Article from September 19th, 2013
[Student Report] I took an intensive course of International Organization from September 17th to 20th, 2013. This course was given by Visiting Professor Mieko Ikegame, who has been working in the United Nations for more than thirty years.
One of the most impressive lectures during the four days of the course was the class about “Africa’s revival – The case of Rwanda”, by Rwanda’s Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Charles Murigande. Although we tend to have negative images toward Africa because of the influence by media, Africa is actually experiencing great economic growth and now gradually becoming known as “a continent of tomorrow”. The average annual growth rate was about 5% in Africa during past 10 years, and it is expected that it will reach 6.6% in 2013. In addition, Africa is powerful in terms of demography because there are about one billion people, and 75% of them are 25 years old or younger. These factors are now attracting the world, and the foreign direct investments have started to increase in Africa.
Rwanda is famous for its sad history, genocide. Within a hundred days from April to July in 1994, one million people were killed. After this tragedy, there were hundreds of thousands of orphans, many refugees went into Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi, all of the socio-economic infrastructures were destroyed, and there was no hope for social reconstruction. People could not trust each other because neighbors killed neighbors, doctors killed patients, and so on and so forth. All of them were caused by bad governance, according to the Ambassador. In 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front stopped genocide, kicked out the bad government, and invited other political social forces. It put a broad-based government in place which was inclusive and representative of all people of Rwanda and punished any act of revenge of genocide. The first policy enabled millions of internal displaced people and refugees to return to their home.
Now, about twenty years has passed after the genocide, Rwanda has successfully revived. According to the surveys, Rwanda was in the 2nd place in the ranking of the countries where women feel that they are extremely safe waking alone at night in 2011, and the 1st place in the ranking of safe countries in 2012. In addition, Rwanda is sixth greatest contributor to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. It is also impressive that women representation in Parliament of Rwanda is about 56%. Moreover, Rwanda is on the track to achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals and there are more investments in human resources such as health and education. For example, education is now compulsory for 9 years for all of the children and Rwanda is trying to ensure 12 years of education by 2020. One of the reasons of this great revival within only 19 years is the strong leadership of President Paul Kagame.
One of the really interesting things in the lecture was Rwanda’s traditional justice system “Gacaca”. It provides the opportunity for grass-root discussions at the level of community, which makes it responsible for each community to face squarely what happened in their communities because it was the affair of everyone. This system helped reconciliation of Rwanda and people tend to voluntarily accept their guilt at this system. Since this system is quite unique there was a question about Gacaca from one of the students to Ambassador.
Since I am interested in environmental issues, I asked a question about it and the national parks in Rwanda. The Ambassador kindly explained that there are three great national parks in Rwanda, and one of them, Volcanoes National Park, is famous for the rare mountain gorillas. The others are a park of dense forest where a lot of birds can be watched and a safari park.
All of the students were really excited to have a lecture with the Ambassador and quite interested in what he had explained to us including the Africa’s great growth and Rwanda’s revival. They were taking a lot of notes during the lecture and listened to the Ambassador’s talk eagerly.
Throughout this course, I have learned how the United Nations is working in global society and the emerging issues of the world as well as the current situation of Rwanda and Africa. In addition, I could know how it is like to work in the United Nations by having so many guest lecturers who have an experience of working there. This course was good for me in terms of training my presentation skill as well as my English through many opportunities and great advices from Professor Ikegame. I am so satisfied with this course and would like to make full use of what I have learned during these four days in other courses at the University.
Written by Yuka Kato,
Junior, International College of Arts and Sciences