Atlanta, 20 September 2014
I want to start by thanking the young people who are here, who have come from across the United States and across the world.
I thank all Rwandans, men who are here today to give value this day: Rwanda Day.
I also want to say that I am most pleased that this Rwanda Day is taking place in Atlanta, it is a great place, it’s a place where we have many friends, it’s a place, which has history that we are happy to be associated with and it’s a place we want to associate this Rwanda Day with.
I’m grateful that people like Ambassador Young, and many other, have worked tirelessly with our people to make the organization of this day a success, I want to thank you.
There are many friends of Rwanda here present from this great country, the United States of America. They have been with Rwanda for the last 20 years and beyond, they have worked with Rwandans, they have contributed their time and many other things for the reconstruction of Rwanda, I want to thank you, and they continue to do so.
Now coming to this day, Rwanda Day, it is very much associated with what has been said about Agaciro. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned, everyone here has their definition of what Agaciro is and I think it all adds up to one thing. I want to contribute my own definition but I’m sure it is in line with other definitions that have already been expressed. Agaciro is about creating a sense of self-worth. And self worth is only achieved if all of us together value one another. This is about Agaciro, self worth. And for us Rwandans we understand that, from our history, from our tragedy of 20 years ago, and the history of that. We are able to understand the full meaning of self worth; because, for so long, we never had that. Deprived of a sense of self worth, taught us and gave us the full meaning of it. That’s why whatever we do; we have at the back of our mind this sense of self worth: its dignity, its agaciro. The rest builds on that.
Last time during the Commemoration of the Genocide, the 20th Commemoration, we expressed three things that are important to us Rwandans: it was unity: standing together, working together, the second was about accountability. Standing together and holding one another accountable, meant or means we are fulfilling the responsibility of agaciro and creating for ourselves a sense of self-worthy. The third was about thinking big. You think big: you think beyond yourself, you think about the neighbour, you contribute to his/her wellbeing in the same way she should or he should contribute to your wellbeing. You understand that as we deal with our own problems back at home of unity, of development, of disease, of education, giving our people skills and employment, creating an environment where business can thrive, it doesn’t stop in Rwanda, in that small geographic space of Rwanda. The idea behind these actions, this thinking, is big; it goes beyond Rwanda. If we can address problems back at home, the complex problems of our history, some of the lessons learnt can work for people thousands miles away from Rwanda. Therefore I’m very grateful to you ,Rwandans and friends of Rwanda who are here, not only because you are here so that we can have a conversation, but because of daily sacrifices and contributions, ideas you put forward for the development of our country and continuing to do to so.
The progress we have made this far in the last 20 years in Rwanda is very important. It creates a foundation but there is more to do; what you continue to do is just work in progress. We still want security for our people; we still want political stability for our country, for our region, for the continent of Africa and by addressing the challenges of Rwanda, if we succeed it becomes clear to every other Africans that they can also succeed.
If it can work in Rwanda, it can work anywhere else. So Rwanda is only small geographically, it’s a small geographical space but the ideas we use to deal with our challenges are big; they can work anywhere.
So brothers & sisters I want to tell you that every year that passes we have addressed many challenges but even more challenges are created and therefore we also have to confront that.
In Kinyarwanda, we say that you can’t delegate what is your personal responsibility. We have to face our responsibilities; after all it’s for our own benefit and no one else can do it for us. Neither can we wait for our friends to solve our problems or blame each other. Everyone’s input is needed, wherever they may be and this applies to those of you who live here as well.
I also take this opportunity to thank friends of Rwanda, the U.S.A in particular for hosting us here, for allowing us to be here today. We have students, and those of you working here; all of this provides opportunities for us to contribute to our nation. We can’t waste this chance. All of you living in America should always remember that you are here to learn and build your capacities so that you can use it as a foundation to build your own country and also to impact those who didn’t get the same opportunities.
I would like to remind you that the leadership we talk about in Rwanda is not the destructive type, but rather the type that calls everyone to come together and build something strong. When people come together to debate and discuss divergent ideas, it means they are working together to build consensus and that is something we value.
