By David Himbara
It is impossible to predict the future. Nonetheless, the ongoing realities and controversies provide the basis for previewing of what might preoccupy Kagame’s Rwanda in 2019. Here are five social, economic, and political issues that I think will prominently feature in Rwanda in 2019.
- General Paul Kagame will continue to be an absentee ruler in 2019. He visited every continent in 2018 except Australia. He made 34 foreign trips in 2018. Previous years were no different. Kagame who craves for attention, lives by eliciting validation from the global elites, especially those based in the United States. Additionally, the ruling party — Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)— benefits from Kagame’s frequent overseas trips. The executive jet in which the General travels is chartered from RPF’s business empire, Crystal Ventures Ltd. Sadly, Kagame’s lifestyle of the rich and famous is sustained by Rwanda’s tiny tax base that generated in 2017/2018, RWF1.3 trillion in revenue or a pitiful US$1.5 billion.
- In the social sector, the education sector will remain in crisis, not least because of the grim realities facing Rwandan teachers — Kagame will refuse to increase their salaries in 2019. Currently, Rwandan parliamentarians are discussing the poverty-stricken status of Rwandan teachers. They earn RWF40,000 a month or US$45 which translates into a poverty wage of US$1.90 a day.
- Rwanda’s economic performance will remain particularly depressing in 2019. The situation was pretty miserable in 2018. The National Bank of Rwanda’s data shows that exports from January to September 2018amounted to US$724 million versus US$1.7 billion of imports. In other words, the import bill more than doubled exports. Pitifully, imports included things Rwanda could produce, such as meat, fish, milk, eggs, honey, vegetables, and fruit. The food import bill alone was US$247 million. Further, the United States suspended Rwanda from tariff-free access to the American market because Kagame would not play by the rules.
- In politics, Kagame will intimidate but not imprison Rwandan opposition leaders including Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Diane Rwigara and Adeline Rwigara in 2019. This is not because Kagame has suddenly become a democrat. Kagame will temporarily spare these leaders because he will be keen to remain in good books with the British elites who are bringing their Queen to attend the Commonwealth meeting in Kigali in 2020. However, it will be a different story after the Commonwealth meeting — the opposition leaders will be at high risk once again.
- Kagame’s relationships with South Africa, Burundi, and Uganda will worsen in 2019. In the case of South Africa, the inquest to the murder of the former Rwandan intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya, will expose Rwanda’s role. Thereafter, Kagame will deny everything and find scapegoats to blame for poisoning Rwanda-South Africa relations.