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Eyes on Rwanda over plans to allow Kagame to seek third term in office
December 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

[caption id="attachment_14806" align="alignleft" width="595"]Rwandan President Paul Kagame votes during the parliamentary elections in September 2013. PHOTO | FILE Rwandan President Paul Kagame votes during the parliamentary elections in September 2013. PHOTO | FILE[/caption] Rwanda is under the spotlight as it approaches the crucial presidential election in 2017, with some Western countries sending signals that they are opposed to plans that would allow President Paul Kagame to seek a third term.

According to the Rwandan Constitution, President Kagame cannot stand again after his second term in office ends in 2017. By that time, President Kagame, who is the chairman of the ruling party Rwanda Patriotic Front, will have been in power for 14 years. While no country is yet to publicly communicate its position, some are sending signals that they are against an amendment of the Constitution that would allow President Kagame to seek re-election.
The latest country to officially criticise plans to amend the Constitution is France, which recently made its position clear during the 15th Francophonie Summit in Dakar, Senegal, at which Rwanda was represented by Foreign Minister Louis Mushikiwabo.
During the summit, French President François Hollande said that African leaders need to embrace democracy and hold free and fair elections in their respective countries. He warned that the revolutions in countries like Tunisia and Burkina Faso should be a lesson to leaders who want to monopolise power.
His comments provoked a strong reaction from Rwanda. Speaking to French television France 24, Ms Mushikiwabo said that Mr Hollande’s lectures were “inappropriate” and “patronising.”
“It is inappropriate for the president to come for the Francophonie not to have a dialogue with his fellow heads of state but to give them orders on what to do in their respective countries. Something is not right here. Who decides the political future of Africans? I don’t think it is Paris…. The French president can give his advise, just like we can advise but to say, ‘I am here in Dakar to tell Africans that….’ is not right at all,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.
France is not the only country focusing on the issue. Sources indicate that the US recently dispatched two separate teams of political experts to study the situation in the country.
Moreover, on October 16, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield expressed concern that several African countries are planning to remove term limits soon or in future, something she said threatens democracy. Without mentioning countries, Ms Greenfield said that a study known as the Afrobarometer carried out on the continent shows that most people are not in favour of scrapping term limits.
“Presidential term limits are fundamental to people’s demand for democracy. According to opinion polls, 74 per cent of Africans, or three quarters of the men and women living on the continent, do not want their presidents to serve more than two consecutive terms in office,” Ms Greenfield said.
The Afrobarometer is the gold standard for independent opinion polls in Africa. And in an open letter addressed to the government on the occasion of Human Rights Day, heads of missions of European Union countries to Rwanda, who constitute the biggest development donors, said that Kigali needs to allow greater political participation to fully entrench democracy.
“As we continue to support Rwanda’s ambitious development and growth targets, we encourage the development of a vibrant and vocal civil society,” the envoys said in a statement.
With just over two years left for Rwanda to go to the presidential polls, debate as to whether the Constitution will be amended to allow President Kagame another term in office remains taboo within the ruling party. But in recent months during the citizen outreach programmes, while President Kagame has downplayed  requests from locals to seek a third term saying “it is not yet time” to discuss the matter, he has maintained the Constitution is not written in stone.
And while political parties allied to the ruling RPF-Inkotanyi are not opposed to changing the Constitution, recently the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda which is also a member of the coalition, opposed the move. In a statement, the party said: “The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda believes that the current two-term limit of seven years each is more than enough for a leader to implement his/her manifesto.”
Frank Habineza, the Green’s head in Rwanda, said there is a plan to advance proposals to amend the Constitution by three political parties — Ideal Democratic Party, Parti Sociale-Imberakuri and the Party for Solidarity and Progress.
“We have strong reasons to believe that the proposal will gain momentum because three political parties, two of which are in coalition with RPF, made a public request early October to amend the Constitution and lift the term limits,” he said. *Source theeastafrican

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BREAKING: Rwandan UN Ebola envoy passes on in Guinea
November 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

