It is difficultto think of modern day Rwanda without looking back to the 1994 genocide. However, in the last 15 years Rwanda stands out for its political and economic successes. Following the genocide of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, Rwanda has settled into a period of relative political stability. The ‘Frontline’ President Paul Kagame – leader of the ruling RPF - has attempted to foster a new national consciousness to facilitate social cohesion and has kept the government relatively transparent and free of the corruption which plagued Rwandan politics for the thirty years before the genocide.
Rwanda has emerged as a darling of donor governments including the UK, but still faces many economic challenges. Rwanda is Africa’s most densely populated country and is still mostly rural, with agriculture (mainly subsistence) accounting for the livelihood 90 percent of the population. Economic growth is hampered by the country being landlocked and having inadequate transport infrastructure for effective trade with neighbouring countries. Furthermore, many of those neighbouring countries themselves are unstable and ineffective trading partners. The actions of the Rwandan government in the DRC have been notably controversial, with attempts to destroy the last vestiges of the genocidaires leading to countless deaths, looting and massive human rights violations across the border.
Despite President Kagame’s own desire to make Rwanda aid free, 60 percent of the population live below the poverty line and about half of the Rwandan governments’ national budget comes from international aid. The country received ‘IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country’ (HIPC) debt relief in 2005-2006.
The government has however been active in forming market-oriented policy and has invested much in education and healthcare. GDP growth rose by 4.5 percent in 2009 and in the same year it achieved the 12th highest percentage increase in industrial production, globally. Tourism is one of the country’s most flourishing industries, with the Volcanoes National Park attracting tourists from round the world, hoping (and paying very high fees) to see wild mountain gorillas.
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