Earlier, Ambassador Andrew Young explained well the challenges of leadership, I won’t add much to that. As a leader you shouldn’t put yourself first or your personal interests first, rather your interests should go together with the interests of the general population. This should be the practice for leaders in developing nations. And as you know, there are a lot of challenges in practicing leadership. Some of us are used to confronting these challenges and we are happy to continue confronting them. This is because in Rwanda, both leaders and subjects are equal beneficiaries. In fact if anyone offers to help, we would never send him or her away but also those who offer to help us have no right excluding us, we all have to work hand in hand. Isn’t it?
If we look across the world, I don’t know whether it’s any consolation but sometimes when you are there breathing thinking that you are loaded with unprecedented challenges, if you try to look elsewhere and you find there are even bigger problems, you tend to be more energized to confront your own. Because you also take solace in the fact that; yes problems are actually there and they will always be there and they have to be confronted and the best way to deal with problems is actually not to run away from them but rather, to confront them. So, we Rwandans have to be prepared to keep confronting the many challenges we are going to face as we move forward and as we resolve and address the many challenges we have faced in our own history especially in the last 20 years. So we should be able to deal with our problems as well as prepare to contribute to dealing with others’ problems, whether within our region, on our continent or globally. For example, Rwanda has been making its own contribution towards peace support operation, peacekeeping across the world. It’s not because we don’t have other problems to use these forces for, in our own situations, but it’s because we understand that our own situation, our own challenges are linked with other challenges in the region, in the continent or across the world.
Now, with the few, or the many remarks, I have put to you I want again to thank you for always making this Rwanda Day very lively, we pick many ideas from this Rwanda Day, from Rwandans, from friends of Rwanda and when we get back home we try to incorporate the ideas you have put forward to work in the policy area or other areas. So, I thank you very much and definitely it is not the last time we are holding Rwanda Day in the United States or here in Atlanta. We will be back and we are happy to be back. I hope we can continue the conversation, I know there are people wanting to ask questions, we are happy to continue with the conversation. Thank you so much.
Interactive Session – Q&A
Sandra [Ottawa, Canada]: I would like to address this question to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and His Excellency. Yesterday I was very glad and pleased to assist to the meeting in regards to investment and business opportunities in Rwanda, and frankly, living abroad for the last 20 years, I did not know how far Rwanda went. I am also a peace activist. And the reason I am here in front of you, I would like to, how can I say that? We talked about stability and security. I would like to ask you, how do you address the issue of peace in the region. Yesterday, one of the American Chairman said, don’t make criticism if you don’t have any solution. What I would like to actually suggest, if it is possible, if there is none, to create like a regional committee, where you will be able to see any peace issues. That’s the only thing I wanted to suggest.
Jean Gacinya [Hamilton, Canada]: I have been in Canada for 20 years. The first thing I wanted to say is: when Ambassador Young was talking about the best President in the world, I was one of those who clapped because I thought he was talking about our President, Paul Kagame! He was talking about President Obama, but I still think President Kagame is still one of the greatest Presidents in the world. And I think I will be speaking on behalf of many of the people who are here. I am one of those people who left the country very young; it’s been more than fifty years, and we have been living abroad, we were scattered and we cannot be more proud of who we are, with all that President Kagame has done for us, so the Agaciro is really relevant and I just wanted to thank you very much.
The other thing is Engineer Gatete said that he would like to invite you again to the United States; you have been to United States quite a few times and then you came to see us in Canada in 2013, we were so glad to have you and we would like to see you again.And then my question is: President Paul Kagame, you are so unselfish, you are such a hard working individual, you are a man of integrity, you changed Rwanda into a beautiful and peaceful country. I know you are a man of the vision, but I just wanted to know if you have a vision of Africa being such a powerful continent.
