Saturday, June 30, 2007

Preparing for Rwanda

In less than three weeks I am going to Rwanda to make a film on the social action projects being organised by Shadow International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell. He is taking a group of 45 people (including 8 MPs) to volunteer for two weeks helping on social action projects throughout the country.

This morning I have been attending a briefing session with expert speakers on Rwanda, a country I admit I know very little about apart from the genocide. We heard from the Rwandan ambassador, a representative from VSO, who are supporting the trip, Janice Booth, author of the Bradt Guide to Rwanda and finally Mary Blewitt, a Rwandan who told us about the genocide and how 60 members of her family were killed.

I'm only going for 5 days to make the films but hope to get round the 20 social action projects round the country. Naturally, I will be blogging the trip, which I hope you will be interested in. It's 16 years since I was one of the first British people to go to Beirut after John McCarthy's release. I feel the same sense of anticipation about this trip to Rwanda that I felt then.

If any of you have been to Rwanda do feel free to pass on any information or travel tips.

62 comments:

Edward said...

Best of luck. Which other MPs are going?

Anonymous said...

Is you blogging from Rwanda going to be via carrier pigeon?

Andrew Woodman said...

'Shadow Envoirnment Secretary'. Do you know something we don't Iain?

bgprior said...

So now we know who is responsible for the photo-op.

Iain, it is great to tell us about the problems faced by Africans, and even better to show us how they are going about tackling them. But why is that story enhanced by the arrival of a few Tories with inappropriate skills? Are they really going to make a difference in a fortnight? This is really a glorified glacier-trip; not for you - I am sure your intentions are entirely well-meant - but for the MPs who turn up to get muddy for a couple of weeks and then go home wearing their halos proudly having made barely an iota of difference to the situation in Rwanda, or got to grips with the policy issues that are properly their domain.

This just isn't their job - they could make so much more difference, not just to Rwanda, but to much of Africa, by using the political skills that they (hopefully) have in abundance, rather than the bricklaying skills that they (probably) do not have, and pressurising the government to support significant changes to policy, such as backing use of DDT on African malarial swamps, and forming trade/investment partnerships with well-run African countries to reinforce good governance (as per Prof. Paul Collier).

GreatGranPapaPat said...

Advise you don't drink the water iain, and definitely stay away from ice cubes in your tipple. Decline the salad and fruit offerings while being very wary of any fish dish.
Recommended: BBQ goat [well done] and the bush meat roulade with the Ebola dressing.
Ideally, take 5 days worth of M&S sandwiches and your full allowance of duty free gin.
It ain't called the 'Heart of Darkness' for no reason....
Bon voyage.GGPP

verity said...

B G Prior has the right end of the stick. The problem with Africa is the Africans. They've had hundreds of billions of dollars in aid over the last 60 years and they're still stalled. Meanwhile, the West, China, SE Asia and India have surged ahead under their own steam, creating unimaginable wealth. This wealth, created by daring, investment, intelligence and creativity should not be shared with Africa.

If you want to share some "expertise" that they are too stupid or too lazy to have developed themselves, then I suppose I don't see anything to object to, but they won't take it and run with it.

It's the richest continent in the world, in terms of arable land and minerals that everyone else wants, like uranian, oil, diamonds, gold and a host of others, and they still can't hack it.

I realise Iain will say it's just one small project "to make a difference". Sorry, after 60 years and squillions of dollars, they should be making their own difference and British MPs should be at home governing Britain and attending to their constituencies.

The only caveat to abandoning Africa that I would add is, the EU is behaving criminally by keeping them out of the CAP supported EU agricultural system. It's a protectionist racket and the Africans should be invited in to try their hands at free trading with us.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I for one wish you and the group going well. The problems in Rwanda do require more publicity, which the trip will achieve. Also there is no substitute for spending time in a country to understand some of the subtle issues arising.

The 'photo op' criticism is lazy and ill judged. We should be encouraging school leavers, business people and early retirees into voluntary work. As long as it is well organised if we all spent a week or two every couple of years helping such projects it will become a real force for change. Dez.

Ian said...

