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Influences

Rwanda
The authoritarian model

Par Cédric Gouverneur - Publié en mars 2023
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The president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. RWANDAN OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT/HANDOUT VIA XINHUA/RÉ
The president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. RWANDAN OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT/HANDOUT VIA XINHUA/RÉ

Nearly 30 years after the genocide, the “land of a thousand hills” is almost everywhere, including on the Arsenal and PSG clubs’ jerseys emblazoned with the slogan “Visit Rwanda”. The country has rolled out its communication and development model even with modest means. Under the iron-fisted leadership of Paul Kagame, the former military leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the tiny, overcrowded nation (13.5 million people, 26,300 km2) has become a tech hub by luring investors, entrepreneurs and start-ups with administrative incentives, tax breaks and five-year plans. “Work hard until it hurts, because poverty hurts even more,” the president likes to say.

By banning plastic bags, Kigali has even become one of the world’s cleanest cities. Rwanda scored 31.4 out of 100 on the 2022 Global Soft Power Index, ranking sixth on the continent. And its resurrection fascinates other African states whether or not they have gone through a civil war. But the forced march to modernization is the other side of a political deep-freeze. Rebirth comes with a price: the capital is kept clean by compulsory community service, and fines. The Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, launched last year in Kigali with the support of the World Economic Forum, aims to build "ethical and inclusive artificial intelligence", while at the same time freedom of expression leaves much to be desired. Moreover, Rwanda’s hard power is getting on its neighbors’ nerves. The country’s feud with Yoweri Museveni's Uganda is blocking regional integration projects and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accuses Kigali of backing armed groups, notably the M23, that plunder its mineral wealth. There is even a risk that a full-scale war might break out.