Rwanda has been labelled as one of Africa's progressive economies, enjoying the benefits of a fast-rising economy. While Rwanda has made enormous strides by extricating itself from the mess of the 1994 genocide, there are still deep problems which the country needs to address.
While the economy has expanded since the aftermath of the genocide, poverty still remains rampant in the country. A stable government, although accused of poor human rights record, and a huge influx of aid from the international community have resuscitated the Rwandan economy, and has even led to its expansion. The Rwandan government, compared to other African governments, is better positioned in terms of putting money to good use.
So how is Rwanda still poor? One of the major reasons is its lack of natural resources. The population is still predominantly rural and agrarian. Some people were permanently affected by the 1994 genocide. It led to the death of around 800 000 people, and left many people without their parents, and others without their homes. Getting back up again has been difficult for these people. Therefore, in acknowledging the current progress being made, the catastrophic effects of the genocide cannot be easily forgotten.
The poverty in the country is affecting scores of people. This has led some to seek refuge in Uganda, as they illegally cross into the country, fleeing from the difficult conditions back home. In early July, Ugandan authorities arrested 82 Rwandan nationals over illegal entry into the country. Some of them were deported while others had to face the Ugandan courts of law. Such a high number of people is evidence that Rwandan nationals are seeking for greener pastures in neighboring countries. It means that in improving the economy, Paul Kagame, who is Rwanda's president, is conveniently forgetting about the plight of the poor people who are finding it hard to make ends meet in their home country.
A large number of Rwandans are crossing into Uganda as illegal immigrants and settling in forest reserves. These poverty-stricken Rwandans in their thousands are illegally moving to Uganda in search of a livelihood of any kind.
In responding to the crisis, Paul Kagame said that instead of Rwandans going into other countries in pursuit of better living conditions, they must demand those services from the government. "There is no border you can cross and get better services than what we can provide here, whether it is healthcare or education. We shouldn’t be crossing borders for any reason," Kagame said. He pledged that his government would "do whatever it takes to ensure that the reasons people cross borders are removed." He said, "We will ensure that whatever services they are looking for can be obtained locally."
But does he really mean this if Rwandan citizens continue crossing into Uganda in search of casual jobs just to improve their lives? He does not even acknowledge that this problem is affecting adults, as in a response to the crisis he said that the issue must be dealt with to avoid children from crossing into Uganda. He does not acknowledge the fact that Rwandans are escaping hunger and poverty. It smacks hypocrisy, when such a leader, who advocates for the alleviation of problems in other countries, not helping his fellow country people first.
The vision of making Rwanda a middle-income country by 2020 will be fruitless if people are still mired in poverty and hunger. He must go back to the drawing board, and ensure that every progress being advanced is benefiting everyone. If not, more and more people will continue leaving. A perpetual cycle of poverty will not be broken. More and more arrests, deportations and convictions will be the order of the day.
Header image credit: The Rwandan