, there is quite a different testimony. Consider this:
- Kigali is considered the cleanest city in all of Africa.
- Rwanda is considered the safest country in all of Africa.
- Per capita income has more than doubled since 2019 and is $2155; in 1990 it was $933. There is still a lot of poverty in Rwanda, with 55% of the population still below the poverty line, and 22% in severe multidimensional poverty.
- Health insurance is provided for all citizens at the low cost of $10/year. Infant mortality and death of children under the age of five has plummeted. Life expectancy went from 33.4 years in 1990 to 69 years in 2019.
- Public schooling is free and Rwanda boasts that 97% of children are in primary school, the highest in Africa. Expected years of schooling in 1990 were 5.7 years; in 2019, it was 11.2 years.
- They were one of the first countries to get rid of plastic bags.
- Electricity has been brought throughout the country.
- Rwanda has the highest proportion of women in government in the world. They now have the right to own property and keep an equal inheritance in a divorce.
Only 71 people were convicted by the UN tribunal for their role in the genocide. Most others confessed and went through the peace and reconciliation process, allowing them to process forgiveness, healing, and reintegration into society.
To discourage tribalism and identify as one nation of Rwandan people, the government introduced a new flag and new national anthem in 2001.
The World Bank measures the ease of doing business in countries around the world, and Rwanda ranks better than the US in a number of areas! Rwanda ranks at 29 out of 190 countries for the ease of doing business; #2 for registering property, #14 for protecting minority investors, and #35 for paying taxes.
This work of rebuilding the nation spread also to the churches. In 2018, 6000 churches were closed for not meeting structural and pollution regulations (in many cases, sound pollution – churches competed to be the noisiest with their services). Many of these churches were able to reopen once they met the standards, but the message given was that churches need to be contributing to the flourishing of people, and not deceiving their congregations with misleading sermons. Pastors are now required to have a first degree in theology. We met with the bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda (pictured here), the largest evangelical denomination in the country, who had as one of his first duties to let go of 1000 pastors. Those critical of this work were quickly silenced by being reminded that the church was complicit in the genocide. Additionally, the church is criticized for not contributing to the flourishing of human life on earth, rather it promotes dependency and complacency. This is in part why the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda is interested in working with Discipling Marketplace Leaders.
Lots of great things. Lots of changes. Lots of challenges.
It is quite fascinating to think about why and how and who. So many countries continue to struggle with the aftereffects of various forms of devastation and the ability to move on seems illusive. How did these changes happen?
While what I know is extremely limited by only what I hear and read, I believe that President Kagame has articulated a very clear and critical message of resisting a dependency mentality, which has had an impact on how the government works (looking internally for change and development rather than externally), as well as how the average citizen works, not looking externally for assistance and development but looking internally for ways to contribute to Rwanda. President Kagame is quoted as saying, “We have understood for a long time that you can’t cure poverty without democracy. the only cure is through business, entrepreneurship, and innovation.” Forbes goes on to say this in the same article: “On a continent in which power tends to coagulate at the top and rarely spreads to regional and local levels, Rwanda preaches a gospel of free enterprise and private sector job creation.”
In contrast to countries who proclaim that, if elected, they will bring salvation and relief from misery (promoting dependency on government) and willing to sell out to foreign donors, this is a more healthy, Godly view of people, made in the image of God with the capacity to be co-creators with Him. This is not to say that there aren’t points of criticism about the who and the how and the when, and I’m aware of those criticisms. But the results are quite remarkable. It makes me want to live there for a while, just to watch and learn. I pray that there may be lasting peace, progress, and flourishing for all citizens in this country!