Paul Kagame, the sixth President of Rwanda, is currently serving his second seven-year term after being re-elected in August 2010. He initially took office in 2000 when his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned.
Kagame previously commanded the rebel force that ended the 1994 Rwandan genocide and since then has widely been considered Rwanda’s de facto leader. He officially served as Vice President and Minister of Defence until parliament elected him as the country’s new head of state at the start of the new millennium.
As president, Kagame has prioritised national development, launching a programme to develop Rwanda as a middle income country by 2020. When the country ranked as the world’s top reformer in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report in 2010, he was lauded by economists as an economic visionary.
Born in October, 1957 in Rwanda’s Southern Province, Kagame and his family fled pre-independence ethnic persecution and violence in 1960, crossing into Uganda, where he would spend thirty years as a refugee. During the 1980s, Kagame fought in Yoweri Museveni’s group of guerrilla fighters who launched a campaign to free Uganda from dictatorship. After Museveni’s military victories eventually carried him to the Ugandan presidency, Kagame become a senior Ugandan army officer under the new government.
After returning to Rwanda in 1990, Mr. Kagame helped lead the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s (RPF) four-year struggle to liberate the country from the autocratic and divisive order that had been established since its independence. With Kagame at the helm of the RPF, in July 1994 the army went on to bring down the genocidal government whose Hutu death squads had killed some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Today, the RPF are credited with setting Rwanda on its current path towards reconciliation, nation building and socio-economic development.
Rwanda’s economy has grown rapidly under Kagame’s presidency, with per-capita gross domestic product (purchasing power parity) estimated at US$1,592 in 2013, compared with $567 in 2000. Annual growth between 2004 and 2010 averaged 8% per year.
Kagame’s economic policy is based on liberalising the economy, privatising state owned industries, reducing red tape for businesses, and transforming the country from an agricultural to a knowledge-based society. This objective is central to the President’s Vision 2020; an ambitious programme of national development which also includes the goals of infrastructure and transport improvements, private sector development, and health and education development.
Aside from his economic achievements in Rwanda, President Kagame has also received recognition for his leadership in peace building and national reconciliation, good governance and advancement of education and ICT. He is widely sought after to address regional and international audiences on a range of issues including African development, leadership, and the potential of ICT as a dynamic industry.
A small, landlocked country in east-central Africa, Rwanda has managed to achieve impressive development progressive over the last 20 years, considering that it continues to recover from the ethnic strife and civil war that culminated in genocide during the mid-1990s.
Rwanda has traditionally been troubled by ethnic tension associated with the relationship between the dominant Tutsi minority and the majority Hutus. When a Hutu uprising prompted around 200,000 Tutsis to flee to neighbouring countries in 1959, lingering resentment led to periodic massacres of Tutsis in the decades to follow, the most notorious of which began in April 1994. The death of the Hutu leader and President of Rwanda Juvenal Habyarimana in a plane crash caused by a rocket attack ignited a period fof intense and systematic massacres. The killings - as many as 1 million people are estimated to have perished - shocked the international community.
By July 1994, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which launched the military campaign to control the country, achieved its goal and prompted some two million Hutus to flee to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Having experienced a long and painful process of recovery that is still underway, Rwanda has remarkably managed to achieve stability as well as consolidate gains in social development and economic growth. Rwanda’s long-term development goals are embedded in its Vision 2020 which seeks to transform the country from a low-income agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based, service-oriented economy by 2020. These goals build on Rwanda’s development success over the last two decades including high growth, rapid poverty reduction and reduced inequality. Reforms have recently been implemented successfully to improve the business environment and reduce the cost of doing business in the country. As a result, Rwanda was named top performer in the World Bank´s Doing Business 2014 report, as well as being named as the second-easiest place to do business in sub-Saharan Africa.
During 2013, major steps were also taken to further enhance political rights and civil liberties. Three new pieces of legislation were ratified to improve media regulation, promote transparency and encourage citizens’ economic and political participation.