Growth: a necessary condition of modern dictatorships

Ernest Ruzindaza, permanent secretary to Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda, was a panelist on The Forum sometime last year. In it he sort asked a fellow panelist talking about open defecation and access to toilets for women to instead speak about positive and development related things that paint a better picture of Africa. It was a bit odd. And then Ruzindaza went to quote statistics about a cow give-away scheme and its exponentially accruing prosperity effect. The anchor, a usually well informed Bridgett Kendall, cited Rwanda as a success story.  Some months later, the very impressive Anjan Sundaram wrote about Rwanda’s ruling dispensation and its darling Tyrant for Politico.

To a lay person reading about Rwanda for the first time it appears: there was a genocide followed by a strongman heading the government since; he doesn’t tolerate opposition to the extent of possibly staging political murders. The said leader delivers high growth and employs a propaganda machine to tout the said growth with some questionable statistical claims. The world’s media, with limited resources to dig deeper, readily buys the hype and peddles it itself. The parallels between Rwanda and Gujarat along with Paul Kagame’s similarity to Narendra Modi are not difficult to conjure. If China and Russia are added to the list, a modern template for some version of an illiberal government emerges.