Kigali, 19 December, 2014

Good afternoon everyone,

I would like to start by thanking all of you for attending this National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano). We had fruitful deliberations. I would like to thank the organizers and all those who have shared their ideas and suggestions, and all those who asked questions.

Thank you so much!

I will not take long, but I would like to thank the young man from Canada who I should say, rendered a good conclusion to this meeting. What was his name again? Muhire, yes, even his name symbolically reflects the situation he narrated to us. In short, what I want to say is this: As Rwandans, we have our own problems that we must deal with. That’s what we deal with each and every day. That’s our daily burden. Each day we have a challenge – of solving our problems – which we must overcome.  We have to succeed since we have made it to this level. We have a foundation on which we can build. The basic human right is the right to exist. We have secured the right to be and nobody is going to take away this right; no one has the right to do so. Whoever will attempt to take away this right, it will prove very expensive for them; be it those who are here or those who are outside the country – it will be very expensive.

I am going to tell you a story which illustrates my point. This story dates back to the time when we were still fighting for our right to exist. During the Liberation struggle in 1994, when we had not yet taken control of Kigali, I was still at Musha – on the road to Rwamagana. Some people brought me a telegram. There were UN peacekeepers here. The overrated UN soldiers were here ‘to protect Rwandans.’ Though I was at Musha, some of our fighters were on their way to Huye via Bugesera.

They brought me a telegram telling us to stop fighting because they had learnt that our fighters were headed to Huye, where the “super soldiers”, flanked by their friends from powerful countries were also situated. They were headed to Bukavu and other places. The telegram was to warn us that if we continue to advance, our lives will be in danger because the “super soldiers” would ‘wipe us out.’ I was with my colleagues, and the UN representative who had brought me the telegram was insisting that we should stop advancing. I told him that we were not going to stop. Rather, those who were killing people were supposed to be the ones who should stop. He asked me if I really understood what I was talking about, and I responded that it was him who didn’t understand what he was saying. He said that there were a lot of fighters waiting for us in Huye. He observed that we would face a heavy defeat. I asked him if he was talking about people like me, humans with a flesh who bleed like all of us; or if they were super humans from somewhere else.

I informed him that our troops who were on their way to Huye and for this reason, even those who were heading elsewhere would go to Huye immediately. I told him to inform those who he thought would wipe us out that we were on our way.  I told my fighters to go fight those in Huye, if someone dares stop you, don’t ask; fight. That’s what happened. The troops went there and found the foreign troops the UN representative was talking about. When they heard that our soldiers were approaching, they began packing and headed towards the then Gikongoro and with them in the cars were some senior officers from the army that we were fighting. They found a roadblock on the Huye – Gikongoro road. Our soldiers were already there and had just stopped them. Some of those in the cars wanted to fight, but their fellows realized that their entire convoy had fallen in an ambush mounted by our troops who were ready to fire. They had to leave behind the soldiers they were hiding.

What I am trying to say is this: Our right to exist, whoever thinks that he can take it away from us, through those (stupid) radios of theirs, on which they make noise, claiming ‘Freedom of speech;’ you can have it, I have my freedom too. I have my freedom to be, you can’t take it away. I will manage my problems, well, I will also manage the ones you cause me, no problem, but there is a line you can’t cross. I am not talking for myself, but about Rwandans. I know that there are many Rwandans out there who are ready to do all this that I am telling you.

So, we shall never, ever, be apologetic for standing up for our rights. And there are no better people than us in our own country, in our affairs. We are only a very polite people, very humble; this is how we have been brought up. This is our culture; this is our tradition. As Rwandans, we’ve been taught to be humble, but we are very firm too. There is nobody who should dictate to Rwandans, or even attempt to take away their right to be. And nobody should tell Rwandans what to be. Of course there are people who say ‘we give you our money so we must tell you what to do and what to be.’ There comes a point when you say, okay, between my rights, and what I want to be, and your money; you can have your money. But of course, also that tells you the truth, the hypocrisy, the double standards, the lies, people tell you they give you their money because they are interested in your wellbeing, but I can’t have my wellbeing without having my rights; I can’t have my wellbeing when you dictate to me every day what I should do and what I should be and how. So Rwandans, never apologize for who you are.

This issue I have kept so quiet about, this issue you saw which I was asking Louise to explain, this, I don’t know what to call it, by BBC. Well, BBC is supposed to be the standard of freedom of speech, but all they do is politics. They belittle people. We are not people to be belittled at all. They are not better than anybody. We have fought for our freedom, some of us right from childhood. These people who run around cannot, in their culture they are not humble. They think they are better than everybody else. Well, it’s not God-given; God created us equal. For these other gods who want us to bow to them, in Rwanda; there are in a wrong place. You can’t belittle a people. Well, you can attempt to attack me, to do whatever you want to me as a person, but a people – the Rwandans, to want to size them up and think you can turn them into nothing, it’s a wrong thing but it’s also very difficult because we cannot accept it.

I just wanted to use this opportunity to tell you this, and to remind everybody that we have a hard task ahead of us. The situation gets better every day for all of us, but the tasks ahead get even harder for all of us. There is a balance because as it gets harder for all of us, we have also built capacity and strength to deal with it. That’s why we should always keep memory – we should not have short memories – we should always as we move forward, as we confront hardships ahead, we should always draw from the lessons learnt in the past. What we have gone through, the hardships we have confronted shouldn’t be wasted; they have and should have shaped us to confront any hardships ahead of us.