Hi Iain,

I was in Rwanda as an aid worker in 1994 but I don't feel like revisiting all that again. I will confine myself to saying watch out for the goat with piri piri - it's VERY hot and designed to make you buy loads of beer to cool your mouth down. Primus beer is OK.

Enjoy. It's a complex place so don't rush to judgements.

Ian

Manfarang said...

Don't worry Verity, China has increased its presence in Africa very much in recent decades.
Talking of decades-Ten years since the Hands Up in Hong Kong!

The Huntsman said...

Having acted as Counsel to one of the Genocidaires on trial at the ICTR, I have some insight into the Rwanda story. One of the biggest complaints of those on trial is that justice at the ICTR is not even-handed, in that there is credible prima facie evidence of the crimes of genocide, torture, other crimes against humanity and war crimes against many members of Paul Kagame’s regime and political following which would pass the test for them to be indicted by the ICTR. Notwithstanding this, the Prosecutor, aided and abetted by the Tribunal and the UN, has resolutely refused to have anything to do with prosecuting anyone from the present regime in Kigali.

It is of note that Paul Kagame, against whom it is said there is a wealth of credible prima facie evidence, is seen by HMG as someone up to whom we should cosy. Why, you may ask should we wish to do business with a man who might be an indictee at Arusha?

For two reasons.

Firstly the French Magistrate Brugiere has a dossier in which Kagame and his crew are charged with organizing the shooting down the plane of President Habayarimana in 1994 which act precipitated the genocide by the Hutus. As a result Kagame has become very anti-France and cultivating him is seen as a way of detaching Rwanda from the Francophone world. I have seen it suggested that Rwanda may become a member of the Commonwealth and Kagame was recently accorded a major visit to the UK (I cannot recall offhand if it was ‘official’ or ‘state’ but Blair certainly laid out the red carpet).

This begs the question, the answer to which is the second reason, as to why we should want to detach Rwanda from France’s orbit. After all, on the face of it, Rwanda is a benighted over-populated mess of a Third World Country with nothing going for it whatsoever. The answer is: oil and minerals, not in Rwanda but the Democratic Republic of Congo. The theory goes that Rwanda may at some future stage take the opportunity of a complete collapse of the Congo into ‘failed state’ mode either to seize territory in NE DRC or at least to occupy it and gain de facto control over any mineral or oil exploitation
(see for example http://www.tullowoil.com/tlw/operations/africa/congodrc/) and thereby become a significant player in the oil world. Already Rwanda carries out frequent ratissages in NE DRC designed to eliminate the many Hutus who fled the Tutsi regime in 1994 when the genocide came to an end and Kagame’s troops marched into Kigali. The ulterior purpose of these is to establish Rwandan suzerainity over the region.

Oil, which most people think of being the real reason for the Iraq imbroglio, may also be at the heart of Blair looking upon a man who ought to be on trial in Arusha as Britain’s friend.

The other thing to ponder is the nature of the government. It would be pertinent to enquire of this is a government which has been elected on the basis of “one man, one vote”. The answer is ‘No’. for the simple reason that an election on that basis is bound to produce a Hutu majority, something which the Tutsis, who dominated the Hutus for years and kept them in something akin to serfdom, are not about to let happen. Its democratic credentials are thus irrevocably tainted. Don’t even bother to contemplate the concept of ‘good governance’, either.

Returning for a moment to the issue of International Justice, the fact that the ICTR is unwilling to prosecute Kagame and his chums is an indelible blot on that institution (there are others, but that is another story) and, in my view, wholly undermines that Tribunal’s claim to legitimacy. The ICTY in The Hague has been, by comparison, reasonably even-handed. The ICTR on the other hand is just an exercise in victor’s justice and has much to do with deflecting attention from the role of Kofi Annan and other high officials at the UN in the genocide.

It is very important that you look at the alternative view of Rwanda otherwise you will not understand what is being peddled to you for what it is. Only then can you make your own mind up.

The Huntsman said...

Sorry the citation got cut off: it was http://www.tullowoil.com/
tlw/operations/
africa/congodrc/

Cinnamon said...

