Cotonou, 18 November, 2010

President Kagame was on November 18 appointed to the ‘Grand Croix’ of the National order of Benin by the President of Benin, His Excellency Boni Yayi, who is also the Grand Master of the Order. “The government of Benin, the President and the people of Benin, by inducting you into the National Order of Benin, manifest our sincere gratitude and affirm our utmost respect,” read the citation. Reading the citation, the Chancellor of the National Order of Benin said President Kagame’s visit to Benin demonstrated his dedication and belief in the future of the African continent. Before proceeding to decorate President Kagame with the medal, the Chancellor said: “it is my responsibility to tell you that the government of Benin appreciates your untiring efforts to pull Africa out of the long tunnel of darkness in which some would have the continent remain.”

In his acceptance speech, President Kagame said that he was honoured and humbled to receive the “Grand Croix” award which he dedicated to all the Rwandan people for choosing the path of peace, unity, reconciliation and development. “I sincerely wish to express my gratitude to my brother and dear friend, President Boni Yayi, and to the friendly people of Benin, for bestowing this highest honour on me and the Rwandan people. You can rest assured that this honour will remain forever engraved in our hearts,” President Kagame said. Narrating the background of Rwanda, President Kagame said that whatever Rwandans do is always work in progress and that there is still a long way to go before Rwanda reaches where its people want to be.

After delivering a keynote address at the Sympsium to mark 50 years of African Independence on November 19, President Kagame met with over 1200 youth leaders and University students whom he urged to embrace the role of serving as today’s leaders with enthusiasm and courage. “We look to you as the heirs to and custodians of our heritage, pillars of our present endeavours and drivers of our future aspirations. This is a huge responsibility, but one that comes with immense satisfaction when successfully discharged. This responsibility comes with certain values – love for your country, compassion for its people and a desire to see them lead better lives, a result-oriented attitude and the readiness to work hard,” President Kagame said.

Urging the youth of Benin and Africa as a whole to take up the challenge and duty to seek solutions for the numerous challenges faced by the African continent, President Kagame said: “I encourage you to take full ownership of the political and economic development process of your country by taking up a greater interest and role in decision-making processes. Finally, Africa has a rich and proud cultural heritage, but we are also increasingly exposed to cultures from elsewhere. While we cannot insulate ourselves from external cultural influences, and indeed we should pick and adopt what is useful, we must maintain our values and use them as a source for solutions to our development challenges.”