During Visit to Kigali, World Bank Vice President Mourns Genocide Victims, Reaffirms Bank Support
“Never, Never Again.” These were the words left in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre visitor’s book by World Bank Vice President for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili during her three-day stop in Kigali November 2 to 4.
The Vice President arrived in Rwanda’s capital as part of a wider trip to four African countries—Burundi, Rwanda, Botswana and Lesotho—aimed at encouraging domestic and international investment in African countries experiencing growth and rebuilding from conflict.
During her visit to Rwanda, Ezekwesili attended the high-level investors forum organized by the Rwanda Development Board with support from the World Bank Group. The forum showcased trade and investment opportunities open to domestic and foreign investors in the horticulture and tea sectors.
Ezekwesili also gave the keynote speech at the Ninth Government and Development Partners Meeting (DPM) hosted by President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. The meeting focused on how to effectively use aid to leverage private sector investments.
“It is clearly the case that if Africa is to attain the lofty goals of the Millennium Development agenda countries like Rwanda that have effectively utilized the support of development partners thus far must continue to be able to leverage more of that support,” Ezekwesili told participants at the DPM.
Remembering the Genocide
Like many people who pilgrimage for the first time to Rwanda’s genocide memorial, Ezekwesili was visibly moved by her experience. After one-hour guided tour of the museum, the usually outspoken vice president was at a loss of words. She found a quiet place and sat silent for many minutes.
The speed of Rwanda’s 100-day descent into genocide in 1994 is shocking to bring home and hard to comprehend. Rwanda’s rise from the ashes of the most senseless bloodletting in recent world history, while remarkable and encouraging, especially given the strong sense of reconciliation, is probably never going to be enough to heal this nation. The memorial was built precisely to chisel into the national consciousness the same words Ms. Ezekwesili had for the visitor’s book: “Never, Never Again.”
The Gisozi National Memorial Centre was inaugurated in April 2004 on the 10th anniversary of Rwanda’s descent into genocide. It provides an opportunity for the bereaved to bury the remains of their relatives and friends. More than 250,000 victims of the genocide are currently buried at the site and more are still being discovered. The Centre is a permanent memorial to an estimated one million genocide victims.
“After attentively listening to what really happened and visiting different sections of the museum, the vice president then wanted to know what life is like for survivors like me, if we have picked up the pieces and still have hope in the future,” said Honoré Gatera, a young museum guide. “I have no doubt that her soothing words of encouragement came from the bottom of her heart. “N’umuntu ufite ubumuntu” (she is so compassionate).”
Gatera is one of the many young genocide survivors. He was only 14 when the genocide unfolded in 1994 and he managed, on his own, to hide for three months from the machete-wielding killers, some of whom had been his neighbors ever since he could remember. He was reunited with his mother four months later but had lost most of his family and immediate relatives. “Of about 60 close relatives I knew, I cannot count 10 survivors,” Gatera said.
Soon after the genocide, as Rwanda struggled to reestablish its future, the World Bank was among the first donors to come in with support, providing targeted analytical work and policy advice, and facilitating donor harmonization and alignment.
The International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank that provides zero-interest loans (known as credits) and grants to low-income countries, helped finance reconstruction, including rebuilding of the economic and institutional base, and responding to basic needs in education, health, water, energy, transport, and communications. IDA also supported the government in its efforts to repair the social fabric and promote reconciliation.
Rwanda, an Investment Destination
Today, Rwanda is increasingly seen as a development model, focused on results and eager to learn from global experience and IDA donor continues to support Rwanda’s efforts with a focus on building an enabling environment for growth and job creation.
Ezekwesili assured President Kagame and his Government of the World Bank’s commitment to accompany Rwandans in their development. “I want to commit to you Mr. President, that as you seek to make further development progress in Rwanda, you can be assured that the World Bank will stand a steady course of partnership with the people and the leadership of Rwanda,” Ezekwesili said. “Whether it is with regard to investment in the energy sector, in the transportation sector, in the agriculture sector or in the important investment in expertise and capacity building, the World Bank will provide all the necessary support to the development program that you and your new administration have embarked upon.”
The World Bank portfolio in Rwanda currently comprises 13 projects with net commitments of US$294.48 million. The top four sectors are energy, agriculture, private sector development, and social safety net programs. In addition, the World Bank provides one general budget support operation (around US$80 million) each year.