By David Himbara
In a famine in which thousands of French peasants perished during the reign of Louis XVI, his Queen, Marie Antoinette reportedly uttered the infamous phase — “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” — or “Let them eat cake.”
Madam Nyiramongi Kagame jetting to Gabon in June 2016
It would appear that President Paul Kagame and his wife, Mrs Jeannette Nyiramongi Kagame, are the modern day King Louis and Queen Marie Antoine. The Rwandan first family live in an entirely different world from their country men and women eking a hard living across rural Rwanda. The Rwandan ruler and his wife are often jetting off to overseas destinations to showcase Rwanda as the “Singapore of Africa — or hosting events in the Capital City of Kigali to show Africa’s success story.
The reality is entirely different. The Global Food Security Index which is based on three core issues, namely, (a) food affordability, (b) availability, and (c) quality, ranks Rwanda among 113 countries as indicated in the following Graphic:
Rwanda Food Security Index: Source — Global Food Security Index, 2016, the Economist
As if these Rwandan indicators are not bad enough — especially affordability in which Rwanda ranks 95 out of 113 countries— a combination of reckless policies of forcing each Rwandan region to specialize in agricultural production and climate change are making rural lives something of a disaster.
In the past several months, independent media in Rwanda — namely, the Voice of America (VOA) and the East African newspaper, have been reporting the fact that thousands of Rwandans in Eastern Province are going hungry in what is being described as a famine. The East African reports the situation as follows:
Close to 100,000 families mainly in the Eastern Province districts of Kanyonza, Rwamagana, Nyagatare, Bugesera, Kayonza and Kirehe as well as Nyanza and Gisagara districts in Southern Province, are facing a threat of hunger if nothing is done to avert it. It is reported that hundreds are fleeing starvation to neighboring Uganda in search of food after two seasons of poor harvests which left families with nothing to eat.
And the reaction of the regime? Blame climate change, donors, or some other evil forces at work. Acknowledgement of its own failures or challenge is not part of the Rwandan ruling elite’s culture.