When Abraham Lincoln spoke those famous words in the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he was talking up the United States of America as a champion of democracy. Lincoln found democracy to be the most egalitarian way of governing, and he believed that it was the most viable option. Most people in the Western World would agree that democracy has worked, and has provided a place where many have flourished courtesy of the plethora of opportunities that surround them.
These democratic values that we share with our allies are not universally shared around the world. Many countries around the world ranging from Venezuela, to South Sudan to Afghanistan are led by regimes with no vision for a safer community for its citizens. Instead, they struggle to survive in violence and economic turmoil while the leaders in power continue their corrupt and unethical behaviour.
One country which was not listed above has proven that sometimes democracy is not an option. This country is Rwanda, which has enjoyed a huge economic rebound ever since Paul Kagame became its president in the year 2000 while creating an authoritarian government.
Paul Kagame was born in Southern Rwanda as a Tutsi. When the Rwandan genocide broke out and 70% of the Tutsi population was wiped out by the Hutus, Kagame, who was in the Tutsi army, fought hard to preserve his culture. Kagame became portrayed as a war hero for his resiliency in fighting and was rewarded six years later when he became President of Rwanda.
The Rwandan economy has changed greatly since Kagame took over from his predecessor Pasteur Bizimungu. Kagame has privatised state industries and has reduced business regulations. Privatization in Rwanda has helped the economy considerably because when companies have the freedom to decide how to run their business there is more competition which leads to more productive industries. Economic growth was at eight percent from 2011-2014,(the United States had a growth rate of 2.4 percent during that same time period) and Kagame wants to move Rwanda away from its agricultural reliance so that Rwanda can move to a being a contemporary 21st century economy.
Critics of the Kagame regime would say that the big caveat with these economic growth numbers is that Kagame uses coercion and intimidation to stay in power and sustain his grasp on power. Rwanda and its myriad of economic freedom (freedom for individuals to pursue a profit without the government intervening) is criticized despite this because of the country’s lack of personal freedom including not being able to criticize Kagame. Rwanda has garnered the nickname “Africa’s Singapore” by critics and pundits alike because in Singapore there is no freedom to criticize the leader either yet both countries have an abundance of economic freedom. There is no disputing the fact that Kagame is an absolutist who craves absolute power and will sustain that power by any means necessary, but he has given a future for young Tutsi children throughout Rwanda.
The Rwandan economic revival is the perfect example of when countries like the United States abstain from intervening in other countries domestic affairs when the country is capable of figuring its problems out on its own. . Sometimes the will of a few ambitious people can shape the future of a country. Rwanda has changed the political landscape forever because it has proven to us that sometimes when a country is left alone it figures out its problems when the right leader emerges.