Great article describing the experience of a student who studied abroad in Kigali, Rwanda for a few weeks last summer.

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Rwanda has declared a war on government corruption and has fined and jailed more than four of the country’s top leaders to prove they mean business.

The UK’s Telegraph writes, “Most African governments like talking about their fight against corruption, seen as one of the biggest barriers to development on the continent, but Rwanda, most notably for the past two years, has been putting its money where its mouth is.”


According to AFP, close to 1,000 people have been investigated for corruption in this small central African nation.

Rwanda ranked top amongst central and eastern African countries and 89th worldwide in the 2009 report of Transparency International, which compares the anti-corruption efforts of 180 countries.

The chief prosecutor for Rwanda, Martin Ngoga, is leading the crusade against economic and financial crimes in politics.

Ngoga, despite the high praise from world organizations, states,  “I am keen not to be complacent about our very modest achievements. Even if Transparency International says that Rwanda is less corrupt, it is not a very good position. It is still a comparison among the corrupt.”

Rwanda has earned the unique distinction of being the first country in the world to be declared free of landmines through the Ottawa Treaty recognition process.

Ben Remfrey of the Mines Awareness Trust, which supervised the clearance, told the BBC World Service, “Rwanda has made history by becoming the first country in the world to be officially declared free from landmines.  Rwanda had a problem, it wasn’t huge but it was still significant… and had a big social and economic impact.”

Landmines were laid in the years leading up to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, killing or severely injuring hundreds of people. But, over the past three years more than over 9,000 have been destroyed by Rwandan soldiers.

In a UNICEF press release, representative, Joseph Foumbi congratulated Rwanda, stating, “This declaration is extremely significant as it shows to the world that a poor country, which has been devastated by war, can still take strong action to ensure the rights, lives and well-being of its children.”

The Mirror focused on another benefit of being declared ‘landmine free’.  Gareth Thomas, Africa Minister at the Department for International Development, wrote the newspaper, said, ” Removing landmines means will a massive boost to the farming industry, and this will mean a brighter future for people of Rwanda.”

About 70 countries remain affected by landmines, which claimed nearly 5,200 casualties around the world last year, according to Relief Web.

Rwanda was named the 54th member of the Commonwealth this week.  It is the only country outside of Mozambique who does not have any historical ties to Britain.   The country was originally colonized by Germany and later Belgium.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Louise Mushikiwabo, the government spokesperson, said,”My government sees this accession as recognition of the tremendous progress this country has made in the last 15 years,” //

 

UN Admits Failure in DR Congo

November 26, 2009

The UN is admitting failure in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  A new report even claims that UN forces have aggravated the conflict in North and South Kivu provinces with the UN trained Congolese Army and the rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Richard Dowden of The Guardian writes, “There have been signs that elements of the UN force are going local and also taking to trading minerals and abusing local people.”

But not everyone agrees with the findings.  Reuters South Africa reported Information Minister Lambert Mende as saying such accusations are “really what we can call an exaggeration. If the situation is now worse, what is that based on? How many people were dying before this operation? How many are dying today? he asked, arguing there could have been many more victims of fighting if the offensive had not taken place.”

The FDLR, an ethnic Hutu militia that relocated to the Congo after the 1994 genocide from the neighboring country of Rwanda, continue to wreak havoc in the region.  They have been accused of such crimes as murder, rape, pillaging, and taking advantage of the natural resources of the Congo including smuggling gold.  According to Sky News “Congolese records show only a few kilos of gold are exported legally every year, but the country’s own senate estimates that in reality 40 tonnes a year – worth £743m – gets out.”

It is a troubling problem that continues to fund and fuel the trouble in Central Africa from an international network of buyers from dozens of countries, including the United States and Europe, according to the UN.

The New York Times predicts the new UN report will force the US government to do more, including  “urging Congress to pass legislation that would bar American companies from buying Congo’s “conflict minerals,” which include gold, tin and coltan, a metallic ore used in many cellphones and laptop computers.”

Rwanda’s Commonwealth Bid

November 26, 2009

Rwanda’s application to join the Commonwealth will be decided on at the end of this week.  It has been almost a year since the country applied to join the international grouping dominated by ex- British colonies in January 2008.  And there seems to be debate on how smoothly the vote to include Rwanda at the summit in Trinidad and Tobago will proceed.

In an article in Rwanda’s The New Times they report that ‘reliable sources say that all member states unanimously support Rwanda joining the group mainly composed of former British colonies.’

Meanwhile, AllAfrica.com’s John Allen blogs that New Delhi-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) writes, “Rwanda does not satisfy the test of Commonwealth values.  There are considerable doubts about the commitment of the current regime to human rights and democracy. It has not hesitated to use violence at home or abroad when it has suited it.”

Despite the issue of human rights violations, Canada is backing the admittance of Rwanda.  A spokesperson for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department told AFP, “Canada would welcome the admission of Rwanda to the Commonwealth.”

There are currently 53 countries in the Commonwealth, which gives an equal platform to small and large nations to lobby for trade deals, influence world powers and leaders such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).

But Daniel Howden of The Independent alludes that there may have another reason for the African country wanting to become the 54 member of the Commonwealth. Blame over responsibility for the 1994 Rwanda genocide has caused France and Rwanda to severe ties over accusations of the others involvement, which ultimately led Rwanda to boycott the French language in support of English.  Howden reports in an article entitled ‘It’s really about Kigali getting back at Paris’ that “one cabinet minister in the capital, Kigali, was heard to remark that Rwanda must be allowed into the Commonwealth club of English-speaking nations because “French is a dying language and we want to be part of a living language”.