Letter: The killing in Rwanda

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a former adviser to the Communaute Economique des Grands Lacs, of which the members are Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, may I express my appreciation of Richard Dowden's excellent article 'A wound at the heart of Africa' (11 May).

Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, with an alarmingly high rate of population growth. The root cause of the present troubles is therefore not only tribal hostility, but also economic. Tribal hostility has not prevented collaboration at an inter-governmental level. But at the grass roots there are many tensions caused by under-employment, shortage of cultivatable land and under-development. Tribalism conceals a classical struggle for territory.

The region has a considerable agro-industrial potential based on the methane deposits of Lake Kivu and the hydroelectric resources of the region, as well as a tourist potential which could provide considerable employment in the longer term. Industrial development has, however, been impeded by the communication problems caused in recent years by instability in Uganda and Zaire, and the very important production of nitrogenous fertilisers from methane for the coffee and tea gardens of the region has never started.

The only feasible economic solution is an effective programme of family planning in Rwanda. In the longer term, investment for industrial and tourist development, coupled with improvements in communications, including lake communications to Burundi from Tanzania and Zambia, and road and rail communications from Kenya, could relieve the pressure on the land.




17 May