Kigali, 12 August 2014
Mwiriwe neza mwese? I’m just saying good evening.
I want to start by saying that I am thankful for the invitation extended to me, which you always do on the occasions like this, and it is always a pleasure to join you and hear from the many people who are willing to share their wisdom with the rest of us and especially [with] the leaders of our country.
First of all, let me thank Pastor Warren for what he presented to us that was very instructive in many ways indeed, especially for leaders not only in government; I am sure what we heard can be very helpful in many other aspects of leadership even in business.
And, before I go ahead with what I want to say, let me thank again Pastor Rick Warren for bringing up the name of Joe Ritchie. I am sure Joe Ritchie doesn’t want to hear it many times but I think he’s been a very good person. He’s been a friend, more importantly a friend of this country, and people of this country and myself. And he has brought many friends to our country and he continues to be associated with us in many ways. And I’m saying this because when you have friends, I’m sure you want them to be real friends.
And we see friends; many friends when you are in a very good situation and when there are problems you start seeing their number going little down. But Joe, Rick and many other friends have been real friends. You know, our country has gone through many difficulties, trying moments. Maybe the story is long I will not have to repeat all that, but some of these friends have stood with us and defended us. And for them, we felt like it was not difficult to defend Rwanda because there was nothing wrong we were doing really. People just decided to make it appear wrong but it wasn’t. But that is also very useful in a way. I keep telling my countrymen and women that even in trying moments we should take heart that there is always a silver lining and the silver lining for me is that it wakes us all to a certain reality that we should not take things for granted. That after all it doesn’t hurt. In fact for me, I don’t know, I don’t want to sound cynical but I find it useful, I find that getting what we get by earning it is so sweet. It is really so good. If you get something good through some fights, I think it’s very treasurable. If we get things for nothing it wouldn’t make much sense.
Now let me link that with the discussion for today, which brings in leadership. Yes it’s about leadership. Leadership is about dealing with such kind of situations and come out fine. I want to take it from this point: leadership that has been talked about so many times in so many ways or so many things that have made sense about it; as I see it, as I have known it, it’s more to do with practice than with theory. It’s about results, it’s about problem solving, [and] of course it’s about people because its people that produce leaders, its people that have problems that need to be addressed. And of course that’s where complexity comes in, that how things get a little bit more complicated…If we all understand in theory what leadership is about, and they are many people who know what leadership is about in theory, the problem has always been to translate that into practice in [our] daily lives….How do we address our daily problems and even prevent or address or solve future problems? This is where the difficult always comes up.
And then many people were saying “Gushima Imana”: Thanking God. We have to bear in mind what has already taken place or what has happened. Every individual therefore took a moment and said…I am thanking God for this, for what has happened. But what role have I had in it? Because that means you are thinking about the expectations. What were the expectations that people had about you? Since of course God has done what God needed to do by empowering us in many different ways. So how have we used these talents, these skills, the knowledge, the responsibility that have been all in our hands? How have we used those relative to the expectations? I am here, the President of Rwanda, people elected me expecting that I do something…That is what I am doing to meet their expectations. This is what weighs on my mind so heavily everyday but I imagine that’s what weighs on everybody’s mind everyday at their levels. We have different levels of responsibility and leadership we exercise, there are some expectations [and] there is a responsibility. The issue is how we came out dealing with these expectations or are we the type, the kind which we talk about every day? I say it for my country or for our continent of Africa; it’s something we must address without a doubt. Being satisfied or happy with very low expectation about us should not be acceptable. Even for us as leaders, it’s like we are there, we are leaders with protocol we are so great and people praise us…But that should always come with the weight of expectation!
So this thanks giving … I am trying to link maybe call it the religious side of things that leadership comes to be very important. So why do we thank God? What is your role? It’s not only about thanking god as an exercise; we need to give it a context, substance. The substance of it is that it’s important to thank God for everything that has happening in our lives. But we also need to go back and reflect on our role in what we have achieved individually and then collectively… How have we exercised our responsibility, our leadership at that level, the leadership the responsibility of problem solving? It’s solving problems. Nobody can solve problems alone, never! We solve problems together but each of us has to bring their contribution, to bear on that problem solving, that’s what we have to be reminded of everyday. That’s how it translates from the theory that we know from the many good things we know. Many things that have to happen that Rick warren brought up so well in the ten or eleven points he discussed with us and put a lot of details to them. But if it is practice, then that’s why it has to be the kind of hands on process that he also mentioned. It’s not just giving instructions, giving an order and then you take another direction and just hope or expect that things will be done the way you instructed. It’s about even that additional responsibility you carry to see that the right things are being done to solve problems and to have results; so execution and implementation are key in leadership. Now for us in Rwanda, we have had really bad times and good times but put together I think we have learned lessons.
