Rwanda: Claire Short in the Country, Praises Development Efforts

The New Times (Kigali)

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Eugene Kwibuka

Former British Secretary of Overseas Development Claire Short, has lauded Rwanda's development and reconstruction efforts over the past 14 years, saying that the remarkable positive changes are a result of good leadership.

Short who is currently a Member of Parliament, is in the country for a one-week private visit.

"The progress is impressive and I see a determined leadership of the government and the united determination of the people in the country. I feel very optimistic for the future of Rwanda," she said in an interview at The New Times offices Wednesday.

Short, who had just returned from a visit to the Southern Province, said that she was impressed by the way farmers are improving their living standards through coffee growing and processing.

"We have seen lots of coffee processing centres, which is very important to rural communities and there has been lots of enthusiasm there because there is commitment to improve the quality of coffee and the price that people get has improved," she said, adding that she estimates that at least three million rural Rwandans benefit directly from coffee farming.

The British politician observed that Kigali town has developed with improved buildings and lots of supermarkets that help people to make choices in their shopping.

However, Short who last visited Rwanda in 2004, warned Rwandans to remain resilient as the challenges to overcome poverty were many.

Though she has not visited any of the current campaign rallies in the run up to the next parliamentary elections, she said that the feeling she got was that women would emerge stronger once again.

She said that Rwanda should be proud of its gender policy by observing that Sweden had been on top of the world in terms of female parliamentary representation, and now it is Rwanda with 49 percent.

"Rwanda knew it wanted a new spirit in politics, an inclusive kind of politics and bringing in women would have been meaningful on how to change the atmosphere," she said.

Claire Short chaired talks between President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda in 2001 to defuse tensions between these two countries.

Her visit in the country was appreciated by the government especially because she advised and encouraged different leaders she met, mostly those in local governance.

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"We need such advice from people like her speaking from experience and knowledge. We are really honoured by her visit," said Joseph Kabakeza, Director of Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation with Rwanda's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINAFFET)

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