Voters in Rwanda’s presidential election this year are expected to have the economy at the top of their minds when they cast their ballots and violence is unlikely, the country’s foreign minister says. The central African nation’s economic development push has scored various successes in recent years, such as higher annual growth rates, investment amounting to $1.1 billion last year, higher income per capita and food self-sufficiency.
Rwanda was ranked the top global reformer in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report last year, Reuters reports. “Rwanda is embarked on a number of major economic activities in infrastructure, in ICT, creating a skilled workforce and these are the issues everybody in Rwanda is looking at,” Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Reuters late on Thursday.
“The economy is the number one priority for voters in Rwanda in August 2010,” she said on the sidelines of a conference. Although President Paul Kagame is credited with pulling the country back from the brink after the 1994 genocide — and is widely expected to win another term in the August poll — critics accuse him of political repression.
But Mushikiwabo ruled out any threat of violence in the land-locked country, which was nearly decimated by the genocide. “Any kind of disturbance around the elections is not anything we are expecting in Rwanda, obviously when we get closer to August, there will be a little bit of politicking. There is no threat whatsoever to the investments coming into Rwanda because of these elections,” she said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said last month that Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party did not tolerate political opposition or public criticism and the opposition faced threats, attacks and harassment. Mushikiwabo said critics failed to appreciate that Rwanda’s experience of genocide had wrought a dynamic that is unique: the overriding need to hold the country together.
“Doing politics is not dividing people,” she said, adding that she would be surprised if another party managed to snatch victory from the RPF. She said Rwandan peacekeepers would stay in the U.N./African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan’s Darfur region, despite the killing of five soldiers last year.
“We attribute that (Rwandan casualties) to some of the dysfunctions at the level of this mission: the way it was structured, with commitments that are not honoured, with promises of equipment from some of the powerful countries that have not been honoured,” she said. Mushikiwabo also said her country was willing to contribute to the stabilisation of Somalia through the training of police and sharing of Rwanda’s own experience of rising from genocide.
“We think we can sit down with people in positions of leadership and decision-making and give them the hard reality of what happens when people don’t want to put down their weapons.”