At least some of us did not waste the opportunity in learning lessons; learning lessons every day and these things we do- leadership, problem solving and so on – it’s about people. It is about people mainly around what I would call self-worth.
People, individuals, a nation feeling they are worth living the lives they want to live or living the lives they live. It is worth that, self-worth. Therefore if it is about self-worth, it is not about somebody else doing something for you. It is about doing something for yourself and collectively for each other being together for each other so that the gains that come out of that are shared by all of us not just benefitting one individual or a few people.
So self-worth and lessons we have learned and tragedies we have gone through, I think what has come out and what we have been building on is this value of self-worth. The Agaciro that Rick Warren mentioned, the dignity of people is what has also formed and informed our not only thinking but actions building on that thinking.
It is like even if am weak today and I need support and you support me, I want to be supported to reach a point where I don’t have to need you every day supporting me, because you should be doing something else not supporting me. Why should I, one person or a nation, be a burden to other people? Why? And even so, maybe it can be explained for that moment but not forever.
You can’t carry the burden of this country or mine or anybody else’s forever. Why? Therefore the fact that somebody must be prepared in their minds not to accept that is key; that is the starting point. In your mind you must not accept that, that you must be a burden to be carried somebody else every day. There is no self-worth in that, absolutely not.
In fact, these are debates that we are engaged in everyday with the rest of the world whether Rwanda, Africa or the rest of the world. Aid, people helping us and so forth, is very good but you want to avoid a situation where, forever, there are people who are good, who are capable and are good because they help others and then there are others who are good but because they are helped by good people and then they must remain good in that state forever. No! It is just not acceptable. So please, when we are thanking God, we in Rwanda, we should not be thanking God because there are people who are permanently carrying our burden. We should be thanking God because through whatever process or whether somebody is carrying your burden only for a time, they want to support you to be able to stand on your own feet. Actually, we are in a clear process where we should be able to stand on our own feet. This is what we should be thanking God for; for being on this path or subsequently reaching that point where maybe we can also turn around and help others who maybe need help. But not help them in the other way also of turning them into your permanent burden, no. But rather help them to be able to stand on their feet.
Now of course self-worth that I was talking about; you see self-worth of every individual should not have any conflict, any contradiction with the self-worth of any other individual, no. It is a common aspiration therefore we should work together and complement one another to achieve that. And that’s the point that was made earlier of leadership, leaders: People doing things not so much for themselves but also for others.
We should fulfil our aspirations, in actual facts, we can’t fulfil our aspirations where we play a zero sum game, where it’s: “I gain where you lose”, no. I gain where you gain. We should all be gaining and that is that way we can move forward. So that’s why self worth has no contradiction for you and my quest for that, they’re complementary and that’s how we move forward together. That’s what we have continued to identify and try to spread it across our country, and I think a decent level has been achieved on this. That’s why even with the many difficulties I was talking about; the country continues to make progress. That’s what we’ve continued to identify and spread across our country, and I honestly feel like a decent amount has been achieved on this. Even with so many difficulties that I mentioned, the country continues to make progress. This is because we’ve reached a critical mass of people who really understand that they gain where others are gaining and they don’t have to gain where others are losing. Therefore we have to stand together, but we have to stand together in being able to correctly identify what we appreciate and how we appreciate those who enable us to achieve what we achieve, or support us in that process. And ultimately thank God for what he enables us to achieve, and that is “Gushima Imana”, to thank God simply comes to that. I’m just emphasizing that we should give this its real context as Rwandans, its real substance. Where we’re thanking God for what we get and what we are enabled to get, but we should always see in that; our own role and responsibility rather than of just finding things or thinking that we can find things there and we can be happy about getting them.
Of course it’s easier said than done, always. Every day as we go through these processes, Rick Warren talked about casualties, in being a good leader there are always casualties. You should expect being hurt either way. The cause for that is important; is superior by far. What I mean here is: leaders take hard decisions many times. Hard decisions that in some cases they will always be blamed for, you are talking about even being likeable. I hope people don’t worry too much about being liked and forget to take hard decisions, because they may not be liked for some of the decisions that they have to make. You may also find in many cases some leaders will think so much about themselves as individuals and want to play safe, they don’t want be blamed for anything therefore won’t make hard decisions and they’ll pass that up to someone else or would rather push it to somebody else and that somebody else will push it to someone else and in the end maybe nothing will be done. I’m sitting in the middle of it and I know what this means.
