RPF Head Quarters
- Vice Chairman,
- Secretary General of RPF Inkotanyi,
- Distinguished leaders,
- Commissioners of RPF,
- Distinguished officials here present, especially our guests representing parties from our friend and sister countries who have come from across the continent and leaders of our local political parties with whom we live together here,
- Cadres of RPF Inkotanyi,
I greet you all and I thank you.
First I want to say that I have passed by this place several times. I have been here before in this kind of place. Unfortunately I never get used to it. I will later tell you what I really mean.
First of all here, how we have lived together for a long period of time, what we do collaboratively, the confidence we have in each other, the good things we accomplish for our country, which we do for our own benefit — they all lead to the common good.
Actually, we were supposed to be standing here today looking for new RPF leadership, specifically RPF choosing a leader as its flagbearer in the presidential election. My role was supposed to be handing over the leadership baton I had, or was carrying for you.
Normally this is how things should have happened because it had been planned like that beforehand. But recently you decided otherwise by saying what would happen today would be different from what was expected. I had no role in this but to accept it as you requested me to do.
It has happened more than once. This not the first time. And the pressure for me not to agree, or advising me not to accept, was not less. But probably it was less informed, and more meaningless, than was the pressure for me to accept.
Now that you brought me here to accept, the only alternative I have, I am glad to inform you, as I have always done in the past, is to give it, and you, my all. I will always do it to the best of my ability.
But here’s the deal. I also want you to think about it. You may not give me the answer now, but I want you to think about it and maybe find an answer as we go forward.
I want you to think about it. It is always a deal and the deal is this: Let’s assume and agree that in the seven years to come — most likely, because since we have decided here and I know the strength of RPF, it means we are going to emerge with victory; that’s fine. But let’s assume that in the seven years to come, it is my request to you that we do things either differently, or better, or work harder so that the next seven years give us some kind of transition, and so that what made you ask me to stay longer maybe can be addressed in these seven years.
So I want you to think about it. I’m not putting much pressure on you. I’m just requesting you to think about it because you must think about it. That is how realistic we can and should be so that after seven years we are not back to a situation where either we are taken by surprise or… I think it’s a fair point I’m trying to make to you.
Why don’t we really double our efforts. I know everything is about timing, among other things, so we had to give ourselves time. We have been giving ourselves time. That’s fine but you don’t leave everything just to time. It also matters what you do in that time.
So I want us to do as much as we can in the seven years ahead to reduce the kinds of worries and needs that might bring us to this place again. As I said, much as I have been here so many times before, I never get used to it. But that means there is a lot of work for us to do and we will do it. You have asked me to stay and I have stayed.
I also said I will give it everything I have, as I have done before, and maybe I will also double my efforts so that together we can keep reducing the need, those factors, that compelled you to ask me to stay. I’m not putting a deadline. I’m not putting a pre-condition. I’m just asking you to fight with me as we have always done so that we overcome these challenges that compel you to ask me to stay.
I hope I’m with you on this. I mean at least you understand me, you understand what I’m saying, right?
But before I go further let me go to our friends who are here today who came from brotherly and sisterly and friendly political parties, movements, and countries. I wanted to thank you, not only for being here today with us, and the profound statements you made, but also for having been there with, and for us, in our complicated history.
Starting with the neighbours: Tanzania, Uganda — CCM, NRM. Beyond: Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, China, South Africa (ANC).
You know, the ANC is a much older organisation, but at one point RPF and ANC crossed paths for our two countries, when South Africa was getting the best they could get in history, while we were getting the worst anybody can get in their history. It happened at the same time. In 1994 South Africa was becoming free and independent. In 1994 Rwanda was sinking in a more or less bottomless pit. But we still shared a lot.
I will not go into details, just for the sake of not missing out on some details that should have been stated, so as not to be misrepresented or misunderstood. But I wanted to thank those brothers and sisters who are here with us today.
The meaning for us of today, as I said earlier, is that while something else could have happened, different from what has just happened today, had it happened the way it should have happened before the changes, I would still have been very happy. But now it hasn’t happened and a different decision has been made and I have agreed to it. I am still very, very happy.
Now, with all that I have said, I have a message for the young people, the majority of our people and I know the majority of most populations of other countries represented here. What I started with earlier — the seven years I talked about — is maybe to be achieved by young people. You know, when we took over in 1994 a country that had been deprived of almost everything and started rebuilding, there are people who had just been born or others who were still very young. For those who were, say, ten in 1994, you understand how 23 years later they are 33. Those who were 15, that’s 38. Those who were 18, that’s 41 years old. Men and women. By the way the 38, the 41 — or maybe the 33, but I don’t wish that to happen yet — but the 38 and the 41 and above, I think you can be presidents.
But there is a caveat here. It’s not just being president. It’s not just having a right to be president. Rwanda wants and needs the right president. It wants and needs and deserves the right leaders.
So there is something you have to do. You have to invest in yourselves. You actually have to participate in politics. You know, I have always heard this kind of stuff where people say, “No, no that is politics, I can’t get involved in politics!” Well, you don’t get involved in politics, and the next day bad politics takes care of you. The next day, you are led by people you don’t deserve.
So it’s not just about being leaders, it’s not just about being presidents, because there have been and there can be very bad leaders. If you are led by bad leaders and you are from Rwanda, I don’t think you need any explanations. We’ve been there before. We have been there before. Does anyone want to go back again to that situation? No.