Make the difference at home first -- we have many people in the UK that need help and all this money and time wasted on Africa takes away from them directly -- how many pensioners could you buy the gift of sight for a few days longer than they have now, with your trip to Africa?

pj another one said...

Would agree with bgp & verity on this but would go further: The majority of taxpaying adults in this country couldn't give a monkey's about Rwanda in particular or Africa in general. To be honest, hardly anybody had even heard of the place until its inhabitants got themselves onto the front pages via a spot of genocide.
If 8 of our under worked, over paid MP's want to justify their miserable existence by some do-gooding I suggest they take themselves to one of our inner city hellholes - Peckham might be appropriate - before we have a home grown genocide.

achilles said...

I see that Verity is on top form...

verity said...

Manfaring - or may I call you Ferengi? - I'm not worried at all. Did you read my post?

China, as far as I know, is not in India to offer yet more aid to the Africans. I believe the pragmatic Chinese are in there to make money. That, I approve of!

verity said...

Sorry. Should have read "not in Africa".

The Hitch said...

Typical politician
why not get your backside up to shefield and help some of your fellow brits who have been flooded out?
oh I know they arent a "right on" cause.

The Hitch said...

PS
Take boy wonder with you and dont come back

Anonymous said...

Internet works very slowly even from the only two good hotels in Kigali.

Ignore the hookers but if you feel you must the ones the Manager lets in the hotel are meant to be cleaner.

Take US one dollar bills. Local prefer US dollars to Rwadan francs.

Take plenty of bottled water as it is hot but when you finished with the plastic bottle give it the kids who will follow you as you are white. The bottles are great currency.

Keep moving in busy places as a white man is eemed very rich and you will attract a crowd.

The nantional genocide memorial centre is tear jerking as is all the genocide sites. Leave some dollars at every site as they are often run by the odd child that survived the slaughter in that church or that school. These children do not have jobs but there lives are dominated by keeping the site as a memorial to the dead relatives.

Rwanda has more than the genocide and has stunning scenery and the people generate a warmth we could only envy.

Great Place

Simon

Nomad said...

Lots of very good advice above.

All I would add is make sure you have all the necessary jabs before you go or you could come back with several forms of lurgy. Also recommend a large sun hat, a mozzie net and anti-mozzie impregnated clothes. Wash your hands as often as you can, provided you can find clean water.
And if you are taking the new PM with you, please ask him not to pick and chew...

My emergency anti squits standby for the past 40+ years is Collis Brownes mixture. Guaranteed liquid cement should the need arise. Available at any chemist.

Bon Voyage.

The Remittance Man said...

Always make sure you sterilise the water with a good shot of whisky.

And when the natives pretend not to understand English just speak more loudly and slowly.

Two rules that have seen me right in my travels :-)

The Remittance Man said...

Oh! And pack your own marmalade and HP sauce. For some reason they never seem to have any. I put it down to tropical slackness, myself :-)

Susana said...

Tragically, Rwanda is best known for the horrific genocide that occurred in 1994. Nearly a million people, or about 10% of Rwanda's population, were killed. Females represent 70% of Rwanda's population since so many men had been killed. They are now making a living by selling their homemade peace baskets to provide food and shelter for their family. Art is a wonderful thing, especially when made with blood, sweat and tears.

The sale of these beautiful, handmade baskets plays an important role in Rwanda's evolution. These beautiful peace baskets are a great conversation piece for your home and at the same time you can help others help themselves.
See the peace baskets at link below.
http://naturalsupply.blogspot.com/2007/06/help-others-help-themselves.html

verity said...

God, I hate folk art!

Savonarola said...

Do not go without reading

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families. Philip Gourevitch. Picador. White man can make no difference other than to muddy the waters. Aid and advice from the West to African Leaders inhibit these leaders from facing up to Africa's problems. The only good aid is provided by small independent charities.

Chuck Unsworth said...

Yes, for heaven's sake make sure you get yourself inoculated against bleeding everything. You can get some very interesting diseases there - some of them are curable, I understand. And, despite suggestions to the contrary, use insect repellent and mosquito nets - even in your fully air-conditioned suite.