Is it possible that Africa becomes such a powerful continent as a one continent? Africa is a mosaic of so many components and it can be a good thing but it can also be not such a good thing. In a few words I wanted to ask you your Excellency what are your views toward Africa, can Africa become that big nation, one continent that we would like to have? Or you think that regional forces within Africa are…
President Kagame: I think I got your question.Having Africa united is very important but if Africa can’t get united as the fifty four countries that it is, it doesn’t hurt that we start in a different way. It shouldn’t be that either you are united as a whole or we have nothing. What I mean here is that; if we have regions coming together, one example being the East African Community, the five countries of East Africa, Kenya, Uganda Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda we have come together under East African Community.We have created a customs union, we have a common market; we are moving ahead especially starting with three countries Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda to have one visa. If a foreigner is travelling to this region you can get just single visa that will enable you to travel to Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. So that is Africa uniting starting with regions.
In fact for me it makes more sense that way; starting with regions that have common interests. If you look at ECOWAS in West Africa, if you look at the Central African community, Southern Africa, Eastern Africa I was talking about, if they get together and unite, later on it becomes easier to get the regions united and therefore in the end you achieve the unity of Africa. So it’s important to have Africa together but it matters how you go about it.
Anita Brian: Your Excellency name is Anita Brian my company Frontier Ventures Unlimited deals with unleashing human potential. I am wondering as you build leaders for tomorrow, what do you think is the best way to bring best qualities out of people?
President Kagame: I will be as brief and clear as the question is. The best way to bring the best out of people as leaders: one is to allow them to participate, to get involved in what affects their lives. The second thing is to allow them to believe in themselves. Having that self believes that is built on capacity; because when you are talking about education, that is very important, you are building capacity. When people have capacity and they have a sense of self belief, and therefore a sense of purpose and the environment allows them to participate, to get involved, then I see no limit to that way of helping develop people and therefore their leaders.
Now I am done with the first question. There was also the very first question which was failing; the person who was asking was not being heard properly. She was expressing frustration about security in our region and wondering whether the region can create mechanism that allows for objective pictures of peace in our region. I am not sure if I still get it well but the region works together if we have to identify and define any problems which underlay any lack of security, then we can always find the solution. But I think we affect one another so finding solutions for our problems whether of security or even development or anything else, I think is very important but I think we can identify the problem properly and also find a proper solution by working together.
Carl Wilkens: I represent an organisation “World outside my shoes”. We educate about genocide and about the recovery process, and what I want to thank you for is one of the greatest lesson that I have learned personally and that we share with the students, it’s that Rwandans have made a choice that they will not be defined by what was taken from them, by what they lost but they will be defined by what they do, by what remains. And I was wondering what you could add to this message. For me when I speak to students it would be really nice to say: ‘Well I asked the president and he said….”
President Kagame: President said that you got it from the beginning. What you said is what is…it’s what should be.
Theo Gakire: My name is Theo Gakire, I am a young entrepreneur and I have a printing company in Kigali. During the last panel we were discussing the four pillars on which the Government of Rwanda has based its development. One of them is job creation for the youth. When you see in Africa, they are some countries which have tried to succeed, in job creation among them Kenya and Ghana. They have put a policy whereby there is 30% of the public procurement which is attributed to the youth to help them. My question: Is it possible to implement that also in Rwanda so that it can help the youth to improve?
President Kagame: Two things: I am happy that you have got something to do, that you are doing it that is very important. The second: maybe you should also make an effort, one to make a critical analysis of what others are doing and how much it contributes to resolve the problem you are talking about, but also to try to think differently: Is there any other thing that can be done other than what you have heard of in Kenya looking at your own environment and possibilities…I am just challenging you to think beyond what you have heard other people are doing to see if you can come up with any different idea, but I am not dismissing that one. We can see how to use it, if it works; if we understand that it works very well then in what kind of environment then we would be very happy to try that as well…But it shouldn’t confine you to that possibility, you should also be looking for others.
