The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: RPF's 25-Year Journey

Photo: The East African
President Paul Kagame (file photo).

The Rwandese Patriotic Front today celebrates its 25th anniversary, capping weeks of activities that included supporting the vulnerable, and the launch of the construction of a liberation museum and the party headquarters.

The day's celebrations will take place at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali.

Leaders from various countries are expected to attend the climax of the celebrations which were preceded by a conference on liberation in Africa.

Notable among the foreign dignitaries present is Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the man who worked with several of RPF leaders, including President Paul Kagame, and the party's first chairman, Gen. Fred Rwigema, during and after the liberation struggle of his own country.

Among the top credits of the RPF is bringing to an end the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and rebuilding Rwanda from scratch to a country characterisied by unity and prosperity.

Speaking during an interview ahead of the celebrations, the RPF Chairman, President Paul Kagame, noted that the party is an extended, inclusive family that gives everyone equal opportunities.

He said RPF draws its strength from the fact that it functions as a collective entity, with a clear vision for Rwanda's long-term development.

"What I find good with the RPF is that its functioning is collective, not individual," Kagame said.

"This collective action is vital. You cannot have a family which belongs to a few specific people; it is everybody's family."

The RPF leadership spearheaded unity and reconciliation programmes that have successfully brought the Rwandan people together to work towards the betterment of the country and improve their lives.

It is the desire for better and dignified living that inspired the creation of the RPF.

Over the last five years, under the stewardship of the RPF, more than one million Rwandans have lifted themselves out of poverty and the country is on track to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals.

The country's population is now at 10.5 million, according to the 2012 national census.

While launching the second phase of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), President Kagame pointed out that although the statistics were impressive, there was more work to be done in order to lift more Rwandans out of poverty.

"There has been a mindset shift and Rwandans now know they should aspire for more and better, and that solutions are there within them," the President said at the launch of EDPRS II earlier in the year.

"Let us bear in mind that attaining sustainable development is not only a socio-economic goal, but a fundamental responsibility in our continuous task of building a stable, united and democratic nation," he added.

Prof. Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, who also attended the launch, said:

"What I see here is what should happen; it is what should happen all over Africa. Despite numerous impediments, Rwanda continues to achieve what others have failed to achieve. The combination of growth, reduction in poverty and more equity has been achieved nowhere else in Africa."

Rwanda's GDP per capita has more than tripled over the last ten years, and there is optimism the country is on course to achieve a middle-income status (which needs a GDP per capita of US$1,240) over the next eight years, as envisioned in its recently-adjusted Vision 2020.

Family planning services have generally gained public acceptance, with both population growth rate and fertility rate dropping over the years - to 2.6 per cent and 4.6, respectively.

The RPF has always sought strength and solutions from within to overcome the challenges they came across, both during and the liberation struggle.

It is based on this principle that various homegrown initiatives were crafted to keep economic growth on track and ensure that the wellbeing of the Rwandan people is guaranteed.

The RPF leadership has also continuously pushed for the safety of the people and professionalisation and coherence among the various institutions in the country.

In a poll commissioned by Gallup Inc., a research-based performance-management consulting company in the US, released last month, Rwanda topped the list of countries in Africa where citizens are most likely to feel safe, at 92 per cent.

The Global States of Mind: New Metrics for World Leaders report, seeks to provide leaders with "timely, forward-looking economics on what their citizens are thinking."

The survey asked African citizens questions that sought to determine feelings on their confidence in and experiences with crime and law enforcement authorities in their countries.

Reacting to the findings, Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), said the Gallup findings on personal safety and security reflect the evidence on the ground.

"This transformation is a result of coherent people centered governance and security strategies that, as a country, we consistently implemented. For Rwanda, this is critical for national development predictability," he said.

The RPF has every reason to celebrate and based on the past achievements there is no doubt the country is on the right path.

With targets such as building a self reliant country, the challenges that lie ahead are more complex but the progress, so far, serves as a key motivator.

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InFocus

Rwanda's Ruling Party Celebrates Jubilee

President Paul Kagame (file photo).

Rwandans all over the world are expected to join members of the Rwanda Patriotic Front in celebrating 25 years of the party's existence. Read more »