Bottled beer is fine. All properly cooked food is OK. Fruit which you have to peel yourself is usually safe. If you cut or graze yourself you can usually sterilise the (slight!!) wound with aftershave - or alcohol such as whisky, gin etc. If you cut or graze anyone else - let them sort themselves out...

Finally, instinct is very useful.

The Hitch said...

susana
maybe if they started to make some "peace" DVD players , "peace" training shoes or peace motor cycles , you kow the stuff we actually want ? then they might be a little better off.
But then again that would leave the world without a guilt theme park for bleeding heart liberals.

javelin said...

Ask who owns the land and who is the Minister responsible. Look at the context - not the individuals. Africa's problem is Governance.

You might like to ask the politicians if they have any other houses in Europe.

Ross F said...

Bloody hell you'd think he was visiting Venus judging by some of these comments!

I'd be interested in knowing what Rwandan's think about the UK government's support of Kagame. I get the impression that he is a thug but he gets an enormous amount of credit for stopping the genocide whilst the international community stood by. Do the Rwandans think that he has now used the credit he gained from that?

james higham said...

Pretty important work this and only hope you can make a difference.

verity said...

And what kind of "difference" would that be, James Higham, that US$600bn so far (in "soft" loans that somehow never got paid back), and a quarter of a million AID workers hasn't made?

forthurst said...

Iain, here's a link to a Zimbabwean journalist's lament on the problems beseting his country and of post-colonial Africa, generally.

Although there is undoubted truth in what he says, and who could deny that the genocide and destitution of major asiatic countries in the last century was due to Bolshevism rather than the inate qualities of the indigenous populations, there also has to be a question mark over the potential for modernism of those who previously lived as hunter gatherers in some of the the most benign environments for survival.

http://www.projo.com/opinion/contributors/content/CT_zimb25_06-25-07_UV5UH5O.1b0bfa9.html

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

Glasgow Airport and Cobra

Who will write an Air Chief Marshal Dowding style letter to the current Prime Minister, suggesting that if lax immigration rules from Pakistan and other Muslim countries continues, it will not be possible for England to continue the struggle beyond 10-15 years?

I can't believe that no one is prepared to discuss this elephant in the room.

Before we know it, their will be queues for security checks on the M4 spur, just to drive anywhere near Heathrow. All in the name of the great MSM dream of Multiculturalism.

Great Britain needs another Hugh Dowding not another Tony Blair.

Adrian Yalland said...

bgprior et al. As the person who owns the company which is organising the projects on which Andrew Mitchell's team will be working, who has already been to Rwanda with members of his team, and will be in Rwanda with the Conservative Party’s volunteers, I feel I am in a unique position to say that a lot of the negative assumptions and statements made about this trip are unfair and inaccurate.

As a company, we run many trips of this nature, and my company employs international development experts and applies international development criteria in its project assessments and project management. In particular, two members of my staff working on this project have over a decade’s experience of working on development projects in Africa between them. One is a former VSO volunteer, and the other worked for both DFiD and the ODA.

In terms of the volunteers themselves, each one has been interviewed to establish their credibility and suitability for the project, and to ensure that there will be a genuine benefit left behind by the volunteers for the people of Rwanda. This was done by matching projects to volunteers according to accepted International Development criteria – to ensure genuine skills gaps are filled by appropriately skilled people. Andrew Mitchell, and also David Cameron have made it very clear to me on numerous occasions that this initiative is about leaving behind a positive legacy, but that this trip is only the beginning of an on-going relationship between the ten plus individual projects and the 40 plus volunteers.

Therefore, asking ‘what can be achieved in just two weeks’ is an inappropriate question. The group might only be in Rwanda for two weeks, but the support, interaction, relationship, and commitment will continue after the volunteers return to the UK.

Secondly, this is also about educating and demonstrating to a potentially influential group of interested people some of the issues which a developing country like Rwanda faces. This can only be a positive thing, because as good as briefing documents and reports are, being on the ground and seeing for yourself is an incredible eye opener.