Really, what this means is that at some point every leader must be comfortable with themselves in taking certain decisions that may in some way be seen even as coming back to hurt them in a way, but they should be able to make these good judgments as what they need to do and how they need to do it, and the costs of it. In fact as I say this, everyone knows this, especially in politics. In politics some decisions will hurt leaders; some of them lose elections and some of them lose all kinds of things, we live in a modern world of sound bites, polls, and they keep saying the polls are going down, and it’s like he is no longer a leader at all etc. We must be conscious about that, but it makes it easier to make these judgments to do things when you come from a background of conviction. Are you convinced about what you are doing and what you are involved with? Or are you just doing it for some kind of fun, when it passes you are no longer carrying the responsibility or what, but there’s conviction of why you’re doing what you are doing or why you are where you are. It’s easier to make decisions sometimes. As I say this, I am just telling my fellow leaders of this great country of ours that some of these things need to be avoided, where leaders cannot play safe. You don’t play safe, you confront things as they are and always expect somebody might not like it, probably more people will not like it than those who like it but then you have to understand why you are doing that or why some people say they don’t like it and so on. But am just saying the main thing that will support us is the strength of our conviction about what we are doing, linking it although the process as I said, with what we stand for what we want to achieve and the meaning of it to the other self worth of people that I was talking about.
I know many people have asked me or mentioned the size of Rwanda, but I also use it in a way to explain my point that sometimes I tell my fellow Africans that there are things we can address, that we even want to address but sometimes we make it look like it is very difficult to deal with. And I say if Rwanda can do anything, and we have done a few things that enabled us to make good progress, then for them they can also make it and do it better than us: if Rwanda can do it, anybody can do it.
And the second thing is sometimes…. The other day I was watching television and people were discussing and somebody made a reference to what is happening in Rwanda and talking about the success of it and someone replied saying: “But Rwanda is a small country ” and so on and so forth. Well I think I can say to this that Rwanda is small only geographically. But if you look at it this way that Rwanda has faced the biggest problems that any country has probably has ever faced, don’t you think? A country that lost 10,000 people every day for 100 days, if that’s not the biggest problem I don’t know what problem would be that any definition would give us. And of course, the cause of that and the aftermath to that put together it’s a big problem. But my point was, if you can identify Rwanda with the most complicated and the biggest problems at the same time, you can identify Rwanda with solutions to these very big problems so these are big solutions isn’t it? So with big problems and big solutions that can work or that affect the world, I think this place is no longer small. It’s really big in a sense. That’s the way I want to see big because it’s a solution, it’s an idea…And finally the people of Rwanda are not small. So that’s the main point.
So leadership, leaders…Thank you Rick Warren to emphasise and always give context and substance to this issue of leadership. For us leadership, governance, essence of being who we are, I like your point which I again mentioned to these people. You know, we can be better people and we want to be better people than we have been as Rwandans but being better in no way will ever mean being other people. Being better means Rwandans being better people; it doesn’t mean Rwandans turning into other people because this wouldn’t make sense. This is why we emphasise rebuilding our country, modernising our institutions based on our values on who we are. We are who we are! If ever you want to change and become other people I am not with you! Because first of all it’s a very difficult endeavour, secondly it doesn’t have any meaning. Yes, we can only be better people but ourselves, but of course that puts into account that we link with the rest of the world. Of course, that puts into account the fact that we link with the rest of the world. No country is an island, and by no means, Rwanda is no exception. We have to link with the rest of the world.
So every day we have problems to solve, we live lives of struggles of all kind and but God has provided to us, God has given us all kinds of possibilities and means. I think there is a proverb, Rutayisire in Kinyarwanda, I don’t remember how it goes…”Umwanzi agucira icyobo, Imana ikagucira icyanzu” God will always give you a way out… Enemies may plot for you… There might be a pit covered by this carpet and when you walk on it you might fall in the pit but God will always give you a plan how to bypass it… So you can see these Rwandans are good believers as of old, it wasn’t even brought by some of these people who are said to have discovered us you know? Rwanda or Africa we are known to have been discovered by some explorers who came and found some human being who looked like them and… But even by then I am saying, even at that time, before they discovered us, Rwandans had some values and they used to believe and some of these sayings go as far back as centuries. So that is really strength we should build on as Rwandans and we will do just as fine as anyone else can do. Thank you very much.