By Ron Turley KF11.5

Last week my departure date was June 28th. Now it’s Monday that I will be off to Kigali Rwanda to work with Vision Finance Company (VFC).

Claude, my predecessor had been filling me on VFC and the things that he did there and has been most helpful in my quest to find accommodation. I have still yet to commit to any of the opportunities, but my preference would be to stay with a local family.

But the best advice Claude gave me was to read A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer. I just finished this fascinating, engrossing, stimulating, inspiring book. I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good non-fiction read but particularly anyone interested in development and Africa. For an introduction to modern Rwanda, it is a must.

The current government, headed by President Kagame, the rebel leader who overthrew the Habyarimana regime and ended the genocide in 1994, is trying to pull Rwanda up by its boot straps. He leans to self-reliance and away from government aid. His tactics are not without critics as there are few political freedoms as we in the west would define them. Kinzer and others would argue that the level of control and repression is necessary to prevent another outbreak of violence. They claim that security and freedom from violence is also a human right and that Kegame is focusing all his energy on lifting the country from poverty. Opposition simply detracts from that goal.

Kegame’s aim is to replicate the Asian Tigers like South Korean that went from dirt floor poverty to middle class wealth in one generation. His role models are authoritarian modernisers like Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew and Malaysia’s Mohammad Mahatir. Clearly, the jury is still out. Will power corrupt? Will the repression continue after a certain amount of wealth and stability has been achieved? Will Kegame end up being more Mugabe than Mandela? More Pinoché than Lee Kwan Yew? Only time will tell, but Kinzer believes that President Kegame is doing what it right and necessary. I can’t wait to see for myself.


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