JeuneAfrique correspondent Pierre Boisselet, the UN says he died of “non-Ebola causes” Rudasingwa was, until his appointment on October 9, 2014, the Unicef Representative in Kenya. It was not immediately clear whether he had been ill. 1416238018edited1Born in 1955 in Rwanda, Rudasingwa graduated from Uganda’s Makerere University in 1979 with a Bachelor’s Degree in languages and communication. He undertook additional studies in psychology and teaching. In an exclusive interview with The New Times at the beginning of his anti-Ebola assignment last month, he pledged to do everything possible to help the world contain the deadly virus which has killed an estimated 5000 people in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “Notwithstanding the evident challenge and the enormity of the work, I feel very prepared mainly because I am convinced that the success of this mission is and will continue to receive unwavering support of the international community…I feel a sense of gratification, honour as well as a strong resolve to make my contribution and continue to serve humanity which I have done for over 20 years now,” he said at the time. Rudasingwa is survived by a wife and two children. *Source newtimes]]>

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France owes Rwanda apology, says Kouchner
November 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Ex-foreign minister and MSF co-founder addresses French role in 1994 genocide in interview with Al Jazeera.   [caption id="attachment_14154" align="alignleft" width="680"]Kouchner says he has 'done his duty' as foreign minister by restarting Rwanda-France ties [Al Jazeera] Kouchner says he has ‘done his duty’ as foreign minister by restarting Rwanda-France ties [Al Jazeera][/caption]Bernard Kouchner, the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and a prominent French public intellectual, has said France should apologise for its role in the Rwandan genocide. Kouchner, 75, who was foreign minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, made the remarks on Al Jazeera’s Head to Head programme, which airs on November 14. This is the first time a senior French politician, and a former member of the government, has made such a public admission. Kouchner told Head to Head‘s Mehdi Hasan and the audience at the Oxford Union that although in Rwanda “the French soldiers never killed anybody”, France had trained Rwandan soldiers “for three years”, some of whom went on to perpetrate massacres. Kouchner, who witnessed the 1994 Rwandan genocide as a doctor there, said that later, as French foreign minister, he had “done his duty” towards the country by restarting relations and organising Sarkozy’s visit in February 2010, the first by a French president since the genocide. Kouchner’s comments come in the wake of increased tensions between Rwanda and France over the tragic events of twenty years ago. In an interview in April to Francois Soudan of Jeune Afrique, Rwandan President Paul Kagame blamed France directly for the killings, condemning the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide and the participation of the latter in its very execution”. Whilst Belgium has apologised for its role, France never has. Stand on Gaddafi visit Kouchner also said during the interview that he was fiercely opposed to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s official visit to Paris in 2007 and insisted that he had “refused to meet Gaddafi”. Pressed by Hasan on why he remained part of the government if he was so opposed to the visit, Kouchner explained his decision as a “contradiction in politics”. Kouchner, who was head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, from 1999 to 2001, rebutted an the UK-based rights group Amnesty International’s report of 2013 accusing UNMIK of failing “to investigate the abduction and murders of Kosovo Serbs in the aftermath of the 1998-1999 conflict”. “Amnesty International was sitting on their ass” while “we were stopping a massacre”, he said. He defended the intervention in Kosovo as “one of the UN’s successes”. Discussing the concept of humanitarian intervention and the “right to interfere”, Kouchner, who is considered one of the architects of the doctrine, said it is “better to save one life than to do nothing,” and that he is “always on the side of the victims”. Kouchner also said on Head to Head that he believes the “UN Security Council needs reform” to include more African, Latin American or Asian members, and to ensure the future of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. *Source Aljazeera]]>

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Rwanda Could Be The Next Silicon Valley: But it Needs Youth to Help it Get There
November 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

