Event ReportsPublished on Aug 27, 2010
Saying that India is ideally placed to build partnerships with African countries, the Rwandan High Commissioner to India, Mr. Williams Nkurunziza, has suggested that India should take the lead in the industrialisation and human resource development of Africa by investing in its capacity building.
India should lead industrialisation of Africa: Rwandan High Commissioner

Saying that India is ideally placed to build partnerships with African countries, the Rwandan High Commissioner to India, Mr. Williams Nkurunziza, has suggested that India should take the lead in the industrialisation and human resource development of Africa by investing in its capacity building.

The High Commissioner was speaking after delivering his talk on “Recent Landmark Elections in Rwanda” at Observer Research Foundation on Friday, 27 August, 2010.

The High Commissioner said the recent presidential election in the Republic of Rwanda can set a democratic example for other countries in the African continent which is facing multifarious challenges. He highlighted some key features of the Rwanda Constitution, which has laid the foundation of a democratic structure in a country which was subjected to dictatorship from 1962, when it became independent from Belgium, to 1994, the year which saw the unfortunate genocide in which about one million Rwandans were killed.

The second presidential elections were conducted held on August 9, 2010. The High Commissioner gave details of the results of these elections, comparing them with some of other democracies in the world. He said the Constitution of Rwanda was framed and adopted in 2003, which has incorporated the traditional principals of the democracy, issues of human rights and rule of law. The Constitution has also ensured that the party which wins the elections cannot claim any other role other than the presidential role. Thus the post of Speaker is reserved for the opposition. The ruling party cannot also hold presidency of the Senate. This reflects an effective division and sharing of power between the ruling and the opposition parties.

He also highlighted his country’s commitment to safeguard women’s position in political, economic and social arenas. The Constitution has reserved one third seats in parliament for women. In parliament, 53.6% of members are women and 40% of the cabinet comprises women. The fact that 98% of the female children in Rwanda have access to the primary education is a testimonial of growing opportunities for female to empower themselves in the country.

Talking about the recent election, the High Commissioner said there were four contenders for the post of the President of Rwanda. The elections witnessed a huge turnout of  95.4% of about 5.1 million voters. Mr. Paul Kagame achieved a landslide victory and he was elected for a second term of President with 93.08% of the votes cast in his favour in the free and fair election, the High Commissioner said.  The turnout was massive though Rwanda doesn’t have the system of compulsory voting.

To explain the support of the voters in favor of President Kagame, the High Commissioner recounted how the social and economic infrastructure of the country was completely destroyed during the genocide. The genocide took a toll of about a million people and about 3.4 million people fled to the neighboring nations. The economy collapsed. President Kagame and his colleagues worked hard to help build a new Rwanda. Under the leadership of Kagame, the  economy achieved an impressive growth of 7.1% in the last decade, becoming the best performing economy of Sub-Saharan Africa, he said. The country which saw its political system being uprooted in the year 1994 was hailed as the best governed country in Sub-Saharan Africa 2003 by the World Bank. Last year, Rwanda was declared best reformer by the World Bank for encouraging business in the country.

The state of education also improved in the last sixteen years. Education in Rwanda is provided by the state. New universities were established increasing their number from just one prior to 1994 to 16 now. Primary education also saw about 97% enrollments. The improved welfare and better opportunities for Rwandese are reasons for the success of the present government.

The High Commissioner said Rwandan success is an example to other African nations and it can be replicated in other African countries. It is an inspiration to all the African people who aspire to grow out of poverty and develop in a sustainable manner. Rwanda has shown that a country can progress even with the limited resources if programmes benefiting the masses are launched and carried out with honesty.

During the discussion, the High Commissioner said that the Hutu-Tutisian distinction that lead to the 94 genocide, cannot be eliminated in such a short as these distinctions are deeply rooted in the Rwandan society. However, he said that the government has set up mechanisms to  negate the manifestation of this attitude. He also noted that legally there is no such distinction in his country and the practice of mentioning Hutu and Tutsi on legal documents like passports has been abolished. The Tutsis, who were not given any opportunities in field of education and employment prior to 1994, have been given equal opportunities now, the High Commissioner asserted.

India-Africa Partnership

The High Commissioner said India can share its rich experience of economic and political journey with other African nations which are currently treading on the path of development. He emphasized that India’s achievements in field of technology, human resource development, management of the enormous country and India’s sustained growth over the years can be a guide to his nation.

The High Commissioner said India and Rwanda share a partnership. He noted that Indian universities have over 700 Rwandese students, and India is also serving as destination for those seeking medical facilities. Despite very good political relations and a pro-Africa policy of the Government of India, the same enthusiasm is not seen on the side of the corporate sector and the media, the High Commissioner regretted.

He said India is ideally placed to build partnership with Africa because of its traditional relations and its huge Diaspora. India, according to him, should do two things: take the lead in the new industrialization of Africa and take the lead in the human resource development of Africa by investing in its capacity building.

The discussion, chaired by Mr. H.H.S. Viswanathan, former Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire (with concurrent accreditation to Niger, Guinea (Conakry), Sierra Leone, Cameroon , Benin, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe), ended on the optimistic note that relationship and partnership between India and Rwanda will be strengthened further.

(Report prepared by Divya Sharma, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation)

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