Pierre Celestin Rwigema: Thank you Mr President. I live in Rwanda, I don’t have any question but I have something to say and I’ll try to be brief. I want to thank you and my message is divided into three parts: first two parts to thank you and the last is a message I want to address to Rwandans living abroad. For the first part Mr President, I attended Rwanda Day held in Chicago in 2011 where I listened to the message you shared as well as the interactive session that followed. After that meeting, I thought things through and took the decision to come back home. Mr President, I would like to thank you for the warm reception I received once I came back. Thank you for your forgiving heart and the commitment with which you serve your country. I had a lot of to say Mr. President, but since time is limited, let me send a message to fellow Rwandans living abroad, especially those who are against the government. I am calling them to change their minds and stop being lied to: a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. I really would like to say to those who think that they will come home with an army should think again; that is simply not possible anymore. If anyone was to try that today, there is no doubt they would be defeated. And if there is anyone who’s scared of facing the justice, they should know that Rwanda has a functional Justice system. Rwanda is a place for development, a place for action, they should come and work with others and no one will support them. As for those who want to use political ways, democracy cannot be built outside the country. Democracy is built from inside, any other leadership would be a destructive force meant for killing not for building.
Manzi [Dallas, Texas]: I’m sure we are so many but right now I’m standing here representing a Rwandan company of Americans. We are Rwandans of origin but Americans in this country. We came here because we wanted to make a connection and learn more about what we can invest in Rwanda. Basically what we need to do in Rwanda; we know it’s needed. Before I go any further I would like to thank the Embassy for their assistance and their consistency in terms of information. However, we would like and we are not requesting, we are not basically trying to feel important, we consider ourselves investors in Rwanda even though we live in America. There is a certain perception that investors have to be foreigners. We maybe foreigners on paper but we are Rwandans, “Agaciro kacu turakazi”. Mr. President, I’m here to request an audience with your Excellency. Thank you so much.
President Kagame: It’s okay, when you meet the RDB people you have met me. We will work that out.
Chantal Mudahogora [Canada]: Thanks you Your Excellency. I just wanted to thank you for this opportunity (Rwanda Day). We all came here excited; we couldn’t wait to listen to your inspiring message. We are often referred to as the sixth province. When we pay a visit to our fellow Rwandans living in the remaining five provinces we find that they are well ahead of us on different issues. They know a lot about unity and reconciliation programs; and all the others meant to rebuild our nation. On this, we (the Diaspora community) in the sixth province are way behind.
Your Excellency, I want to ask you to humbly support us (the Diaspora community) in our rebuilding process. This might not be in terms of financial means but we want to rebuild ourselves as Rwandans in terms of programs which promote unity and reconciliation like Ndi Umunyarwanda.Thank you your Excellency.
President Kagame: That is right. I agree with you. It will be done. Thank you.
Adam: Good evening Mr. President. I have been living in Kigali for the last two and a half years, I’m from Turkey and I came all the way from Kigali with two Turkish business men. Since I came here, I felt very sad that I have missed several, maybe three or four Rwanda Day activities abroad. First of all, I felt like this because as a Turkish living in Kigali, I myself felt that sense of belonging to Rwanda and I can understand the spirit of those who are in this saloon, their sense of belonging by gathering them in Atlanta all the way from Kigali, all the way from Rwanda and I don’t know if my appreciation or the expression of my sincere feelings would mean anything but I’m very very thankful. I really appreciate the effort and what has been done and as a Turkish , even though I’m not Rwandan, I feel very much touched and this has created, I believe a good sense of dignity as you say “Our choice “. I believe this spirit can bring up a good generation Sir.
President Kagame: Thank you very much.
Claudius Yohannes [Washington DC]: Mr. President, thank you, my name is from Ethiopia. I’m a developing consultant, I’m also a filmmaker. One of the things I’m trying to do is use films as an awareness educational tool to inspire Africans in activism in capacity building and leadership in Africa. I have two questions: From the recent trip that you made to Washington DC for the Africa leadership summit at the White House, what lesson was learnt in partnership with Africa and the United States and what role can the Diaspora play, because with the capacity we have how can we leverage that to build capacity in terms of this partnership.