By * It only takes one glance around the room to see the role technology plays in Rwandan lives. n-DIGITAL-OPPORTUNITY-TRUST-1-large570Last November I was in Kigali for the Transform Africa Summit. Looking out at the crowd from the panelists’ stage, I saw a sea of iPads and smartphones staring back at me. It was a truly connected room. In Rwanda, technology isn’t just being adopted — it’s being embraced. Across Kigali, cranes and construction mark an impressive turn for the country. International companies hoping to snag a piece of the growing African market are paying attention to the country’s progress. Technology is helping Rwanda to compete as a hub against very tough competition, with Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and others all vying for position. As someone who has been working in Rwanda since 2010 with incredible women, youth, and men, it has been inspiring to see the dedication to technology and connectivity in the country. One of my most powerful collaborations has been with a woman named Violette Uwamutara, Digital Opportunity Trust Rwanda’s Country Director. She is a tireless advocate and role model for equality of information and communications technology (ICT) adoption in Rwanda, regardless of socio-economic standing and gender. I thrive on learning from the local experts working in the field. She was telling me the good news that came from a recent ICT study in Rwanda. Figures released by the country’s Ministry of Youth and ICT in October show the ICT sector has contributed more than two per cent over the last six months to the country’s increasing gross domestic product. To put this into perspective, the average ICT-to-GDP ratio in Africa sits at just over one per cent. This compares to 2012, when Rwanda was below average, with ICT contribution to GDP at less than 0.5 per cent. This performance reinforces what a recent McKinsey & Company study demonstrated: invest in ICT and a country’s GDP will rise. There is a massive transformation underway in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. Much like Silicon Valley has done for America, Kigali is becoming a hub and incubator for brilliant minds in East Africa, and the world. It starts a the top — Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister of Youth and ICT, are relentless promoters of the ICT sector. At the “Smart Rwanda” conference earlier this month, both declared that ICT and broadband Internet access is not a luxury product, but as much a necessity and public utility as water and electricity. A bold statement in a country of many challenges, but from my experience, Rwanda is walking the talk. High-level leadership is paying off. Internet usage in the country has nearly tripled to 1.2 million people since 2009. The ICT competition in Africa is fierce, but Rwanda’s relatively small size — both geographically and population-wise — means it can mobilize and digitize quickly. o-DIGITAL-OPPORTUNITY-TRUST-2-570But as much as ICT needs to be supported by the government, it also needs to be understood and embraced by the people. The fact that the word “youth” is mentioned in the name of the Ministry overseeing the sector is telling. The government “gets” that youth will be the ones driving the charge and change. So what comes next? I think the magic happens when you pair ICT and entrepreneurship. Consider this: despite the increase in Internet use, 90 per cent of the labor force still works in the agriculture sector. Which is to say, it’s not enough to simply introduce people to technology — you need to provide them with the additional skills to identify opportunities and to transform technology into employment for themselves and their communities. Conventional sectors, such as agriculture, and their value chains offer a wealth of opportunities as they innovate to compete. Digitally enabled jobs will abound. We must support young people with both access to technology, and the modern know-how to use it. In 2016, Rwanda will enter the fourth and final stage of its National Information Communications Infrastructure (NICI) plan, the 20-year road map to digitize the nation. A goal of this stage is to ensure ICT contributes to community development. As I saw at the Transform Africa Summit, those next steps start in the classrooms, youth centres and in the minds of the people behind those iPads. *Huffpost. The Author is Founder, President and CEO, Digital Opportunity Trust.]]>

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On 20th anniversary, Security Council honours role of Rwandan genocide Tribunal
November 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

[caption id="attachment_13945" align="alignleft" width="579"]UN Photo/Mark Garten UN Photo/Mark Garten[/caption] 8 November 2014 – The Security Council today marked the 20th anniversary of the United Nations tribunal established in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, recognizing the court’s role in fostering a process of national reconciliation and the restoration and maintenance of peace in the African country. Based in Arusha, Tanzania, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up after the Rwandan genocide, when at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were systematically killed during a span of three months beginning in April 1994. In a statement issued to the press, the Council recalled its resolution 955 of 8 November 1994 in which it set up the Tribunal as part of a wider fight against impunity in the country while also recognizing the ICTR’s role in pursuing prosecutions against those responsible for the genocide. To that point, the Council emphasized the importance of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in ensuring that the imminent closure of the ICTR “does not leave the door open to impunity for the remaining fugitives and for those whose appeals have not been completed.” Set up by the Council in December 2010, the Residual Mechanism is mandated to take over and finish the remaining tasks of the ICTR once its mandate expires by the end of 2014. In addition, the 15-Member Council called upon all States to cooperate with the ICTR, the Residual Mechanism, and the Government of Rwanda in the arrests and prosecutions of the remaining nine indicted fugitives and extended the call to all States to investigate and prosecute all other fugitives accused of genocide residing within their borders.

  *Africa Renewal]]>

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From a Rwandan Dump to the Halls of Harvard
November 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

* [caption id="attachment_13812" align="alignleft" width="675"]Justus Uwayesu, rescued at 9 from the streets of Rwanda, is enrolled as a freshman at Harvard. Credit Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist for The New York Times Justus Uwayesu, rescued at 9 from the streets of Rwanda, is enrolled as a freshman at Harvard. Credit Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist for The New York Times[/caption]

BOSTON — Nine years old and orphaned by ethnic genocide, he was living in a burned-out car in a Rwandan garbage dump where he scavenged for food and clothes. Daytimes, he was a street beggar. He had not bathed in more than a year.

