Tuesday, September 7, 2010

REBUILDING A LOST CAUSE

By Andleeb Abbas

The real crisis is not of floods or recession but of the deterioration in the moral fabric of society due to corrupt leadership, no law to punish criminals and no justice for the deprived and marginalised of society

Not too long ago the word Rwanda was synonymous with genocide, bloodshed, political chaos and economic ruin. It was quoted as an example of how a nation has driven itself back to the Dark Ages without any hope of recovery. The economy was in shambles, the infrastructure in ruins and law and order were words taken out of the Rwandan dictionary. It was written off as a country that would never recover from its bloody past and would never have a rosy future. However, Rwanda has proved its critics wrong and is now being quoted as a miraculous example of how even the worst of circumstances and events can be overcome and overturned by the will of a few committed people who lead the renaissance with their vision and passion, and become a force to be reckoned with as other people share belief in the resurrection of a lost cause. Today, from the think tanks to the donor agencies, it has become the darling of investors and donors.

The transformation is remarkable, considering the history of barbaric events in the country in the last 16 years. 800,000 people were hacked to death in three months, an event almost unparalleled in its scale and brutality. This was the result of years of ethnic strife between the Tutsi minority and Hutu majority. The country is not blessed with natural resources and is landlocked in the centre of Africa, thus not really enjoying any coastline geography like some of the other tourist countries of Africa. To make it worse, nothing moved in the country without payoffs and corruption.

However, the country has totally transformed in the span of a few years, presenting a complete contrast to the rest of Africa. Roads have been built that are clean and with strictly adhered to speed limits. Transparency International rates Rwanda as one of the most honest places to work in Africa. The World Bank terms it as one of the fastest improving places to do business.

All this transformation has been one man’s doing: President Paul Kagame. He changed the country from a savage nation to a disciplined example by his vision and determination. Kagame adopted the Singapore model where corruption and law breaking were severely punished regardless of rank and position. Discarded bottles and bags are banned and severely fined to maintain a uniquely clean look on its African streets and countryside. He also realised that they needed to discover how to compete in this ruthless, globalised world and concentrated on building the economy on the core competence of scant Rwandan resources. He decided to focus development in three local industries, i.e. tea, coffee and tourism. In 2001, he launched the Rwanda National Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative and developed a ‘National Coffee Strategy’, which is the main produce of Rwanda. The objective was to build a world-class brand and thus he invested millions of dollars to improve coffee washing, production, capacity and marketing. This paid off in 2006 when Starbucks gave Rwanda Blue Bourbon brand of coffee beans its Black Apron award and introduced it in its caf├ęs.

For tourism the president discovered that Rwanda has a unique feature to market — gorillas. Rwanda is home to approximately two-thirds of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and they are a tremendous source of national pride. The Volcanoes National Park is a highlight of tourism in Africa where the gorilla population in the natural environment has been preserved to protect an endangered species; hence it has become a spectacle of interest for visitors. Most foreign visitors to the park apply more than a year in advance for a tracking permit and the visits are strictly regulated. This unique eco-tourism has played a major part in the rebirth of Rwanda as a place to visit rather than avoid.

The lesson is that if Rwanda can come back from a political funeral and become a case study in renaissance in just a decade and a half, so can Pakistan. In many ways, its critics have written off Pakistan, like Rwanda, as a failed state with the economy on the brink of bankruptcy, and ethnic conflicts and terrorism resulting in mass killing. Pakistan, with its abundance of natural resources, needs a man at the top with sincere vision and a passion to rebuild the country.

Pakistan is a very vibrant and viable nation with an abundance of natural resources and the raw talent of a young population. What we need is one man whose integrity to change the destiny of the nation is unquestionable. If a genocide of almost a million people can become a passing nightmare in just a few years and decades of civil war amongst two ethnic groups can be controlled, Pakistan’s problems of terrorism and target killing are also a matter of making local and foreign policies linked to our national interests, and then a disciplined approach of ensuring implementation with ruthless persecution of all violators of these policies regardless of position and rank.

The real crisis is not of floods or recession but of the deterioration in the moral fabric of society due to corrupt leadership, no law to punish criminals and no justice for the deprived and marginalised of society. In Rwanda, to overcome the mass killing and differences between the two opposing groups, the president launched a mass drive based on two values: reconciliation and forgiveness. Based on these two values, committees and structures were created to resolve conflicts while, through laws and rules and strict adherence to these values, procedure was ensured.

You need to select and promote the people who uphold the principles you value. If as a nation we feel that the values of integrity, peace and sovereignty are the most important foundations for this country to pull it out from its multiple disasters, then we need to value and select people who adhere to these values. The typical answer to this question is that there are no more people of this character left in the country. That is not exactly true. They may be a dwindling minority but they are there and it is our responsibility to, instead, do whatever we can to promote them and facilitate them in whatever little way to abide by our own principle of integrity. Having faith in your own ability and faith in the nation’s ability to bounce back are mandatory prerequisites for rebuilding a lost cause.
The writer is a consultant and can be reached at andleeb@franklincoveysouthasia.com
Courtesy Daily Times Sep 5, 2010

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