What lessons from Rwanda?
By Andrew M. Mwenda
April 11, 2004

In Rwanda, there is a deliberate effort to attract the most talented of its
people into government. If this policy is sustained, Rwanda will certainly
become the first country in Sub Sahara Africa to realize its development

Kigali : I was once again in Rwanda, this time to do an interview with
President Paul Kagame for Andrew Mwenda Live as part of a special supplement
The Monitor is going to publish and 93.3 Monitor FM broadcast to commemorate
ten years since the genocide in that central African state. I was intrigued.

Ten years after the genocide and a massive human exodus out of the country,
Rwanda is chronically short of manpower. However, even a casual visitor to
Rwanda would tell that here is a government committed to building a strong
and competent state by a deliberate effort to hire the best of its brains.

Rwanda is unique. Most governments in Africa use state jobs primarily for
patronage i.e. to reward loyalists, recruit and maintain supporters, buy off
real or potential opponents etc. Consequently, the state apparatus gets
clogged with many incompetent recruits.

In Rwanda, there is a deliberate effort to attract the most talented of its
people into government. If this policy is sustained, Rwanda will certainly
become the first country in Sub Sahara Africa to realize its development

In my after-interview conversation with Kagame, the president said that
Rwanda has limited, if any, natural resources. Investment in people is the
key to his country’s future.

Kagame sounded like a president from East Asia: Taiwan, Singapore, South
Korea and Japan, but certainly not from Africa. East Asia’s success was
based on recruiting the most professionally talented people into government
service.< BR>
President Yoweri Museveni will employ an incredibly brilliant person like
Dr. Ezra Suruma with a Ph D in economics no so much to tap his immense
talent, but rather to buy his silence on the third term, or his complicity
or to appease the people of Kabale.

Museveni is therefore frantically looking for oil thinking that countries
are developed through natural resources. The Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) has the highest natural resource endowment per capita in the world yet
it is also the poorest in the world.

Museveni cannot quote one example of an oil rich country that has actually
developed. The greatest resource for any country is its own people, and the
best investment in them is not education per se, but using education to get
the best brains to work in government.

Rwanda’s emphasis on investing and utilizing its people is already bearing
results. Together with Monitor’s advertising manager, Alex Asiimwe, we w ere
invited by friends to have lunch at the officers’ mess of the Rwandan army.
A casual look at the Rwandese soldiers tells why they routed our own beloved
UPDF three times in Kisangani.

Ordinary soldiers we met at the entrance gate were well dressed in polished
boots, clean, matching and starched uniforms. They are well fed and carried
the air of professionalism reflecting a happy and proud institution with a
strong esprit de corp.

The senior officers inside the mess – without exception – were wearing light
green shirts and army green trousers with their pips, looking every inch an
army. All of them are university graduates, many of them former NRA

I met a retired British general in London last August who told me he had
been to Rwanda on an army review mission. He told me that Rwanda possibly
has the most formidable military machines in Africa, insisting that its
army’s professionalism is among the world’s best (to use his own term) “in
classical military terms.”
Rwanda’s defense budget is US$ 38m while Uganda’s isUS$ 156m, and if we add
on the supplementary, this year it will hit US$ 180m. Yet ordinary UPDF
soldiers wear rugs, live in ramshackled grass thatched huts unfit even to be
a pigsty.

While some UPDF officers look fat and physically unfit, others look thin and
demoralized. The ordinary UPDF soldiers are physically emaciated and
diseased, reflecting the predatory character of its officer corps and
political class.
My friend Ronald Rwivanga joined the Rwandan army in 1999 for a cadet course
and has since undergone three courses.

Today he is a lieutenant. His counterparts in UPDF who did a similar cadet
course in 1999 have never progressed since in course and rank.

The sole exception is Maj. Muhozi Keinerugaba whose accelerated promotion,
and the number of courses attended emphasize the highly personalized control< BR>his father exercises over the army, a factor that has undermined the
evolution of the UPDF into a professional force. Muhozi joined the army in

We are told that President Museveni promoted the semi educated strata of the
army, people like Maj. Gen. James Kazini, Colonels Sula Semakula, Mawa,
Guti, Lakara, Poteri, Segamwenge, etc. because the educated are “not good

Rwanda relies on graduates to lead its army and the results are told by who
won the Kisangani battles: Kazini or Col. Karenzi? I am willing to be hated
for this: we cannot professionalize our army, or develop this country, led
by semi illiterate generals.

In every government department we visited in Rwanda, I met young men and
ladies I studied with at Nyakasura, Mbarara High, Mwiri and Makerere
University, who later went for post graduate education in the USA, UK and
Europe and are now in charge of Rwanda.

Their Ugandan counterparts wh o went to Harvard, Yale, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford
or the University of London either remained in “exile” or came back to join
the private sector.

Those who joined government have no hope that their professional advice will
be listened to. They know this government listens only to political
agitators for a third term.

The RPF may fail in its development efforts because of the complexity of
Rwanda’s social structure and ethnic fragmentation. However, it is clear to
me that they have got the basics right.

Take the example of their police force. It is possibly the most uncorrupt
and professionally competent police force in Africa. When stopped by the
traffic police, there is no asking for bribes. If that happened, it is the
rare exception, not the rule. In Museveni’s Uganda, traffic police is akin
to a road toll collection agency.

That brings me to the scoring board: there is no free media in Rwanda as in
Uganda. Ordinar ily, one may conclude that the Ugandan government is more
accountable to its people than its Rwandan counterpart because in Uganda
people can challenge government actions in the press and on radio.

However, the Rwandan government accounts to its people for the US$ 38m it
spends on its army by ensuring value for money. Back in Uganda, the
government’s account of US$ 156m defense spending is billions of money
unaccounted for, junk helicopters, expired food rations, soldiers dressed in
rags or going without pay for six months, mal-functional T55 tanks,
under-seize uniforms, expired food rations, obsolete 100mm anti aircraft
guns, 10,000 ghost soldiers and an ever increasing number of children
abducted, convoys ambushed and civilians killed by rebels without the army
being able to defend them.

I do not claim that Rwanda is a democracy. However, with this level of abuse
in Uganda (“a freer and more open country than Rwanda”) then the taxpayer in
Uganda is better off without freedom and openness.

I have one caveat on Rwanda though: I was not in the country long enough to
study how RPF manages the political process, and how that may impose
constraints and limitations on its development efforts. I only observed the
government’s technocratic focus and was impressed by it.

Reposted by Edith Kyeyune

"Rang guthe agithi marapu!" A karamonjong word of wisdom

The new MSN 8: smart spam protection and 2 months FREE* -------------------------------------------- This service is hosted on the Infocom network http://www.infocom.co.ug

Reply via email to