When an American charity worker, Clare Effiong, visited the dump one Sunday, other children scattered. Filthy and hungry, Justus Uwayesu stayed put, and she asked him why.

“I want to go to school,” he replied.

Well, he got his wish.

This autumn, Mr. Uwayesu enrolled as a freshman at Harvard University on a full-scholarship, studying math, economics and human rights, and aiming for an advanced science degree. Now about 22 — his birthday is unknown — he could be, in jeans, a sweater and sneakers, just another of the 1,667 first-year students here.

But of course, he is not. He is an example of the potential buried even in humanity’s most hopeless haunts, and a sobering reminder of how seldom it is mined.

Over the 13 years since his escape from the smoldering trash heap that was his home, Mr. Uwayesu did not simply rise through his nation’s top academic ranks. As a student in Rwanda, he learned English, French, Swahili and Lingala. He oversaw his high school’s student tutoring program. And he helped found a youth charity that spread to high schools nationwide, buying health insurance for poor students and giving medical and scholastic aid to others.

He is nonetheless amazed and amused by the habits and quirks of a strange land.

“I tried lobster, and I thought it was a big fight,” he said. “You have to work for it to get to the meat.” And the taste? “I’m not sure I like it,” he said.

Fresh from a land dominated by two ethnic groups — the majority Hutu and the Tutsi, who died en masse with some moderate Hutu in the 1994 conflict — he says he is delighted by Harvard’s stew of nationalities and lifestyles. He was pleasantly taken aback by the blasé acceptance of openly gay students — “that’s not something we hear about in Rwanda”— and disturbed to find homeless beggars in a nation otherwise so wealthy that “you can’t tell who is rich and who isn’t.”

He says his four suitemates, hailing from Connecticut, Hawaii and spots in between, have helped him adjust to Boston life. But he is still trying to figure out an American culture that is more frenetic and obstreperous than in his homeland.

“People work hard for everything,” he said. “They do things fast, and they move fast. They tell you the truth; they tell you their experiences and their reservations. In Rwanda, we have a different way of talking to adults. We don’t shout. We don’t be rowdy. But here, you think independently.”

Born in rural eastern Rwanda, Mr. Uwayesu was only 3 when his parents, both illiterate farmers, died in a politically driven slaughter that killed some 800,000 people in 100 days. Red Cross workers rescued him with a brother and two sisters — four other children survived elsewhere — and cared for them until 1998, when the growing tide of parentless children forced workers to return them to their village.

They arrived as a drought, and then famine, began to grip their home province. “I was malnourished,” Mr. Uwayesu said. “My brother would tell me, ‘I’m going out to look for food,’ and then he would come back without it. There were times we did not cook the whole day.”

In 2000, young Justus and his brother walked to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital and a city of about one million, in search of food and help. Instead, they wound up at Ruviri, a sprawling garbage dump on the city’s outskirts that was home to hundreds of orphans and herds of pigs.

Justus found a home with two other children in an abandoned car, its smashed-out windows and floor covered with cardboard. For the next year and a half, he said, all but the search for food and shelter fell by the wayside. “There was no shower, no bathing at all,” he said. “The only thing was to keep something warm for the night, something really warm.”

He learned to spot trucks from hotels and bakeries that carried the tastiest castoffs, and to leap atop them to grab his share before they discharged their loads to less nimble orphans.

For days when there was nothing to eat — no trucks came on Sundays, and bigger children claimed most edible garbage — he hoarded food in discarded cooking-oil tins, sunk into trash-fire embers to keep their contents warm.

Mr. Uwayesu said he was hobbled in a fall from one moving trash truck, and once nearly buried alive by a bulldozer pushing mounds of garbage into a pit.

Just 9, he spent nights in terror that a tiger said to roam the dump would attack him (there are no tigers in Africa). In the daytime, begging on the streets, he saw a world that was beyond him. “At noon,” he said, “kids would be coming back from school in their uniforms, running and playing in the road. Sometimes they would call me nayibobo” — literally, forgotten child. “They knew how different we were from them.”

“It was a really dark time, because I couldn’t see a future,” he said. “I couldn’t see how life could be better, or how I could come out of that.”

Purely by chance, Ms. Effiong proved the boy’s savior.

