Huye, 12 April 2015
Leaders of our Nation,
Good morning, I am happy to be with you today. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss with you and thank you for the good work that you have been doing which plays a key role in developing individual capacities which contributes in developing the country as a whole.
As we do this, let us also remember that this is the week when we remember and pay our respects to fellow Rwandans, men and women, children and relatives that we lost. Let us remember them with the dignity and respect that they deserve; respect and dignity that should be part of our lives. We are remembering the history of our country, history that we can’t avoid, even if we wanted, because we don’t have any other choice other than confronting challenges that come with it so that it may never happen again…
This history concerns all of us individually but it holds particular significance in an academic environment, which is a place where people are supposed to fetch knowledge and skills. Higher Education institutions like this and others have a connection to the history that destroyed our country. This shows the type of challenge awaiting us.
The fact that a knowledge hub like this one came to be the source of the tragic history that destroyed our country shows the big challenge we have ahead of us to change people’s mind set and attitude in general. If we are to change the lives of Rwandans, this will be the foundation of change in our society. All the other challenges, including economic development, health, education, socio-economic development in general will be very easy to overcome if we have the right mindset. When you have the right attitude, mindset and understanding, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Today we are remembering our loved ones killed here at the university and the residents around here who were killed elsewhere but buried in the university forest. What happened here represents what happened in other parts of the country. Remembering this genocide is not a waste of time because it provides new energy to stand and address the challenges brought by our history. This also helps build a foundation for our future and the wellbeing of Rwandans.
This forest surrounding the university has a lot of our people not only those who were killed here but also from places around the university who were brought to be buried here. I personally have some family members who were buried here and this means that every Rwandan was affected by the genocide because if one is not a genocide survivor, they are a perpetrator or they lost a member of the family.
We should put all of that together and it should serve us as a lesson in our daily lives, in our thinking, in our way of doing things as Rwandans and Africans in general. The transformation, which Mr Lwakabamba referred to as sustainable development, should be better put as ‘transformation’: a real transformation, in the way we think, the way we live, a transformation that changes life for the better. Transformation of life can be done in many ways but it should be founded on the value I talked about earlier; people should have a life first, they should live a good life. What makes it better is to have means; financial means, which leads to the quality of education that we are talking about particularly, which concerns you as students, lecturers and we as parents in general.
The education gives you knowledge, the knowledge that gives you the ability to transform your lives and the lives of others. Knowledge is not to be used to kill or to create hatred; it is to be used as a transformational tool that will create a better quality of life, a life people deserve and aspire to live. Education that doesn’t transform or contribute to the betterment of life is useless. If you study, you are a university graduate or have several degrees, but don’t put it to use to transform either your life or the lives of others, it’s wasted time and opportunity.
In order for education to change people’s lives, one has to think about universal access to education. Education doesn’t have to be a privilege of the select few; the important thing is that all Rwandans must have equal access to education. There are two important things to consider: first is the fact that all Rwandans have access to education, and then we must think about the quality. What is the quality of the education we are giving to our people?
Yes, everyone has access to education, but after that, the second aspect to be considered is the quality and how you measure it. After that, I want to talk about two more things: when everyone has access to education, good quality education, the next step is how graduates put their knowledge to use in order to improve people’s lives and transform their own lives –social and economic transformation.
Another aspect is: how quick can we transform our lives? How much time does it take to change Rwandans’ lives? I am saying this because – those of you who have been studying history know that it’s been 60 years since we gained “independence”. What have we gained from that so called “independence”? How did we exploit our “independence”? What did we benefit from it? How was Rwanda transformed in the last 60 years? What happened? Yet we are still almost at the same as we were 60 years ago. Why? What happened to us that we didn’t see any change in people’s lives over the last 60 years? We gained “independence” but we ended up with Rwandans instead of joining their hands in building their country, killing each other. Is that what we really wanted when we sought independence?
This is not what we live for. We are still poor; we are still where we were 60 years ago. There is only a little change: we are still being fed as Rwandans and as a nation. Other nations use their history and knowledge as a motor for development, They used it so well that they get enough to feed themselves and leave extra for us as well. If someone asked what happened to us, how would you respond?
