President Kagame today met with local and regional press following a two-month hiatus, and responded to a range of questions including on the state of the economy, planned regular appearances before parliament by the Prime Minister, the upcoming 2010 presidential elections, how Rwanda is viewed internationally, and comments on China’s investments in Africa made in an interview earlier this week.
Responding to a question on plans to have the Prime Minister appear regularly before the Parliament, President Kagame said the new move, mechanisms of which were currently being worked on, would improve coordination of government business with the legislature, “… it would make our work easier, more productive and give better results if the Prime Minister, who coordinates government business, would also have a regular and a well-worked out process where he interacts with Parliament to give them the broad overview of cabinet’s intentions and direction” .
On the 2010 presidential elections, President Kagame said that he was likely to run but there were decisions yet to be made and that he would not preempt the choice of nomination of his party, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF).
On challenges going into the last year of his mandate, President Kagame said that Rwanda had come from far and good progress has been made and but there remained more work to be done in enhancing good governance, creating prosperity and delivering Rwandans from poverty.
Asked on what he would do should he decide not to run next year, President Kagame said that he would continue to serve the country as a private citizen using contacts and friendships made, to bring investments to Rwanda and promote business and entrepreneurship. President Kagame added that he was also interested in writing his memoirs, running his farm and enjoying more time with family, among other options.
On whether he would propose an alternative should he choose not to stand for a second mandate, President Kagame said that he would be free to contribute an opinion but that ultimately it was a decision of Rwandan voters and that they should maintain that prerogative.
Responding to Congolese journalists who wanted to know the plans for joint Rwanda/DRC exploitation of methane gas from Lake Kivu, President Kagame said that most urgent was the generation of electricity, which is in great demand in both countries, and that other benefits would be explored later, including production of fertilizer and liquid gas.
Referring to the recent breakthrough in bilateral relations between Rwanda and DRC, President Kagame pointed out that the most important task had been to establish the relationship, which had taken a long time, but that the prevailing peace provided a foundation on which to build the development needed by both countries. “peace and stability can only come from us – others can support local efforts with funds, technology and so forth, but we don’t need any lessons from elsewhere about what we need and how to govern ourselves”.
On the economy and food security, President Kagame referred to information released earlier this week by the National Institute of Statistics indicating a 9% growth in the first half of 2009, contributed to mainly by steady growth in agriculture, manufacturing and low inflation. President Kagame said that Rwanda was doing well in terms of food security but that this could still improve, and that more needed to be done to enable farmers to draw maximum benefit from success in production of food, which although is in high demand domestically and in the region, still fetches low prices.
Asked on his views on the how Rwanda is viewed and ranked by various international institutions, President Kagame said that these needed to be looked at and understood based on evidence, but most important was the opinion of ordinary Rwandans whose views have been left out of the debate. President Kagame also called on Rwandan press to stop being bystanders as their country was discussed but join the debate and take a stand on the issues raised.
On comments about China investing in Rwanda, made in a recent interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper, and whether Rwanda was looking to the East for business, President Kagame said that Rwanda was also looking in all directions that that would bring benefit to the country, and that he wanted more Chinese investment and business. He however said that he was more concerned with how Rwanda and Africa in general, can take more charge and build more equitable business relationships, different from earlier ones with the West that had failed to lead to development.
Responding to question on the how difficult it was for women to obtain bank credit, President Kagame said that this was currently a generalized issue for all, and not just gender-based. He however pointed out that there were structures that have been established in Rwanda to correct the historical bias in granting loans to women, and that these should be rendered fully functional and taken advantage of.