The charity that Ms. Effiong founded, in New Rochelle, N.Y., Esther’s Aid, decided in 2000 to center its efforts on helping Rwanda’s throngs of orphans. One Sunday in 2001, after delivering a shipping container of food and clothing, she took a taxi to the dump, spotted a scrum of orphans and, after some conversation, offered to take them to a safe place.

All but Justus refused. “I took him to where I was, cleaned him up, changed his clothes, dressed the wounds on his body and eventually sent him to primary school,” she said.

In first grade, he finished at the top of his class. It was a sign of grades to come: straight A’s in high school, followed by a seat in a senior high school specializing in the sciences.

Mr. Uwayesu moved into an orphanage run by Esther’s Aid, then, with two sisters, into the compound where Ms. Effiong lives while in Kigali. Throughout his schooling, he worked at the charity, which since has opened a cooking school for girls and is building a campus for orphans.

“My life changed because of her,” he said.

He would not have been able to compete for a spot in an American university without outside help, however. After high school, he applied for and won a seat in a yearlong scholars program, Bridge2Rwanda, run by a charity in Little Rock, Ark., that prepares talented students for the college-application process.

For roughly the past decade, Harvard’s international admissions director has personally scoured Africa for potential applicants each year.

Like most top universities, Harvard chooses its freshmen without regard to their ability to pay tuition. But until this year, the Cambridge campus had only one Rwandan student, Juliette Musabeyezu, a sophomore.

No more. Of the 25 or so African applicants who made this year’s cut, three are from Rwanda, including a second Bridge2Rwanda scholar.

Not bad for a little country that is home to barely 1 percent of Africa’s billion-plus population. A photograph of Rwanda’s Harvard contingent appears on Ms. Musabeyezu’s Facebook page.

The caption reads: “My people are finally here.”

*Source NY Times


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Facelift for Kigali airport matches growing traffic
November 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Check-in counters at the newly-refurbished departure section of Kigali International Airport. (J. Mbanda) Check-in counters at the newly-refurbished departure section of Kigali International Airport. (J. Mbanda)[/caption] Unique landscaping has complemented architecture and design to make natural vegetation more visible. The interior, too, was redesigned to add glow and more space was created for duty free shops to ensure travellers’ preference is met with variety. Tony Barigye, the Rwanda Civil Aviation communication officer, told The New Times that the works, which have cost $17.8 million, are 97 per cent complete and that what remains to be done is to do with “simple internal arrangements that will be completed in the shortest time possible.” He said another conveyor belt was added to the former two to increase baggage handling efficiency. “To ease of movement for the vulnerable such as pregnant women, the elderly and those with special needs, we added two escalators and three lifts,” Barigye said. RUHANGA* Kigali International Airport has a fresh serene look as renovation works to expand and improve services are almost complete. From the outside, one readily notices the new, better, and larger departures and arrivals terminal lounges, which have been separated and improved to increase safety and security standards. To these, the customary green space and pavements have been maintained and improved to accentuate the picturesque look on the outside. Inside, check-in desks were increased from nine to 16 to reduce time spent in queues. “Immigration desks have been increased too, not forgetting the e-immigration technology for citizens that has reduced the queues and increased the quality of service provision,” he said. [caption id="attachment_13804" align="alignright" width="300"]Passengers pick their bags at the arrivals section of the airport. Passengers pick their bags at the arrivals section of the airport.[/caption] The interior of the terminal building has been given a more appealing architectural outlook. It can now handle a capacity of 1.5 million passengers per year. Currently, at least 600,000 passengers use the airport annually, officials say Herbert Muhire, a regular traveller, said he has already noticed the difference. “I have been at many regional and international airports, but I could not help but marvel and be proud of Kigali International Airport,” he said. What impressed most, Muhire says, is the new infrastructure, check-in points, immigration desks, a first aid or health point. “There is also choice between escalators and stairs, in addition to separated departures and arrivals lounges,” he said. Kigali International Airport is ranked seventh best regional airport in Africa. Some of the travellers, including members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) on departure from Kigali at the end of their session, during this newspaper’s tour of the facility, approved of the redevelopment. MP Judith Pareno said “everything is just so impressive.” “There is a great improvement. It looks great even from the outside,” Pareno said. Renovation works started about two years ago. *Source newtimes]]>

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Rwanda to accelerate digital payments by joining the Better Than Cash Alliance
October 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

