SERENA HOTEL, 8TH NOVEMBER 2011
- Your Excellency Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic of Burundi;
- Right Honourable Guillaume Soro, Prime Minister of Cote D’Ivoire;
- Ms. Judy Cheng-Hopkins, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding support;
- Honourable Ministers;
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
- Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased to welcome you all to Rwanda, it is a pleasure to have such esteemed guests from across the world and we wish you a pleasant stay in our country.
We are particularly honoured to host this High Level Meeting on Post-Conflict Peacebuilding at a time when there are many people who are still in the process of rebuilding and restoring peace to their countries.
It is sobering, indeed, that despite modern advances in science, communication and management of society, conflicts continue to undermine human progress.
And there is no doubt that in our interconnected world, the impact of conflict goes beyond the borders of the countries in which it occurs, affecting peace, security and development.
This means that peacebuilding requires collaboration between the affected countries, regional organisations, the international community and other stakeholders.
The issue that is central to this meeting is: What is needed to re-build a nation emerging from conflict?
We may not be able to address this issue exhaustively in one meeting. But we can make a start and share experiences and lessons learnt from countries participating in this discussion.
Rwanda is pleased to share our ongoing experience in recovering from conflict, and reconstructing what was a devastated country less than two decades ago.
One of the biggest lessons we have learned is that there is no magic formula or one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to restoring peace and rebuilding a nation.
A country’s response to a given situation should be informed by its specific circumstances and context. Success will be determined by the country’s practical experience and solutions, based on the choices it makes, and, above all, the genuine aspirations of its people.
In offering to share our experience, we are mindful that this is only a modest contribution to the collective search for what works for all of us. Indeed, our efforts are still work in progress and we continue to learn from both our successes and mistakes, and those of others.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Post-conflict nation building is a complex and challenging task. For Rwanda, it has consisted of rebuilding the state – that is, creating institutions and a functioning government. But it has also meant bringing on board non-state actors, reconstructing the country’s social fabric and establishing mechanisms for social and economic development. In the early phases, we had to do this while dealing with cross border incursions and atrocities by the same forces who committed the genocide.
Our friends from countries recovering from conflict will agree with me that in the immediate aftermath, while everything is a priority, often the resources available are inadequate.
In Rwanda’s case, we had to restore public order, security, and ensure political stability. The return of refugees who had fled as a result of the genocide was only feasible once this crucial stage of state-rebuilding was truly underway.
It was then possible to embark on dialogue, national unity and reconciliation, justice, and where appropriate, drawing on our culture and traditions.
The next level of nation building was agreeing on a constitutional and political dispensation in which every Rwandan had a voice. As a result, a power-sharing and consensus building arrangement that is now enshrined in our constitution evolved.
Reconstituting the state necessarily involved reviving our infrastructure – schools, hospitals, water and electricity supply and roads – repairing existing ones and building new ones.
It was also crucial to rebuild our human resource capacity by investing in the education and health of our people.
Members of our society who had been previously marginalised were brought on board. Women, for example, played a significant role in peacebuilding and continue to make valuable contributions to our country’s development.
Over the years, we have learnt that good, committed leadership at all levels is essential. Leaders should work with citizens towards transforming the country from a situation of hopelessness, to one that brings about positive change.
It must also be said that continuous dialogue has gradually fostered a shared national vision. Between 1997 and 2000 all Rwandans – political and business leaders, academics, civil society groups and ordinary citizens – participated in consultations that formed our development Vision 2020, making national dialogue a feature of our national life.
This has enabled Rwandans to own the process of setting our priorities, making decisions and designing programmes for our development. We have had to find a way to protect the gains we have made, and ensure that all Rwandans are able to benefit from the progress achieved. That is why, for example, we put in place institutions that would deter corruption and foster accountability at all levels of our government.These institutions, which include the Offices of the Auditor General and Ombudsman among others, have produced the anticipated results as they work to maintain rules and regulations without fear or favour.
This has deterred a culture of impunity and created a sense of shared responsibility for rule of law among our citizens.
- Distinguished Participants;
We cannot talk about post-conflict peacebuilding without paying due regard to external support that often comes in at this phase. In my view, proper management of this process is key.
Simply put, nationals are best placed to coordinate financial and technical support because they know what opportunities to seize and constraints to overcome. When countries and their development partners work together along these lines, the outcome is more positive and sustainable.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that peacebuilding is a long and difficult process. Our experience has taught us that no challenge is insurmountable when people have the right attitude, commitment and are focused on the common good.
Africa has been hard-hit by conflict but is now on the path to increased stability. It is time we led the search for solutions.
We should seize this opportunity to continue working with the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and other partners to seek appropriate and effective solutions in support of post-conflict countries.
In Rwanda, national ownership, consensus and community-led initiatives have enabled us to make modest progress. If this experience can serve others as well as it has served us – we are happy to share it further.
Let me thank the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, and the African Development Bank for working with the Government of Rwanda to make this meeting happen.
It is now my pleasure to declare it officially opened – and I look forward to the discussions that will follow.