International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Rwanda’s Economic Growth and Civil Liberties

As the BBC video in class discussed, Rwanda’s economy has more than doubled since Rwandan President Paul Kagame came to power in 2000; foreign direct investment in the country jumped 57 percent to $626 million last year from 2010, the Rwanda Development Board says.  However, this economic progress has also been followed by attacks on civil liberties and human rights to some degree.  Several government officials in the video defended the policies as being necessary for short-term stability after the genocide.

In a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, the global chief economist at Renaissance Capital stated, “Investors care about growth, and the side effect of growth is nearly always better human rights in the long-term.  The Rwandan government is producing growth and that’s very positive for the Rwandan people and eventually for Rwandan human rights and Rwandan democracy.”   A prominent example of this economy/human rights correlation is China and its slow expansion of civil liberties as its economy continues to advance.

If in fact, a suppression of civil liberties was needed to establish a foothold economically, is it then justifiable?


3 responses to “Rwanda’s Economic Growth and Civil Liberties

  1. lseyferth November 22, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    While it is understandable to potentially somehow justify the restrictions of people’s civil liberties in the face of economic advancement, especially in a country recovering from great socioeconomic turmoil and when the injustices that face the populations pale in comparison to the crimes of atrocity committed in the past. Nevertheless, oppression of civil and political rights of individuals otherwise guaranteed under international treaties, and perhaps more importantly by responsibility to humanity, cannot be excused or justified under any circumstance. It is understandable too see why people may take pause and even consider justifying the oppression that face the people of Rwanda in current times. When the abuses against individuals are not as obvious or not as “shocking” in comparison to atrocities of the past, the deprivation of rights in the present can seem mild compared to mass genocide. Irregardless, the rights of individuals must never be placed into the greater perceptive of the societal context when attempting to justify their availability or lack thereof to the population.

    I am by no means discrediting the economic growth experienced by the country nor stating that the current policies have been ineffective. However, it is clear that the current civil and political rights of citizens of Rwanda are being denied and a change is therefore necessary, while still attempting to balance economic growth. The question then is, can societal stability and economic expansion remain if civil liberties are restored?

  2. patrickwu November 26, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Human rights and economic growth are not two mutually exclusive concepts. It is important to remember that even though Rwanda’s economy is growing at neck-breaking speeds, the income gap is also increasing at record speeds as well. Growing an economy and growing a sustainable economy are two different things. It is difficult for the economy to continue growing at the speed that it is growing at because up to 90% of Rwandans are subsistence farmers–there is only so much that can change. The current economic growth is supported by international investors and positive outlooks on the future of Rwanda, but at some point the country will hit a glass ceiling because the vast majority of its citizens will still be subsistence farmers.

    In order for Rwanda to move into sustainable economic growth, more individuals have to move into fields such as manufacturing and technology. This means that people have to have the resources and the ability to move away from their family’s background and into newer fields. But as the current wealthy class get wealthier, it becomes more difficult for individuals from farming backgrounds to move into new fields. Any dissent against the wealthy–and often politically influential–group may result in governmental backlash. This may lead to further problems, as exemplified by many of the Arab Spring uprisings.

    Sustainable economic uprising means that there must be the opportunity to move into different fields that an individual desires, which also means that there must be an insurance of basic human rights and liberties.

    • tags12 November 26, 2012 at 9:50 am

      I would argue that addressing the increasing income gap is not as important in the immediate future as making sure infrastructure and education are properly funded. Most countries with extremely low economic development and a majority of its population living in poverty will experience increased income inequality as its citizens begin to move out of poverty. According to the World Bank the percentage of the population living below the national poverty line has dropped from 60.4% in 2000 to 44.9% in 2011. While income inequality is undoubtedly an important issue worth addressing, establishing a welfare system has tended to be an advantage of developed countries with strong, established economic and political institutions. The World Bank’s data also shows Rwanda making significant strides in educational indicators relative to other Sub-Saharan developing counties and low-income countries around the world. It seems they are taking some appropriate steps in pulling its citizens out of poverty and investing in education that will promote inclusive economic and political institutions long-term.

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