Claver Gatete, Rwanda Minister of Finance and Economic Planning. Claver Gatete, Rwanda Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.[/caption] Rwanda’s commitment to using information and communications technology (ICT) for financial services was made as it officially joined the Better Than Cash Alliance, an initiative that works with governments, the development community, and the private sector to adopt the use of electronic payments. The Alliance provides support to those who commit to make the transition. These efforts aim to help people who do not have access to formal financial services and frequently have no option but to subsist almost entirely in an informal, cash-only economy. Living in a cash economy makes it extremely difficult to access financial services like bank accounts, save for the future, build assets, or get credit. We understand the crucial role ICT plays in all sectors of the economy, including finance. This is why we have endeavored to promote a cashless economy by digitizing financial transactions,” Claver Gatete, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning said. “Today the Government conducts its business electronically, including paying salaries. We have put in place policies that encourage payment digitization and continue to support the private sector, especially financial institutions to embrace the use of ICT to champion financial inclusion. We believe that partnering with the Better Than Cash Alliance will further our ambition to transform Rwanda into a cashless economy and ensure that every Rwandan is financially included.” The shift to electronic payments has the potential to advance financial inclusion and help people build savings while giving governments, development organizations, and companies a more cost-effective, efficient, transparent, and safer means of disbursing and collecting payments. For example, a recent report by the World Bank examines growing evidence that integrating digital payments into the economies of emerging and developing nations addresses crucial issues of broad economic growth and individual financial empowerment. Currently, all government employees in Rwanda are paid electronically. The new announcement advances the commitment to transition all forms of government payments to electronic forms. The further digitization of Rwanda’s economy is expected to contribute to achieving the government’s financial inclusion goals. Additionally, Rwanda aims to expand the use of banking and retail transactions electronically, including in fuel stations, by merchants and customers across the country. [caption id="attachment_13480" align="alignright" width="669"]Rwanda accelerates digital payments by joining the Better Than Cash Alliance Rwanda accelerates digital payments by joining the Better Than Cash Alliance[/caption] “We welcome Rwanda as the newest member of the Better Than Cash Alliance and commend the government’s leadership and commitment to continue transitioning away from cash,” said Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance. “We recognize that while the opportunities of digital payments abound, getting there takes work and we stand ready to support our members. Digitizing payments is achievable when a government articulates a clear vision, leads by example, and provides the right incentives for the private sector to do what they do best: innovate, develop infrastructure, and create products designed to succeed in the marketplace.” Better Than Cash Alliance is hosted by the United Nations Capital Development Fund and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, MasterCard, Omidyar Network, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Visa Inc. *AMA]]>

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Paul Kagame hints at seeking third term as Rwandan president
October 28, 2014 | 2 Comments

David Smith* [caption id="attachment_13371" align="alignleft" width="460"]Paul Kagame speaks at Tufts University near Boston. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP Paul Kagame speaks at Tufts University near Boston. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP[/caption] Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, has been criticised after hinting that he could extend his rule beyond 2017, which would require changing the constitution. Rwandan presidents are limited to two seven-year terms, but there have been growing calls in state-controlled media for Kagame to be allowed to stay on for a third. “I think at some point we need to leave countries and people to decide their own affairs,” Kagame told students and faculty staff after a speech at Tufts University near Boston, in the US. “Why I’m saying that is because I’m asked when and whether I plan to leave office – right from the start of my first political term in office. It is as if I am here just to leave. I’m here to do business on behalf of Rwandans.” He added: “I don’t know what else I can give you on that, but let’s wait and see what happens as we go. Whatever will happen, we’ll have an explanation.” Kagame came to power in 2000 after leading the Rwandan Patriotic Front to overthrow the extremist Hutu government behind the 1994 genocide. He won elections in 2003 and 2010 with overwhelming majorities. He used to brush off speculation that he could seek to stay on for another term, but in recent years he has become more equivocal on the subject. He would hardly be the first African leader to have term limits removed: in neighbouring Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, who has held power since 1986, had limits removed in 2005 so that he could run for office the next year. Rwandan opposition politicians and watchdogs condemned the prospect of Kagame staying on. Frank Habineza, president of the Democratic Green party of Rwanda, said: “We’re very concerned because over the years he has said he will respect the constitution. For him to stay on, the constitution would have to be changed by referendum and we are against that. It will not be good for the country and will outdo some of the positive things he had done.” He added: “We agree that he has done some good work but there are some areas where the country has not done well, for example in the democratic sphere. We think it will be better if he retires. Twenty years after the genocide, we need another kind of leader, not a military one.” Carina Tertsakian, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Rwanda has a constitution which the president and everyone else should be respecting. If he or the government tries to change the constitution, it will go against any semblance of democracy in Rwanda. But then again, there is no democracy in Rwanda. It’s a one-party state, as we’ve seen at the last election. “If President Kagame wanted to have a positive legacy for his country and Africa as a whole, he could step down gracefully when his term ends, unlike other leaders in the region who have overstayed their welcome.” Kagame is one of Afriac’s most polarising figures. He has been praised for overseeing rapid growth in the Rwandan economy and marked improvements in health and education, but criticised for persecuting opponents and journalists and closing political space. Last month South Africa expelled three Rwandan envoys and accused them of being linked to attacks on dissidents in the country. Rwanda denied the accusations. Kagame is touring universities around Boston to speak about Rwanda’s recovery from the genocide 20 years ago this month, in which 800,000 people were killed. He believes European powers played a role in triggering the mass slaughter, and that the international community failed to intervene to stop it. “What we learned is that people must be responsible for their own fate,” Kagame told the Tufts audience. “If you wait for outsiders you will just perish.” He accused the international community of destabilising the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo by allowing perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide to escape into the vast country. *Source theguardian]]>