Thirdly, as someone who has worked on this initiative on a daily basis for nearly a year, I know that this is not merely a photo opportunity - as has been implied. In all my dealings with Andrew and his team, I can tell you that the commitment to this being ‘development centric’ is genuine. I would not be involved with this project if I had any doubt at all about the real merit this project will bring to Rwanda, or if I suspected for one minute it was merely a cheap publicity shot.

I have no doubt about the genuine commitment that Andrew Mitchell and David Cameron have to both international development and social action – and this is an innovative and exciting way to bring both elements together and prove beyond doubt that these commitments are more than just mealy mouthed words. Ironically, we criticize politicians for not getting stuck-in and getting their hands dirty, yet when they do, we criticize accuse them of trying to grab headlines.

Finally, Rwanda is a uniquely deserving country – but not because of the genocide, the obvious poverty or any of the usual reasons one might usually think of. I think Rwanda is a great destination because they intend to get themselves back on their feet by 2020, and to be in a situation where they can exist independent of international aid.

We should applaud the Rwanda government in that objective, and help them to achieve it.

anti-poseur said...

Go on your pointless little jaunt to Rwanda if you must Iain, but don't expect there to be any votes in it. Or any real purpose.

verity said...

Tone Made Me Do It - Agreed.

What is more, it is time a new topic was posted here. This has been the leading thread for over 12 hours, while Iain's out dawdling over the selection of safari suit, knee length socks and posing in front of the mirror in solar topées.

This should cheer everyone up: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/30/wblair130.xml

Blair has been told by the Americans, alarmed at his assumption of Middle Eastern Potentatecy, that he is not authorised to engage in any negotiations! This comes from the President and the Secretary of State. All negotiations will be done by Condoleezza Rice. End of story.

Read the article. It's hysterical. Two days on the job and has already motivated Washington to whip him back. What D.C. is saying is, he has misunderstood what he was hired for.

Well, we didn't get the heart attack or a "tragic" accident, but perhaps death by a thousand cuts will be more entertaining after all!

How humiliated he must feel by this public putdown!!

The Remittance Man said...

Mr Unsworth also offers sound advice. Methinks he is a GOA as well.

Colin D said...

How much is this little jaunt going to cost us?

Anonymous said...

verity - good point - before taking any role, read the terms of reference..

Anonymous said...

Iain - before you head over read this. About as compelling an account of the Rwandan tragedy as any that has come out over the last ten years.

black country ethnic said...

Bon voyage Iain.We are all members of the human race.

tapestry said...

Visiting the third world reveals another side to humanity - a nicer gentler simpler side. You will feel spiritually uplifted and, if such a thing were possible, you will become an even better and wiser blogger than you were before.

Iain Dale said...

This thread has brought out the best and worst in people, hasn't it?

And to Colin D at 8.11, what on earth are you on about? Why would it cost you anything? Surely where I choose to spend my time and what I spend my money on is up to me.

Cinnamon said...

Sure, you can spend your money how you like buy a Rolex or whateva ;) But since you're going with the idea of bettering this world, I don't understand what you're seeking in Rwanda that you can put right, when we have 3rd world type problems bank home. Why not get involved with 'Help The Aged' instead and do something that actually is worthwhile? You (and we all) we enjoy our freedoms and comforts because the British pensioners fought for us and invented much of what we take for granted. Now they are going blind and often live in agony because OPs are denied to them, by waitinglist or rationing(which ever kills first) What has Rwanda done for you that you choose to support them above your elders?

Adrian Yalland said...

Colin D: The 'jaunt' won't cost cost you a penny! It is all funded by the volunteers themselves.

I agree Iain, this has brought out the very worst in some people.

For those who are interested in knowing a little more, the projects which the volunteers will be working on vary from assisting economic development and improving the tourism infrastructure, establishing medical programmes, and refurbishing a school for orphanged children (many who are HIV+ and doubly disadvantaged) and refurbishing a accommodation block for people who lost their families in the genocide.

Yes, there is need at home, and yes in an ideal world there wouldn't be. And those who go overseas to help are usually involved in doing things at home as well (in my expereince).

But I don't see how our domestic poverty means we have no obligations to the alleaviate the extreme poverty of thise overseas. The world is too small for this mentality.

