President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame
“Rwanda is one of the safest places I’ve been, this side of Zurich, which is hard to reconcile with the fact that less than 20 years ago more civilians were murdered here in a three-month spree of madness than during just about any other three-month period in human history, including the Holocaust. During Rwanda’s genocide, the majority Hutus turned on the minority Tutsis, slaughtering an estimated one million men, women and children, most dispatched by machetes or crude clubs. Rwandans say it is difficult for any outsider to appreciate how horrifying it was. Nowadays, it’s hard to find even a jaywalker.
No country in Africa, if not the world, has so thoroughly turned itself around in so short a time, and Kagame has shrewdly directed the transformation. Measured against many of his colleagues, like the megalomaniac Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who ran a beautiful, prosperous nation straight into the ground, or the Democratic Republic of Congo’s amiable but feckless Joseph Kabila, who is said to play video games while his country falls apart, Kagame seems like a godsend. Spartan, stoic, analytical and austere, he routinely stays up to 2 or 3 a.m. to thumb through back issues of The Economist or study progress reports from red-dirt villages across his country, constantly searching for better, more efficient ways to stretch the billion dollars his government gets each year from donor nations that hold him up as a shining example of what aid money can do in Africa. He is a regular at Davos, the world economic forum, and friendly with powerful people, including Bill Gates and Bono. The Clinton Global Initiative honored him with a Global Citizen award, and Bill Clinton said that Kagame “freed the heart and the mind of his people.”
This praise comes in part because Kagame has made indisputable progress fighting the single greatest ill in Africa: poverty. Rwanda is still very poor — the average Rwandan lives on less than $1.50 a day — but it is a lot less poor than it used to be. Kagame’s government has reduced child mortality by 70 percent; expanded the economy by an average of 8 percent annually over the past five years; and set up a national health-insurance program — which Western experts had said was impossible in a destitute African country. Progressive in many ways, Kagame has pushed for more women in political office, and today Rwanda has a higher percentage of them in Parliament than any other country.”
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