Monday, 27 July 2009

“I will not relent on being demanding – I intend to be very demanding on accountability and results as long as I am in the role that demands this of me.”
In his opening statement at the meeting the press, President Kagame referring to Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle and other recent changes in government, said that it was his duty, and those he works with to ensure that the transformation of Rwanda happens as fast as possible based on the national vision, plans and strategies.

President Kagame pointed out that although there may be temporary setbacks along the way, ultimately Rwanda must stay the course and be judged on the basis of what has been achieved. President Kagame also insisted that there must be accountability, at all levels – individually and collectively in order for Rwanda to continue to do what is required to build world-class institutions that conform to the national vision.
Summary of responses to questions from the press.

On recent changes in cabinet and other levels of government:
President Kagame said the fact that many officials had been given several chances, was in line with his understanding of society management where the effectiveness of an appointed official is only determined once they are in position, and where for some time every attempt is made to draw out their more positive and productive aspects while trying to correct the more negative aspects.

President Kagame said that transformation, accountability and building institutions require vision and focus. He pointed out that the vision for Rwanda was shared widely because its’ very development was a collaborative effort, and the vision has been communicated effectively, but that the difficulties arise in implementation where individuals lose focus and choose to divert resources meant to achieve the vision towards personal gain.

President Kagame agreed that there was a definite link between accountability and the recent cabinet reshuffle, as the re-arrangement was aimed at improving on how things are being done and at increasing delivery.

On the status of the relationship with DRC:
“Rwanda remains ready to work with our brothers and sisters in the DRC beyond issues of security to investment and socioeconomic developmen.”

President Kagame said that the relationship with DRC has been improving, is now at a very good level and the intention is to improve this further for the mutual benefit of the people of DRC and Rwanda.

President Kagame said that Rwanda remains ready to work together on any issue with the DRC, on short notice, and to go beyond just diplomatic relations to tangible results that we can achieve by collaborating in various fields, with a focus on cross-border and regional collaboration on economic development.

On former CNDP leader General Laurent Nkunda, President Kagame said everyone should give themselves and Gen Nkunda some peace as he is not the principal source of problems for DRC and Rwanda adding that we need to look beyond this individual to the larger, more important issues and as long as Gen Nkunda is not re-introduced into the situation as a problem, we should not take ourselves back.

On the recommendations to Rwanda in the July report of the International Crisis Group, President Kagame said that the report correctly acknowledged that the fight against the FDLR cannot be successful without the involvement of RDF. On negotiating with the FDLR, President Kagame pointed out that the trend by many international organizations to be on both sides of a crisis, as happened even at the height of the genocide in 1994, when there were calls for the RPF to talk the génocidaires. President Kagame said that if indeed there were any “moderates” within the FDLR then they would have already taken up longstanding offers to return to Rwanda, and that the ICG should be aware that efforts to repatriate FDLR have been in place for a long time, with a number of high-level officers, having already been repatriated.

On banks in Rwanda not providing credit to small businesses:
President Kagame said that the government had already taken corrective measures and the situation had improved.

Asked to elaborate, the Minister of Finance, James Musoni pointed out that the global financial crisis has affected Rwanda like any other country, and caused problems with liquidity with the banks, but the central bank had reduced reserve ratio requirements resulting in the release of funds within commercial banks and that the government had also injected funds into the sector. He added that by June this year’s levels had almost been restored and now  the problem of giving out loans has been resolved.

On media reports of tension between Rwanda and Uganda and Rwanda:
“We have to move ahead with our liberation, to get rid of poverty and strengthen relations within our neighbours.”

President Kagame said that he was aware that there had been various stories and comments about the relationship between Rwanda and Uganda since the Liberation Day celebration on 4th July. President Kagame pointed out that Rwanda’s liberation was part of a larger struggle and that he had invited dignitaries to thank them for their part in Rwanda’s Liberation, and although some people reportedly read too much into a speech as presented in the media, it was not necessary to give it much thought, but rather remember that the celebrations served to honour those who contributed to our liberation.

