July 4, 2005, RwandaLiberation Day celebration, Rwanda, 2005. Photos by Josh Ruxin.


Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last few years living in Rwanda. He's an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker.

Rwanda is perhaps the only country besides the United States where July 4th is a national holiday. And while it is true that Rwandans have great admiration for the U.S., the Fourth of July is only coincidentally a shared day of celebration.

In 1994, that date marked the end of the Rwandan Genocide, and the birth of the new government that rose from the ashes. This Friday, the nation will be celebrating its 14th year of peace and the growing prosperity that has been the result. This is a virtually unbelievable, unpredictable achievement in light of the forces that aligned to prevent it.

What does peace and development look like in Rwanda? Housing projects are springing up; per capita income is up; and health indicators are dramatically improved, with more than 50,000 people receiving the AIDS drugs they need via some of the best delivery mechanisms in all of Africa. Two international-quality malls have sprouted up in Kigali and are doing a brisk business; international banks are eyeing the market; internet service is still the cheapest per megabyte (and fastest) in all of Africa. Infrastructure improvement is putting Rwanda's neighbors to shame: New roads and electricity grids are being built out alongside potable water lines. These developments have not gone unnoticed. Tourism is at all-time high levels with improvements and new tourist venues emerging every month — including the recent addition of first-class accommodations around the country.

On Friday, as those of you in the United States celebrate your Fourth of July, think of us in Kigali. We'll be celebrating with our Rwandan friends on this double holiday at the spanking-new U.S. embassy. Its size and dramatic stature reassure this nation that the U.S. and Rwanda have more in common than the same Independence Day: They share a common vision of stability, peace and prosperity.

U.S. Embassy, RwandaU.S. Embassy in Kigali.

The remarkable tale of Rwanda's liberation can now be accessed by all in a superbly researched new book by Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times bureau chief in Managua, Berlin, and Istanbul. In A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It, Kinzer details in brilliant and compelling prose the unprecedented efforts of the Rwandan Patriotic Army to overthrow Rwanda's regime. Most importantly, Kinzer tracks Rwanda's trajectory of success to the present day and beyond.

Today, it's hard to imagine where Rwanda will be on its 232nd 4th of July holiday but if I were to bet on it, it will be a nation transformed.

July 4, 2005, RwandaPresident Kagame at Liberation Day celebration, 2005.