President Kagame: It all starts with organisation. How can people organise themselves, how can the Diaspora organise themselves and how our countries can tap into this rich resource of the Diaspora. The best outcome will be if both sides are organised to be able to make the links necessary to benefit to one another. That’s for the second part. The first question of what was learnt in Washington in the last summit, I say two things: one, I think the summit was largely successful because it brought together governments in Africa with the government of the United States to talk about issues that are very relevant and important for the governments involved. It is well known that Africa is rich in all kind of resources including human resources. You see how Europe and even America seem to be concerned or worried on how China and other places are taking advantages of these resources in Africa. There is no reason why we can’t create a meaningful partnership between America and Africa to actually benefit both. I think emphasis was made on this point which was very important, that we can work together, leverage the resources on either side in the United States, the capital, the technology and many other things that can be brought to develop the resources of Africa and then Africa with the resources and the people, the need for the investments that can be made in Africa by companies in the United States and businesses to benefit them as well as they benefit the continent. That was very important and as there were many lessons. I don’t know whether they should be lessons because these lessons really have been learnt for a very long time but the implementation of some things never takes off.
The other part was when the summit was taking place it was not just governments, there was also a very significant component of the private sector participating with governments made the summit very productive. So I think that what remains therefore is if we discuss and find ways forward what remains is implementation and follow up so that what was agreed that people should do actually happens. I think that is the most important thing.
Rutimirwa Terrence [ Virginia] : Thank you Mr. President, I won’t get into how much I respect you and what you have achieved, I believe all of us here have had a chance to say this at some point or another. Your Excellency, my question regards the disease (virus) that is in Africa, since all that was said here is about Rwanda, and Africa in general, and since Rwanda is in Africa, I as a Rwandan need to know how prepared the country is, since the country is always prepared to fight diseases. I want to know how Rwanda stands, since I read in the newspapers that the U.S Ambassador has requested Rwanda to help them contain Ebola in the countries where it is rampant. For us as a country, how do we stand?
President Kagame: Ebola is not an African issue; it’s a global issue; that’s why it needs a global solution based on cooperation. It is in that perspective that the U.S Ambassador to Rwanda asked us to collaborate with other countries in order to find a solution. It’s not because we have Ebola in Rwanda, rather it’s because Ebola is not a problem that can be solved by one or two countries in West Africa; it’s an increasingly global issue that needs a global solution.
Second: we have not closed our borders rather we have created procedures that regulate how people get into the country, how they are tested for known symptoms of the disease. Since the symptoms are easy to diagnose and the ways the disease is transmitted are know, it is easy to identify those who might have been contaminated and isolate them from the rest of the population. What we did in Rwanda is put a medical team at every entry point so as to ensure that no one brings the disease to Rwanda. Those are the measures we took; we did not close our borders or airports. That is in my opinion the best way to control the spread of the epidemic and I think the reason why Rwanda was requested to help is so that we can share the procedures and protocols we use to avoid the spread of the disease without limiting people’s movement and activities.
Dana: Good afternoon your Excellency, my name is Dana but my friends call me Rwanda Dana, because I was born in America but my heart is pure Rwandese.
President Kagame: Thank you
Dana: I have been travelling to your beautiful country for 8 years, working with Chantal Mbanda in New Hope Homes and this is my 3rd Rwanda Day. I have seen all the progress you have made in the country and I thank you for the leadership and the transformation I have seen. I have an idea for you which is in the form of a question as well. So, we have all these people that love Rwanda, and aren’t necessarily living in Rwanda and it seems like there is an opportunity to scale and connect the people that are here and the people that are listening online by creating a website or some type of online portal that would allow us to connect with each other organically, as well as the people in Rwanda if we wanted to mentor etc. So the question is, is this something that you might be open to? If not …
President Kagame : Very open to!
Dana: Then we would be happy to organise
President Kagame: If you bring this idea, our Rwanda Development people will reach you and then we can develop it further
Participant: Your Excellency Mr President I would like to start by quickly thanking you, and I would like to thank you for the tireless work you’ve done with promoting youth and youth leadership. While on that point, I would like to ask if you know if there are any programs of policies to connect mentees and mentors within Government or even private sector. Is that something that you’ve looked into to or is it already being done?
President Kagame: Yes, that exists it’s something we are looking into and it’s something we welcome you to participate in.
