Rwanda cited as metaphor for resilience at AfDB Annual Meetings

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Rwanda, host of the 2014 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), commemorated the 20th anniversary of the genocide which claimed a million lives, mainly people of the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus in one hundred days, in April 1994.

The narrative on “how quickly” Rwanda recovered from what many saw as an irrevocable apocalypse is not lost to delegates attending the meetings.

Rwanda has evolved through a period of economic prosperity and macroeconomic stability in the past decade with GDP growing at an average of 8% annually pitching the country in the ranks of fastest growing economies in Africa.

Mauritania’s President and current Chair of the African Union, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, cited this in his brief speech while AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, himself a Rwandan, used it as the leitmotif of his presentation at the opening ceremony of the meetings in Kigali on Thursday, May 22, 2013.

According to Kaberuka, what many describe as the Rwandan miracle should provide at least two lessons that can be very relevant to many African countries facing challenges of reconstruction.

The first lesson, he said, is that no matter how bad a situation is, a determined people can prevail against the most impossible odds. The second lesson is that while there are manuals on how to build complex structures, there is no such toolbox on how to rebuild a destroyed nation, he said. “People have to look to their culture, their history, the nature of the crisis they face and come up with their own solutions,” Kaberuka added, acknowledging the support from friends far and near in Rwanda’s reconstruction.

On the downside, current events in South Sudan, Central African Republic and other unstable parts of Africa that had witnessed conflicts of genocidal proportions in the past do suggest that history will continue to repeat itself no matter how awful.

Referring to last month’s kidnapping of nearly 300 school girls in Borno, Northeastern Nigeria, Kaberuka said that, as a developing finance institution, the Bank dearly upholds the right of girls to go to school alongside their brothers.

“It is at the heart of the demographic dividend,” he emphasized, adding, “In the same vein we  vehemently condemned the violence and terrorist groups bent on interrupting our economic takeoff, spreading mayhem in Nigeria, in Kenya, the Sahel and the Horn.”

President Kagame also tackled the issues from the angle of the inevitability of change when he noted in his speech that situations around the continent today should remind everyone that progress can always be reversed.

“We also have to be reminded that together we may rise or together we may fall. We are responsible for ourselves. But we are also, to some extent, responsible for each other.”

He noted that the realization that instability in any part of Africa would affect the entire continent one way or the other makes peace-building and conflict prevention everyone business.

“We cannot afford to sit back and take the future of our continent for granted,” he added.

Conflict and fragility are among several themes discussed by participants at the Annual Meetings, which has as its theme: “The next 50 years: The Africa we want.”

Egypt, Libya and Tunisia – three of the Bank’s most robust regional member countries – came up often in these debates in reference to how political instability and conflict can undermine economic development and growth.

Delegates at the discussions say these situations would require the Bank to engage more in peace-building and conflict prevention in addition to its core mandate of financing projects and programmes and its role as a knowledge broker on development issues.