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Rwanda

Sekondi Accra

President Paul Kagame, former head of Tutsi rebel force, was re-elected in August 2010 to another seven-year term which drew unprecedented domestic and international criticism. Almost immediately after the election, Kagame silenced his political opponents along with journalists. The government is now subject to increasing dissent while economic growth is decreasing. Its choice is between alleviating pressure with more political freedom or curtailing it, risking the disapprobation of donors who pay half the governements budget. for the most part, Rwanda's investors have been supportive of Kigali's policy of Singaporean-style development: political authoritarianism while focusing on infrastructure and economic performance.

National criticism is easier to thwart than its international counterpart. In September 2010, the United Nations (UN) presented evidence that Rwandan forces committed crimes against humanity against Hutus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the late 1990s. President Joseph Kabila of the DRC and President Kagame reached an understanding about the threat posed by rebels in the eastern part of DRC in 2009, but that has not brought an end to the instability in the region.

A number of arrests in the military heirarchy and the flight into exile of former chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa have exposed the fragility of political concensus within the government and ruling party. A series of grenade attacks before the August 9 elections, which gave Kagame 93.1% of the vote, also illustrated seething tensions of the disenfranchised opposition. After having enjoyed international acclaim for revitalizing a shattered country, Kagame's policy of peace through unity and reconciliation suffers from his refusal to prosecute members of the ruling party for crimes committed during the 1994 genocide.

Opponents accuse him of applying an "iron fist", and the political climate remains tense as Kagame, who has been president since 2000, remains the only political force in the country. Under the 2000 constitution, which governed his election the same year, the head of state can only serve two terms. In September 2010, internal security minister Sheikh Mussa Fazil Harelimana stated that term limits were unfair; by the end of that year there was a motion before parliament to remove them.

Rwanda had an average GDP growth rate of 10% since 2003, but the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that growth will decrease to 5.4% in 2010 due to the global crisis and lower coffee prices/production. minerals such as cobalt and coltan rose above coffee and tea as the major foreign exchange earners in 2008 and 2009, but are now affected United States (US) legislation that requires all minerals from the region to be checked to be sure they are not from war-torn areas of DRC. The government has awarded mining permits to Kivu Gold Rwanda (Canada), Rogi Mining (Russia) and Xiamen Tungsten Corporation (China).

Tea production increased from 20,000 tons in 2008 to 24,600 tons in 2009, with 28,000 tons predicted for 2010, according to the Rwanda Tea Office. Privatization has led to increased cultivation and the constructing of new factories. The government's goal is to produce 35,000 tons annually by 2012, with potential earnings of $70 million dollars. Tourism could also stimulate economic growth, following the approval of projects such as cruises on Lake Kivu and a cultural village in Kigali, but the potential is in the distant future.

Economic and population growth are exacerbating Rwanda's energy crisis: the government predicts that the current peak lod of 55 megawatts (MW) needs to expand at least to 130 MW by 2015, but few projects are planned to address this issue. The government is preparing a few micro-hydroelectric projects, and the dam at Rusumo could generate 60-80 MW by 2014, but it will be shared between Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

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Rwanda maintains an embassy in the United States at 1714 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-232-2882).
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