On ownership, President Kagame said that he was not interested in claims about the past – but the facts of Rwandan history cannot be changed and that although all liberation struggles everywhere have multiple contributing factors, liberation belonged to the people and would otherwise not have stood the test of time. President Kagame noted that the focus should be on Rwanda’s continued good relations with our neighbours in the region, and brothers and sisters across  the continent.

On Rwandan refugees still living outside Rwanda:
”There is a consistent effort to liberate the minds of refugees… millions have been repatriated, by comparison some tens of thousands remain … the exercise is long-term.”

President Kagame said that Rwanda had done everything possible to encourage and facilitate the return of refugees and that the efforts continue. He added that the root causes have for the most part been addressed or are currently being resolved and that refugees had a role in appreciating that the issues have been addressed and resolving to return.

President Kagame pointed out that Rwanda was working with international organisations to convince refugees to repatriate and that the international community’s perception of the situation was an influencing factor. He added that in a consistent effort for transparency, refugees had been given opportunities to visit Rwanda to personally observe the current realities and convince their families and fellow refugees that it was safe to return and resume their lives.

On the land issues in Eastern Province and Gishwati Reserve and the shortcomings of established Land Commissions:
President Kagame responded that the land commissions for both Eastern Province (former Umutara) and Gishwati Reserve were set up with clear goals of resettling Rwandans and protecting against environmental degradations. For Gishwati, the work was not done as well as it should have, and for the Eastern Province although the task has not been fully completed, there was a marked improvement.

President Kagame pointed out that there was insufficient understanding of the task required, poor implementation by officials, as well as deliberate mishandling, where personal interests interfered with the work but that accountability would be sought from those responsible.

On Rwandan media and the government blacklisting of some private newspapers:
President Kagame said his responsibility was not to fight with the media but to respond to issues as raised and that other structures within government, as well as the media sector itself was responsible for regulation.

Asked to speak on the issue, the Minister of Information – Louise Mushikiwabo, said that the new media law stipulates a strengthened role for the Media High Council which monitors the press and is mandated to take corrective measures where necessary. Minister Mushikiwabo said that a decision had been taken to sideline media that undermined the government and that this strategy had worked as those affected were asking to be reconsidered. According to the Media High Council, one of the papers had showed marked improvement in its practices and two had dropped standards even further. The Minister also commended media practitioners for their role in cleaning up the profession.

On the government’s vision for Education
“Our policy is based on the vision to equip as many Rwandans as possible with the best quality possible of knowledge and skills”

Responding to the high turnover of leadership of the ministry of education, President Kagame pointed out that individuals should not be confused with institutions and policy, and that the government’s vision was steadfast in its focus on increasing access to  quality education for all Rwandans.

On a recent directive from education officials warning private schools not to hike tuition fees, President Kagame pointed out that government was not responsible for setting tuition ceilings as that should be left to the business owners, but that the role of government was to ensure that all institutions of learning, including private schools, conformed to established national standards. President Kagame also called on more involvement of parents in the management of public schools to supplement government monitoring efforts, in order to ensure that their children received quality education.

The Minister of Finance addressed the issue of delays in processing teachers’ salaries saying that a decision had been reached to change to a new system of payment starting 2010, whereby school boards will handle recruitment and payroll directly, with salaries sent directly to schools, and that this would streamline the system and cut down on delays in processing payments .

On political parties:
On claims that there were political parties that existed only in name, some of which were formed before current guidelines were in place, President Kagame said that anyone had the right to set up a political party, as long as they meet criteria set out by the relevant institutions and that their weaknesses will be exposed along the way, particularly when they encounter the realities of having to compete.

On Rwanda connecting to newly launched the Seacom undersea cable:
President Kagame confirmed that Rwandan officials have been and continue to be in close contact with Seacom management and that Rwanda was ready to link up to the new connection at two points on both the border with Uganda and Tanzania, as well as to play a role in the wider investment in the project.