There is a great rabbinical saying which I think is priceless wisdom - we are all equal in death!

In other words, whatever divides us, race, religion, wealth or geography, we are at the end of the day all made from the same stuff, and all share the same ultimate destiny. Therefore, we should work to make life better for all wherever they may be.

Finally, I love the fact that this demonstrates that the left do not have a monopoly on concern about global poverty, and prevents them from stereotyping the Conservatives as uncaring, cold and selfish.

verity said...

Iain is starry-eyed. He's going to help people the West have been "helping" with hundreds of billions of dollars for almost 70 years and who still can't get their act together because they still haven't learned that a shot between the eyes of local strongmen sometimes liberates funds. But he is going to do some good.

And as this appears to be his first visit to the third world (perhaps we should elevate it to second world as the rest of the world seems to have graduated to first world these days), he is going to come back all misty eyed and full of hope for Africa. Nothing we write will change this.

While I'm at it, though, I'll reiterate, because it can't be put about often enough, the satanic EUSSR need to get rid of the CAP and invite the Africans in to try their hand at duty-free trade with us. The trade barriers are a true crime against humanity.

If Africa is to ever advance, and I am not convinced that it will, it will be through free trade, not charity. There are eager and clever entrepreneurs among every race of mankind. Let them in.

bonio o'nob and saint bob goldof said...

Have a break in Rwanda by all means Iain but don't pretend that it's anything more than empty posturing of the type we see increasingly often by Westerners in Africa these days.

Adrian Yalland said...

Verity is right about craping the CAP and dropping the protectionist barriers to enrance of goods from Africa (and so should America). The tarrif system is unfair because it means Africa can never compete, but also means we pay over the odds for basic stuff. For example, Africa produces something like 90% of the world's coco beans, but cannot 'add value' to them because of import duties. Therefore Africa only produces something like 5% of the world's chocolate. The value is added in Europe, meaning we pay more for subsidising the european choolatiers!

Verity is right trade is the secret to Africa's advancement.

However, whilst Verity has a point about Africa in general terms, I disagree with her on the specific of Rwanda. The Rwandan Government has a very clear objective - the 2020 programme, which aims to to see Rwanda become a middle income country - and free from both debt and aid, by 2020. Until it achieves these goals, it should be encouraged and supported along the way. We cannot simply be so laissez faire - so 'sink or swim' because ultimately, we will spend time and money picking up the drowned bodies on our beaches!

Rwanda has a vigerous private sector, has recently privatised almost every nationlaised assett, and is judged by those in the know as the most pro-business country in the great lakes region and probably Africa in General. The economy is not booming, but it is growing well year on year, and the Government seeks to grow the middle classes and the tax base in order to provide basic state provision. Transparency International have only positive things to say about Rwanda, and the Government is very strict on defeating corruption.

There is a brilliant article on Rwanda on ft.com if people are interested.

verity said...

Adrian Yelland - Interesting post, and as a free marketeer and devoted capitalist, I wish them well.

P J O'Rourke wrote a quote so good I have used it often, but here it is again: "When the water level rises, everyone's boats go up". How better to define capitalism?

If Rwanda is of a mind to embrace it, I wish them very well. But we have to get rid of this fascist EUSSR CAP. It is keeping people out of a vast marketplace, and is restricting the choice in that marketplace of 400m people.

Actually, we have to get rid of the fascist EUSSR and make our own laws.

Cinnamon said...

"But I don't see how our domestic poverty means we have no obligations to the alleaviate the extreme poverty of thise overseas. The world is too small for this mentality."

Your first obligation is to your elders. When you have fulfilled that duty, and you happen to have time & money spare, then by all means, of course you should help others. But not a moment before.

And I'm not talking about
material agony and social projects, but about your fellow countrymen going BLIND and DEMENTED and who are in often agonising pain for want of simple medical procedures.

Address the greatest need first if you really want to help...

Safari said...

Africa is not as backward as some of you are implying.it is worth pointing out that most of the post colonial conflicts were financed by external forces, primarily based in the west.then there is the issue of fair trade.all is not lost.there are some good things coming out of Africa but they hardly ever get media attention.For example Ubuntu(Humanity in African parlance) is heavily funded by an African.Even out of Zimbabwe there is Afrosoft, who have actualy done some contract work in the UK.