So young leaders, young people — you Rwandans, men and women: One, aspire to be a leader, even a president, but above all aspire to be a good leader because that’s what your fellow Rwandans need and deserve because we’ve been where we have been. That we know.
So when you are studying wherever you go, in neighbouring countries, other parts of Africa, or beyond the continent, you should be able to understand that growing into what you need or what Rwanda needs isn’t something you get just by accident. You have to be selective. You have to choose the kind and manner of upbringing that you want, that we want, and that is helpful to be a leader.
By being a leader I mean you affect others. It’s not just you. That is why, when we remember what we went through in the last 23 years — we have had many visitors, we have had many interactions, we have been everywhere — remember there are people who will come to you and say they have power over you, they are better than you, therefore they have advice for you as to what you should be.
Think about it. When you have been to school in those universities out there, and you have been growing up, studying, learning, do you really get at some point that somebody else should be having such power over you, or should be the one to write the script you should follow and finally become? Do you ever think about it? I think somebody who has been brought up properly and well simply rejects that kind of thing. You reject it.
I see somebody saying, you see, they are coming and taking young people to go teach them how to be future leaders. How do they teach you to become a good leader by transplanting you from your own values, culture, environmental problems, and so on. What kind of leader do they teach you to become?
I think it would be fair to say, okay, go out there and look for what pleases you and what befits you and pick whatever you want. Not be shown what you have to pick. In fact, that is even what we have been learning from the same people, because they teach us so much about freedom, therefore their freedom and also mine to choose. If you start by ignoring my freedom to pick, and you choose for me, that is a contradiction already. And therefore I can’t follow you, I can’t believe you.
But it has to be a properly brought up person to see that point and believe it. It starts with you. It starts with our conviction. It started, as far as we are concerned — we the RPF — it started with what RPF came into being for in the first place. Otherwise what is the meaning of RPF to us? When you are talking about RPF, what is the meaning?
It’s not the red shirt, blue shirt, black and white, it’s not that. It is what is in our heads and in our hearts. It’s about the choices we have to make. It’s about the things we have to do. It’s our dignity which we have to stand up for.
And I want us to believe that when I am saying this — and politely I am sort of confining myself to the RPF or Rwanda because that is where I belong to begin with — I also want to believe that maybe this is what we share across the whole continent. That is what we share. It is all for us Africans.
Leaders of RPF, cadres, and our distinguished visitors, brothers and sisters: I think Rwanda and Africa need to change the narrative. No one else owes it to us. We owe it to ourselves.
You see it even with all kinds of definitions of democracy and opposition and freedom. These are not textbook issues. Actually these have become life and death issues. And I don’t think you will find people differing so much as to the issues of ‘what’. No, it will mainly be the issues of ‘how’ and maybe sometimes ‘why’.
What do I mean? I haven’t heard much debate on whether people should work towards prosperity. I think everybody agrees. Don’t you think? When you talk about prosperity everybody says, “I am there”. When you talk about stability, issues of socio-economic transformation, everybody says, “That’s what we have been looking for”. If you are talking about good governance, if you are fighting corruption, everybody says, “That’s what I stand for”. Security; everything. Everybody agrees.
The problem comes when we arrive at the how. How do we get there? How do we achieve it? Even then, sometimes the how issues are not very complicated. It gets more complicated when the how to get there is no longer collective. It becomes individualised; it becomes personal. Somebody starts thinking about personal benefits, as if the personal benefits should be conflicting with the benefits of all of us. But if we believe that the best way for us is for all of us to benefit, and not just one against others or a few at the expense of others — if that is clear, then there are no difficulties.
So, the RPF, in our upbringing, in our struggle, in our daily conversation — not that we have necessarily been entirely successful; yes, there are those who time and again go their ways, and that’s okay — but I think we have been brought up and I have believed that the benefits for all of us are better than the benefits for some of us. That’s the culture, that’s the belief, that’s the ideology we espouse. If you step away from that and do something else, the opposite, you are creating problems for others and also for yourself. Because you have also discovered that even with benefits for the few, sometimes the life span is very short.
So, distinguished cadres and brothers and friends: All these things we read about, we hear, we are concerned with, at least in the Rwandan story, a bit of it, a little part of it — it’s not so big but I think it becomes an indicator of what is possible, of what is doable. But you have to go do it. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen. You have just got to do it. Nothing will happen, unless you do it.
For the good Christians, better than me, for the Muslims, for whatever religion, whatever tribe — well, for those who believe, it doesn’t matter how many times you go to pray, nothing will happen until you do it. Absolutely, it doesn’t matter whether you do it twelve times, twenty times a day, it won’t happen.
That may cover only a small part which has to do with luck. Let’s assume everything has a part that goes with luck. I think that goes with prayers. But for everything else you have got to do it, you just have got to do it. Even non-believers, sometimes get some luck, I think, but they always have to do things in order to be where they want to be.
And for the RPF, this is our daily conversation. This is the conversation I want the young people to participate in, to be brought up in, to believe in. So that at least we can to a great extent secure our tomorrow.
You have nominated me as the flagbearer of RPF. Let’s put aside the whole history of how we came to be here for a while. I just ask you again, we have got to be with each other in this fight for our better tomorrow. And there won’t be shortcuts to go to do it.