As we conclude 2022, I would like to thank Rwandans for the resilience displayed throughout the past year.
We turned the corner on some difficult challenges, such as the Covid pandemic.
We launched the second phase of the Economic Recovery Fund to continue supporting Rwandan businesses, and our economy grew even stronger in the third quarter of the year.
With the participation of all Rwandans, we also hosted a successful CHOGM and other important events.
In 2023, we will be one year away from completing our seven-year Government Programme, the National Strategy for Transformation.
This was done while maintaining unwavering security and stability, which was contributed to by Rwandans.
Good progress has been made, but it will require discipline, consistency, and concerted effort, to reach our targets on time.
Our country is stronger, and that is due to the unity and hard work of Rwandans.
But, new challenges also arose, which require our attention, particularly in our neighbourhood, specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
For 2023, above all, we are looking forward to a year of peace and security in our region, where we can consolidate our development gains, and make faster progress.
All of us in the region, and our international partners, need to work together to implement the lasting solutions which have been evading us for the last two and a half decades.
There are regional initiatives underway, led by the President of Angola – President Lourenço, the President of Burundi – President Ndayishimiye, and the former President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta,
I thank these leaders, as well as the Heads of State of the East African Community, for the crucial work they are undertaking, which Rwanda fully supports.
We also commend them for agreeing to deploy a force to help stabilise eastern Congo.
However, these efforts will not bear fruit, unless the unhelpful approach of the international community changes significantly.
It is disappointing that the international community pays lip service to peace, and actually ends up complicating matters, which undermines the regional processes.
After spending tens of billions of dollars on peacekeeping over the past two decades, the security situation in eastern Congo is worse than ever.
To explain this failure, some in the international community blame Rwanda, even though they know very well that the true responsibility lies primarily with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as with these external actors who refuse to address the root causes of the problem – nowhere else.
This is a very expensive lie, which makes no logical sense.
They speak the truth only in whispers, afraid to displease the Congolese government, and compromise their own interests, but in fact, they embolden leaders of the DRC to take more and more drastic steps to consolidate its populist base, in the process hurting their own people.
Even though the United Nations Group of Experts documents the collaboration between the Congolese army and the FDLR, and other militias, not to mention the alarming rise in hate speech, these items are virtually ignored as if they are of no consequence.
This attitude is shocking, but not surprising, given what Rwandans know and saw in our region in the 1990s.
We have had enough of this hypocrisy. It is high time that the unwarranted vilification of Rwanda stopped.
Of course, we are directly affected when the remnants of the militias that committed genocide in Rwanda become auxiliary forces of the DRC army and conduct attacks across our border.
No country can accept this.
Rwanda will never accept this as normal, and will always respond appropriately, because our security and stability, are paramount.
We could not have learned better from our history.
There are more than a hundred armed groups flourishing in eastern Congo, including Rwandan genocidaires militia like the FDLR.
These groups create constant insecurity for civilians in DRC, and in Rwanda.
The reason this situation prevails is because DRC is unwilling or unable to govern its territory.
Should Rwanda be the one to bear the dysfunction of this immense country?
The situation of the Congolese refugees, whose very right to nationality is denied by their home country, is a case in point.
It is not just a question of ‘hate speech’, but of active persecution, over decades.
Rwanda is among the countries in East Africa which have hosted hundreds of thousands of Congolese refugees, for decades.
We have more than 70,000 registered in Rwanda alone. And new refugees continue to arrive, even now.
Yet the international community effectively pretends that these people do not exist, or that they don’t know what causes them to be refugees in the first place.
The policy seems to be for them to remain in Rwanda indefinitely, which only serves to whitewash the lie that they are actually Rwandans who deserved to be expelled.
This is an international problem and it requires an international solution, because the unresolved political issues which cause these armed groups to keep coming up, and which underlie the hate speech we keep seeing, are the same.
Rwanda will not accept to bear the burden for the DRC’s responsibilities. We have enough burdens of our own to bear, and we shall do so as effectively as we can.
The conditions for Congolese refugees to return home in safety and dignity must be established.
In any case, Rwanda will not stop them from going home, in any way they choose.
We also have Burundian refugees in Rwanda. The Government of Burundi is making efforts to reassure these refugees, that it is safe to return to their country, including visiting the refugee camps. As a result, many have returned.
This is the right thing to do. It shows that this problem can be solved if the political will can be found.
I wanted to convey these points clearly so that we as Rwandans understand the current situation, and so our partners and friends around the world know where we stand.
At the same time, it’s important to expose the so-called Africa experts and policy-makers, wherever they come from, who have peddled lies, and created confusion about Rwanda and this region.
I want to assure Rwandans, that our country will continue to be safe and secure in 2023. There is no doubt about that.
And I believe that, with continued implementation of the decisions of the regional Luanda and Nairobi processes, we can address this issue, bearing in mind that Congo is our neighbour, and we will always live side by side.
And, in due course, I believe that our common future, for all of us in East Africa and the Great Lakes Region, will be a prosperous and secure one.
We will keep working towards that.
To all Rwandans, I want to thank you for your hard work and dedication to our nation.
Let’s keep this spirit in 2023, and beyond.
I wish you and your loved ones, a Successful and Happy New Year.
We also take the opportunity to wish our brothers and sisters in the region, a very Happy New Year!
God bless us all.