Participant: Thank you
Vincent Butera: I have one question. I am student here and my question regards… Does the Government of Rwanda and the Ministry of education in particular have any channels or any ways to make it a little bit easier for students who graduate from here to be able to translate their knowledge and their talents back home and to be able to contribute to the economy of the country? Thank you.
President Kagame: Yes. When are you coming back home? Just make use of what exists already. You meant you study here in Atlanta? When you’re done come home you’ll find a job.
Achille Ubarijoro: Good evening Mr President, I come from Montreal, I was two and a half years in Asia and I piggy back on the discussion you had on the U.S – Rwanda relationship or U.S-Africa, how do you see the engagement model with China? I had a discussion with Chinese friends regarding how they see Africa as the next bread basket for China. So this is a big opportunity for our private sector, so how do you see the engagement model with China?
President Kagame: First of all I think the problem wouldn’t be China or anybody. The problem would be Africa. How is Africa ready to take advantage of the opportunities that exist like that of China, having resources of some kind and wanting other resources that are in Africa? So how are we able to leverage our own resources so that we work with China, we work with Japan, unites States, Europe for mutual benefit instead of the other parties gaining and we losing in most cases as it has happened in the past? I think this is the most important thing. What is Africa’s model is maybe what we should be talking about. Is Africa, are African countries ready to leverage the resources we have in plenty with China, with the countries that have what we need and need what we have? But I find no problem with China or anybody so, if Africa knows what it wants, then China will benefit Africa, but if Africa doesn’t know what it wants then no matter what China does we will always end up losing. That is the way I see it Achille.
President Kagame: Just in case there is one burning question or issue, we can have one more questions or two.
Susan Allen: Thank you Mr President, I am from Emory University. I have been working in Rwanda for 28 years now, mostly on HIV and family planning but I wanted to address the Gentleman’s question about Ebola and how Rwanda is helping. In fact, because Rwanda has become so technically expert at testing HIV vaccine candidates and this started in 2002 I think, with your participation Mr President in the AIDS vaccine conference, the very first one of its kind. And Madame First Lady, your unstinting support for the HIV vaccine development, now WHO has asked Rwandan physicians and technical people to help them develop and Ebola vaccine! So congratulations Rwanda.
President Kagame: Thank you very much Susan.
Musinga Bayingana: Mr President, this is my first time meeting you face to face and I would like to know if I can get a hand shake and maybe give you a hug too? And also, Theresa Alex says she loves and misses you so much.
President Kagame: We will find a way of shaking hands when we are done here.
Participant: Your Excellency President Kagame, I was part of Connekt Africa a few years ago, you remember we had that. I was from Guyanna, one of the countries that fought hard for you to become a member of the Commonwealth. And I have a dear friend in Charles Gasana who’s doing an amazing job in Florida. In 2009 at the Commonwealth as a Government meeting, in Trinidad and Tobego, I stood up and said: You must allow Rwanda to become a member of the Commonwealth. We talked about youth, we talked about development and I am a member of the board, India Silicon Valley start up village India. And I would like to say to you: India gave birth to Mohandas KaramchandGandhibut Africa gave the world the Mahatma. So as a form of returning the kindness shown to Mahatma Ghandi by Africa, I would like to propose helping you through Mr. Francis Gatare and his team to start the first start up incubator in Rwanda and transform Rwanda to become the Silicon Valley of East Africa. Your Excellency, you have my unswerving commitment because I will not rest until I see Rwanda become the Silicon Valley…
President Kagame: Thank you! Are we done?
Mary: Thank you very much Mr President. I don’t really have a question Mr President, but I drove 14 hours to tell you that I am proud of you; you make all of us proud. For the job you’re doing, not only you make Rwandese proud but I think you’re really making all of Africa proud. When we’re talking about greatness, we’re talking about going from zero to excellence; I am talking about President Kagame. You’re an example for all of us, an inspiration for all of us to look at and have hope. If anyone asks me, my wish would be to make you a monument for generations. That monument will not only be for Rwandese people, it would be for all African people. Because when we’re talking about great Presidents of Africa, we’re talking about you Mr President. When they say that Africa cannot go far, we can tell them look at Mr President Kagame. Because he gives us hope that as Africans we can go far.