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Rwanda suspends BBC broadcasts over genocide film
October 25, 2014 | 1 Comments

Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses a High-level Summit on Strengthening International Peace Operations speaks during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2014 at UN headquarters (AFP Photo/Andrew Gombert) Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses a High-level Summit on Strengthening International Peace Operations speaks during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2014 at UN headquarters (AFP Photo/Andrew Gombert)[/caption]

Rwanda has suspended BBC broadcasts in the Kinyarwanda language with immediate effect because of a film questioning official accounts of the 1994 genocide.

The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura) said it had received complaints from the public of incitement, hatred, revisionism and genocide denial. At least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the genocide. The BBC has denied that any part of the programme constitutes a “denial of the genocide against the Tutsi”. On Wednesday, Rwandan MPs approved a resolution calling on the government to ban the BBC and to charge the documentary-makers with genocide denial, which is a crime in the country. Those killed in the genocide are generally believed to be mostly members of the minority ethnic Tutsi group, and Hutus opposed to the mass slaughter.
Rwandan genocide:
  • 6 April 1994: President Juvenal Habyarimana is killed when his plane was shot down on returning from peace talks with Tutsi RPF rebels
  • 7 April: It is not clear who is behind the shooting but it sparks the systematic mass killing of mainly Tutsis by extremist Hutu militia and military elements
  • April-July: An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus are slaughtered
  • RPF denies accusations they killed thousands of Hutus as they marched through the country
  • July: RPF captures the capital, Kigali
  • July: Two million Hutus flee to Zaire, now DR Congo
  The BBC programme Rwanda, The Untold Story, includes interviews with US-based researchers who say most of those killed may have been Hutus, killed by members of the then-rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which has been in power since 1994. The programme also included interviews with former aides of RPF leader President Paul Kagame, accusing him of plotting to shoot down the presidential plane – the act seen as triggering the slaughter. He has consistently denied previous such accusations. Rura said it had established a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations it had received about the programme, after which further action may be taken. The cabinet is meeting next week to discuss parliament’s recommendations. The BBC broadcasts affected by the suspension are produced by the BBC Great Lakes service, which was initially set up in the aftermath of the genocide as a lifeline service. Its first broadcast – BBC Gahuzamiryango, meaning “the unifier of families” – was a 15-minute transmission aimed at bringing together families who had been separated. *Source BBC

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BBC: we had a ‘duty’ to make Rwandan genocide documentary
October 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

