Fareed Zakaria says Rwanda is Africa's biggest success story.

Zakaria: Africa's biggest success story

  • Story Highlights
  • Zakaria: Rwanda is biggest success story out of Africa
  • Rwanda's President Kagame deserves much
  • of the credit, Zakaria says
  • Zakaira says the stability in Rwanda could be fragile,
  • held together by Kagame
  • Confession and forgiveness strategy to bring
  • together people after '94 genocide

Editor's note: Fareed Zakaria is an author and foreign affairs analyst

who hosts "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on CNN on Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m. ET

Fareed Zakaria says Rwanda is Africa's biggest success story.

Fareed Zakaria says Rwanda is Africa's biggest success story.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- President Obama reached out to Africa earlier this week

with a wide-ranging address praising the continent's steady achievements,

but he called its persistent violent conflicts "a millstone around Africa's neck."

"Despite the progress that has been made -- and there has been considerable

progress in parts of Africa -- we also know that much of that promise

has yet to be fulfilled," Obama said in a speech to the Parliament

of Ghana, a western African nation seen as a model of democracy

and growth for the rest of the continent.

Ghana, with a population of 24 million, was once a major

slave trading center. Obama visited the Cape Coast Castle,

a British outpost where slaves were held until

shipped overseas, along with his daughters.

CNN spoke to author and foreign affairs analyst Fareed Zakaria

about Obama's trip and the status of Africa.

CNN: "When President Obama was in Africa last week,

he visited Ghana, but you think there's another country

that's a bigger and better success story?"

Fareed Zakaria: He was smart to focus on a success story,

of sorts, like Ghana.

But I would say the biggest success story

out of the continent is Rwanda.

You remember what happened in there just 15 years ago

-- over a period of 100 days 800,000 men, women, and children

were killed -- most of them slaughtered with knives, machetes,

and axes by their neighbors.

It is perhaps the most brutal genocide in modern history.

By the time it ended, one tenth of the country's population

was dead.

Most people assumed that Rwanda was broken and,

like Somalia, another country wracked by violence,

would become a poster child for Africa's failed states.

It's now a poster child for success.

Fareed Zakaria GPS
Fareed Zakaria talks to Rwanda president Paul Kagame on this week's GPS.
Sunday, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET

CNN: Meaning what?

Zakaria: Well, the country has achieved stability, economic growth,

and international integration.

Average incomes have tripled; the health care system is

good enough that the Gates Foundation cites them

as a model, education levels are rising.

The government is widely seen as one of the more efficient

and honest ones in Africa.

Fortune magazine published an article recently

titled "Why CEOs Love Rwanda."

CNN: Why has Rwanda succeeded when so many

other African countries have failed?

Zakaria: Much of it has to do with its president.

President Kagame was the leader of the forces that came

in and ended the genocide.

He has led the country since then and implemented

some controversial programs to help build stability

in the country following the horrific events of 1994.

He had to find a way to reintegrate the perpetrators

of the brutal genocide into their original homes,

often living next door to their previous victims.

Rwanda is very unique in its post-conflict makeup.

As the New Yorker writer, Phillip Gourevitch, points out,

in Germany, the Jews left for America and Israel.

In the Balkans the warring groups spilt up geographically.

In Cambodia, the class that perpetrated the violence was

easily identifiable and separated.

In Rwanda, however, the killers and the victims live

side-by-side, in every village and community.

Can you imagine Nazis and Jews living next door to one another?

CNN: So what did President Kagame do?

Zakraia: The only way President Kagame could see to make

peace was to reintegrate these communities.

He came up with a specially crafted solution

-- using local courts called Gacacas.

In each village, the killers stood before their neighbors

and confessed, and in turn were offered forgiveness

-- part court, and part community council.

It has made for a fascinating historical experiment

that seems to be working.

CNN: Can it really be working?

How can killers be allowed to roam around the country

free from prosecution?

It doesn't seem fair.

Zakaria: We have President Kagame on the show this week and

I asked him that very question.

It is obvious he has thought deeply on the issue and

couldn't come up with any other option.

As he states, "If we incarcerated everyone

who committed a crime we wouldn't have a country."

"There are many killers; there are hundreds of thousands

because the genocide that took place in our country involved

a huge percentage of our population, both in terms of those

who were killed and those who killed.

And if you went technically to try each one of them as

the law may suggest, then you would lose

out on rebuilding a nation."

CNN: But is the fact they've emerged from the genocide

with some political stability enough

to call the country a success?

Zakaria: It might be fragile.

Beneath the veneer of reconciliation, there might well

be much hatred.

And it might be that Kagame is holding it all together

because of his personality and toughness

-- perhaps like Tito in Yugoslavia.

But he says his goal is to build institutions

and have this process outlive him.

Hope you will be able to watch

the interview with him.


All About GhanaRwandaPaul Kagame


             J-L K.
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