Rwandans have been commemorating the 20th anniversary of the mass slaughter that convulsed their nation in 1994 and left a legacy of civil strife that is only now giving way to peace and development.
Participants in the killings now live in peace alongside each other.
Headed by President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, Rwanda is experiencing a recovery that is close to unprecedented in Africa where civil war rarely finds a happy ending.
But Rwanda today, after an appalling episode bordering on genocide, is stable and prosperous.
This wasn’t the case in 1994 when the country experienced turmoil following an air crash that killed the Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart.
The attack on Tutsis and moderate Hutus left some 800 000 dead. There are numerous horrific examples of the genocide.
People trapped in churches were axed as fire forced them out. A bus carrying the largely Tutsi national football team was stopped at a roadblock and when its players refused to hand over their captain, he was decapitated anyway and his head used as a football.
Bodies piled up on the streets.
In the end, Kagame’s RPF forces triumphed. Although Kagame is a ruthless character, hunting down his enemies, in South Africa recently, he has transformed Rwanda into a prosperous state.
Rather like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, he runs a benevolent dictatorship. The trains run on time (with apologies to Mussolini!)
It is obviously easier to run a dictatorship than a democracy. Nigeria has been enjoying democratic rule without a coup for a number of years now. But it is as corrupt as hell.
President Mugabe’s little tale about the captain being unable to take off until he had sufficient funds available may indeed have been true, but you just don’t say it in public.
After all, as the Nigerians pointed out, Nigeria has been a friend of Zanu PF since the 1970s. They gave Zimbabwe all that money for media development in 1980. What’s happened to the Mass Media Trust?
But the salient point here is that at Independence in 1960, Nigeria’s GDP was the same as South Korea’s. And Nigeria had oil.
Where did it all go? Fuel queues in Lagos are a frequent sight.
Another salient point: At Independence in 1960 there were 30 million Nigerians. Today there are over 130 million. What have all these Nigerians been busy doing? A silly question perhaps.
In Kagame’s Rwanda — like Singapore — you will be fined for dropping litter.
The country has an impressive network of motorways and excellent communications.
Rwanda has joined the Commonwealth and made English the official language. The French refused to be associated with last week’s commemorations.
Rwandans believe the French did too little to prevent the genocide.
Diplomacy, it seems has not been very effective in recent weeks — and it shows!