Corporation responds to resolution calling for its licence to be revoked and film-makers to be charged with genocide denial By  and agencies* [caption id="attachment_13275" align="alignleft" width="460"]The Rwandan parliament called for the BBC to be banned in the country after its Untold Story documentary on the 1994 genocide. Photograph: BBC/Getty Images The Rwandan parliament called for the BBC to be banned in the country after its Untold Story documentary on the 1994 genocide. Photograph: BBC/Getty Images[/caption] The BBC has defended its decision to broadcast a documentary about the Rwandan genocide that has sparked complaints from the country’s government, saying it had “a duty” to make the film. Rwanda’s Untold Story, which was broadcast on BBC2 on 1 October, investigated allegations that current president Paul Kagame was involved in shooting down a plane carrying one of his predecessors – an event which sparked the 1994 conflict that cost thousands of lives. Kagame responded by telling the Rwandan parliament that the BBC had chosen to “tarnish Rwandans, dehumanise them” and accused it of “genocide denial”. On Wednesday Rwandan MPs approved a resolution calling on the government to charge the documentary-makers with genocide denial and revoke the BBC’s licence to broadcast in the country. A BBC spokeswoman responded on Friday: “The Rwandan genocide raises extremely painful issues but the BBC has a duty to investigate difficult and challenging subjects. “We believe this programme, which was produced by a BBC current affairs team in London and broadcast in the UK, made a valuable contribution to the understanding of the tragic history of the country and the region.” She said the BBC regretted calls for sanctions against it and criticised the “threat of direct measures against an independent broadcaster” which she described as “inappropriate”. The country’s minister of foreign affairs Louise Mushikiwabo described the documentary as an “attack on Rwanda and its people” and said her government was contemplating taking action against the BBC. She said: “My government reserves the right to respond, on its own timing, in a manner commensurate with the weight of the offence.” An estimated 800,000 Rwandan people, mostly minority Tutsis, were killed in just 100 days in 1994. The BBC programme included interviews with American-based researchers who say most of those killed may have been Hutus killed by members of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front. It also contained interviews with former aides of Kagame, accusing him of being behind the April 1994 shooting down of a presidential plane that sparked the genocide. *Source theguardian

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Rwanda's story now growth, not genocide: president
October 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Tuesday the central African nation was no longer “just a country of genocide” and now had a positive story to tell about reconciliation and economic growth.

[caption id="attachment_13239" align="alignleft" width="661"]Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses a High-level Summit on Strengthening International Peace Operations speaks during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2014 at UN headquarters (AFP Photo/Andrew Gombert) Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses a High-level Summit on Strengthening International Peace Operations speaks during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2014 at UN headquarters (AFP Photo/Andrew Gombert)[/caption] He warned though of the dangers of dependence on foreign aid and of the failings of international institutions, saying developing countries had to form closer regional links to increase stability.

Speaking at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, on Rwanda’s role in an emerging Africa and an uncertain world, Kagame said states in which the West had heavily invested had been allowed to fail, shaking confidence in other countries.

“Rwanda is always in the spotlight because our tragic history became closely intertwined with the question of the international system itself,” he said, referring to the 1994 genocide by Hutu extremists and the sluggish global response.

He said there could be an “endless blame game” about the past, but there was also a “positive side to the story” that was bringing Rwanda’s recovery to wider attention.

“We are finding that our country’s story means something positive to people beyond Rwanda. We are no longer just a country of genocide. Perhaps we even have something to offer as a nation to others,” he said.

But while Rwanda now has the “trust” of financial markets, “we still have a long way to go compared to the goals we have set for ourselves,” he added.

– Arrests outside –

Twenty years on from the genocide, Rwanda ranks 11th out of 52 countries in the 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, coming second in terms of the overall business environment and gender equality.

However, it ranks 45th in terms of participation, and some rights groups say Rwanda is a democracy in name only where all dissent is crushed.

“It is sometimes said that Rwanda’s economic and social achievements are somehow offset by a lack of democracy and the popular voice. The truth is exactly the opposite,” Kagame insisted in his speech.

“What is commonly perceived as Rwanda’s biggest weakness is actually its greatest strength. We would have got nowhere without robust mechanisms that enable many changes, based on popular participation.”

Chatham House director Robin Niblett, chairing the session, noted how Kagame had deflected critical questions afterwards from the floor, particularly about rights and external criticism.

And when Niblett asked Kagame if he was happy with the Rwandan constitution, which limits presidents to two terms in office, he replied by saying he was content with many things in it but Rwandans were the “most important factor here and the ones I am most satisfied with”.

Outside, around 100 pro-Kagame and 50 anti-Kagame demonstrators gathered, separated by a heavy police presence. Supporters waved placards reading: “We love Kagame”, “Rwanda today: zero corruption” and “11 million Rwandans know the truth”. Meanwhile anti-Kagame protesters had a blaring sound system, and placards reading: “We reject Kagame the killer”, “Congo resources are for Congolese” and “Holocaust in Congo”.

At one point, a hail of eggs was hurled at the building by the anti-Kagame camp, plastering the doorway and several invitees.

Police said five arrests were made, for suspected public order and criminal damage offences.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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