A friend and I were talking one day last week and got round to thinking about this statement of ‘its not a game’.

I went to a lecture by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, two weeks ago today, and the conversation reminded me of it again. Kagame delivered a lecture, entitled ‘Education for Development: African/Rwandan Challenges’, after receiving an honoury degree. It was a very interesting night – his lecture was relatively short, but he stood and answered questions for over an hour off-the-cuff – while his answers were very political (i.e. not very enlightening), I was impressed that he took Q&A for so long, and especially entirely unscripted.

In a news report from last week, Sir Russell Muir (University of Glasgow Principal) is quoted as saying, “Paul Kagame is the central figure in the rebirth of Rwanda and he is one of the most impressive leaders in Africa. He preaches a doctrine of security, guided reconciliation, anti-corruption, and above all a drive toward self-reliance that he hopes will free his country from its heavy dependence on foreign aid.” I’m not so sure what to make of Kagame… he does seem to have been a key figure in the resilience of Rwanda, but does that negate the questions over his past and his involvement in the genocide?

Anyway, back to the point. During Q&A, someone asked Kagame about Rwanda’s involvement in the strife in DRC. It came up a few times before this question, but Kagame’s reaction was very much one of passing the blame. He firmly shifted the focus onto the (rich) Western world and what it’s involvement in DRC is. (On a side note, I think it’s good we think about this – we have a responsibilty too – but I would have been very interested in what Rwanda is actually up to there.)

Cut to: Reading a recent email from Jubilee Debt Campaign about the debt situation in Liberia. Last month Liberia’s debt cancellation was delayed again. Liberia has a massive $4.3 billion debt, mostly built up during 14 years of civil war. IMF shareholders have been discussing how to resolve this issue for more than 18 months. At the IMF’s annual meeting in Washington last month, countries blamed each other for the stalemate. Meanwhile, the people of Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world, face life expectancy of just 42 years and an average daily income of $0.33.

It’s easy for us to spend months and years debating over the best way to do something, even something good like debt cancellation. But this is not a game to them. It’s life and death. 18 months living on $0.33 a day might mean your kids don’t live through another year. 18 months living on $0.33 a day might mean losing your wife because you can afford to pay for ARV drugs. 18 months living on $0.33 a day might mean both your parents die and you’re left to look after your 4 little brothers and sisters because they couldn’t get clean water.

This is not a game. It’s life and death.

When will we wake up?

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