Adrian Yalland said...

Verity - I agree. And I like the PJOR quote too.

Markets are the way forward, and getting rid of the CAP would benefit everyone - consumer and producer. Politicaly it is morally right as Governments shouldn't be interfeering anyway!

Domestically, producers would be brought closer to their consumers and the markets for goods would not be corrupted by soviet style central planning!

Ultimately, trade is the answer.

But in the short term, until the benefits of the market are brought to bear, there has to be aid as well. Without the aid, people die for want of the very basic things -and as a human being I cannot believe that anyone would accept that!

The difficulty is so many have 'aid fatigue' becuase for x number of decades we have given aid without sufficient checks and balances, and this has fuelled corruption and not done as much good as it should have done. But the answer to misuse is not non use, but correct use.

I am not sure that historically there has been enough of an emphasis upon trade - and Africa has been somewhat of a botomless money pit!

But I think that is changing.

bgprior said...

Adrian, I'm sure your projects are well-run and worthwhile (in fact, one or two of them look quite tempting for myself). I'll reserve further judgment on the Tory visit until we learn more about the participants, projects, and experiences. (I take it you or they will be publishing full details? Who is participating on what project and what conclusions they reached and lessons they learned - that sort of thing.) The Clemency Burton-Hill article in The Spectator was unfortunate, in its frequent use of PR-speak and concentration more on the Tories than on Rwanda. Perhaps that has unjustly prejudiced my perception.

I hope we can look forward to some real insights into not just the difficulties of life in Rwanda, but the root causes underlying those difficulties - the structural issues, such as good governance, corruption, freedom of the press, property-rights, impartial law & order, attitudes to democracy (is it tribal or is it political, and is there widespread acknowledgment that unrigged elections are more important than your team winning?), approaches and attitudes to health and hygiene issues, education (not just whether kids are receiving an education, but whether it teaches them the important Enlightenment principles as well as the three Rs), use of the military internally and externally, etc. If they come back saying "life's tough out there, they need more facilities, so let's give them more aid", then you can expect me to restart the offensive.

And do you not think you're being just a bit optimistic about the Rwandan government? I don't trust governments in Europe or Africa who have 15- or 20-year targets, but for opposing reasons - in Europe I don't believe them because I know they won't be there when the time comes, in Africa I worry that they may well be. I'd be much happier with an ambition to put in place the necessities for a stable society and successful economy, than an ambition to be a middle-income country by 2020. Sounds too much like central-planning to me. And if so, that suggests that they don't understand the real route to prosperity, and are simply repeating the same mistakes that people have been making in Africa since independence. After all, if Kagame is there to see his ambition fulfilled in 2020, he will have been in power effectively for 26 years. Can you imagine anyone getting that sort of continuous democratic mandate (without rigging elections)?

bgprior said...

I have to admit, having just been to the Rwandan government website, and read some of Kagame's speeches, that he says the right sorts of things. Perhaps I am being too cynical, but then again, it is usually better to judge people by their deeds than by their words. There is a tension between his words and reports of electoral irregularities, suppression of free-speech, and intervention in the Congo. But it is possible that the first two are exaggerated and the third is unavoidable given the proximity and historical issues.

Yak40 said...

Big fancy medical kit including your own syringes plus pots of bum-glue, you'll be able to sell them to your co-travellers who forgot :)

Anonymous said...

You need to take some form of acidophilus complex with you. Strengthens the good bugs in your guts, prevents the bad bugs you have unwittingly ingested in a careless moment from getting a foothold, so no squits, and follow all the other advice you have been given re jabs, water, unwashed stuff, salads, fruit you cant peel, you HAVE started your antimalarial already havnt you, mozzie nets impregnated with antimozzie stuff, and positively, no exchange of body fluids whatso ever. For 5 days, its not worth it.
signed Annabel, retired Health Police.

Adrian Yalland said...

bjprior. In answer to your first question, I don’t know what the Conservative Party intend to re: names and projects, because there may well be a data protection issue. However, from the perspective of my company, I am very happy to make public the project needs’ assessments, project objectives, details of the evaluation of the project, and indeed any other data regarding the projects that doesn’t compromise data protection legislation. If you want it, email me (get to me via my blog).

As for the projects, they are very worthwhile (although diverse) projects, and were chosen to meet the objectives of the Rwandan government’s development goals. They encompass both core traditional international development work (health, education etc), but also and perhaps more interestingly for yourself, include projects which will enable Rwanda, the Government and the people to create an ever better functioning civil society.

For example, some of the projects include work with government departments, legislators and the legal community. Volunteers will be using their experiences of commerce, the voluntary sector and (small p) politics to enable Rwanda to develop its social capital as well as its economy. These projects are equally as important as the school refurbishment and health programme, and could arguably give the Rwandan executive, legislators, bureaucracy and legal system some very important pointers, which they seem very keen to have.

One of the key objectives of the current Rwandan government is devolution. The theory goes that if you have strong ‘local’ communities and a smaller and less all encompassing government, it is harder for despotic individuals to seize control and manipulate the populace into acts of genocide. This comes directly from their history, and the fact that the words ‘tutsi’ and ‘hutu’ are now banned under the new constitution. The idea is to create largely self governing communities which are cohesive rather than divisive.

They are also keen to develop the middle class too. They see the middle classes as the economic pump primer through commerce and a good tax base, but also bastions of democracy through property ownership. For Africa, it is all very encouraging and as if they have seen my notes from my university lectures on what underpinned the enlightenment! They also see that the middle classes will drive up standards across the country and across all aspects of life. Yet, they have not gone chasing the middle classes at the expense of the poor. For example, once a month on a Saturday, the whole country is required to do community action – which sees everyone, including the president, out sweeping the streets, picking up litter and painting buildings!

As one of my staff who has spent a long time in Africa said “is this Africa?” It doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

Manfarang said...

verity
The Chinese offer a lot of foreign aid to Africa and are prepared to transfer technology whereas western interests aren't.
In fact I believe they are going to take a stake in the Tazara railway.A line that was originally built with Chinese aid.

verity said...

Manfarang - thank you. The Chinese will get something back for their money. They will not be sending charity out of the goodness of their hearts. Chinese pragmatism will be very much at the heart of their programme as regards Africa, as I think you will probably agree.

bgprior said...

Adrian, It is difficult to find authoritative and consistent information on the state of Rwanda. I'm not convinced that the way to see the big picture is to get closer to it, but as I say, I'll wait to see what your guests take out of it. But can I recommend, as pre-travel reading, the latest edition of Economic Affairs, the IEA's house magazine (if consumption of the output of that institute is not forbidden by the current Tory leadership). It focuses on "Enterprise Solutions to Poverty in Africa". In particular, they might like to read Karol Boudreaux's paper on "The Business of Reconciliation: Entrepreneurship and commercial activity in post-conflict Rwanda". This paper is neither over-critical nor wholly supportive of H.E. Paul Kagame's government. It provides grounds for optimism if the right steps are taken, but cautions that not all those steps are currently being taken:

"Rwanda ranks low on economic freedom indices. Regulatory burdens remain high, property rights are still insecure, and the judiciary is partial. Contract enforcement is spotty and corruption is high - all resulting in low levels of foreign investment. Despite efforts to make the country more business friendly, such as providing 'one-stop shopping' for investors, the country received a low score in the World Bank's 2006 'Doing Business' report: 158th out of 175 nations, with extremely high costs to export and import goods and very high costs of registering property. There is a large informal sector that 'is believed to be doing substantially better than the formal sector'." (See original for references)

Manfarang said...

China has paved more than 80% of Rwanda's main roads.I feel sure the level of Chinese involvement in that country is something Iain will be prepared to comment about.

The Remittance Man said...

China's interest in Africa is based on two very simple factors: Resources and Markets.

Everything else they do (paving roads, buying into strategic railways, building communications systems etc etc etc) is subordinate to getting access to resources and opening up markets.

Pretty much like the Europeans a hundred plus years ago really.