Some of the people with whom we had the same level of development in the 1960s are far in terms of development. They had their share of wars but they learned from them and developed so much that they are the ones feeding us today. They tell Rwandans what they must do or not do, we are herded like cattle . What we learn at University should tell us that as Rwandans we should not live like that. That is what I was saying recently, how do we manage our time properly? We should be self sufficient by now; We cannot be fed by others forever! When does it stop? When this becomes your daily life and this – from what we have all learned does not bring about transformation.
Transformation is brought by change of mindset, actions and the will of each and every one of you here present. Every one of you has a role to play. Even those who are not here now have a role to play. There is no shortcut and you cannot do it any other way, and hope to succeed. No, there is only one way.
The way we are doing things now is that the government is required to do this or requires people to do that. This should not be the culture. I did it and it is done quite often but I always tell myself, when is this going to end? How far will it go? I am talking about time.
The number of people, the quality of education and time management are all based on those values. When the government mobilizes resources and shares them with its citizens – among them students – and when they graduate, if they have learnt well… if they have good ideas and a positive mindset, they do not wish to be on government’s assistance. Instead they help the government to lift others who are still lagging behind.
Therefore, education, for those who are in science or other important courses, should help us fast track our development. If you finish school there is nothing left for you. The world is moving so fast, we have no reason to stay behind.
Technology and technical skills are universally known to be the key to development. Scientists among you have to give us solutions we should depend on. They should come up with solutions of innovation leading to entrepreneurship that can allow an individual to develop themselves and develop others which also allows the country to prosper. We should not be queuing holding a basket waiting for people to drop aid into it. That’s not how we will achieve self reliance; we cannot live carrying a basket for other people to drop aid into. Do you ever wonder where that aid comes from anyway? Where do they get it from?
God has created us in the same way and has provided us with all the qualities as everybody. We learn from history that people all over the world came from here [Africa]. I don’t know how those who are doing miracles came from among us. It is as if the best were handpicked and sent away and we remained. They took the best and left the likes of us. Can you really accept that? No, it’s impossible. Well, did they extract the best from us and now they have the burden of taking care of us?
And we do nothing? Why don’t we use that potential? If all of humanity originated from here, it means that this place has potential. It means that this land, the cradle of humankind, carries a treasure; it is home to people of quality. We can’t continue to take it for granted. We can’t fail to bring back our dignity and the will; together with the capacity to move from the unpleasant stage where we are today. Isn’t it? That is how it should be.
There are a lot of things people have tried for a long time. When they are not productive you leave them and try other things. I remember, yesterday, I was reading in the news about a country called the United States of America, you know it. For a long time, it had a bad relationship with a small neighbouring country called Cuba. For years, they failed to come to terms. One says “I have to remain who I am” the other one says “I have to change you”. Fifty years now, they failed to come to an understanding. But the US President, Barack Obama, I think he too used the ancestral wisdom of where he comes from – the same place where everybody else comes from – I think he is a pragmatic leader. Because, even in his speech he said: “why should we keep doing things the same way we have been doing them for fifty years in vain? How can you keep trying the same things for fifty years without any success and keep on for another fifty years?”This is how the idea came of seeking how they can live together in harmony; respect each other’s ideas and way of living. We can talk, we can criticize each other but…. And this is how it should be. Can you keep trying something unproductive for fifty years? There might be a problem.
This applies for us too in Africa – in Rwanda and elsewhere – even in our relationship with development partners in the transformation and development that I mentioned earlier. Those issues they keep playing around like the so called “reduction of poverty”. Next thing you know it’s called something else. When you try to say that it should be “eradication” instead, they say “No! You can’t eradicate poverty!” Which means, you have to remain with at least a small amount of poverty? You have to keep at least some! You can’t eradicate poverty!
How can you eradicate poverty? They go about changing definitions. It has been now 50, 60 years. We are here talking about aid, how they can help us, how we conduct ourselves, comments on who is leading well or not … We haven’t benefited from this in the past 60 years. How can people continue to work like that without any result? How can anyone continue to work like that for the next 50 years without taking a step back to review why there is no change? Why don’t people’s lives change? Why don’t the lives of Africans change?
Aid is not what will change things. The donors’ way of dictating people how they should deal with governance issues is irrelevant. It has been 50, 60 years! It’s not very smart to do the same things over and over again for 50, 60 years hoping that it will work out in the end. You have to change the mindset, the way of thinking; you have to be ready to see things in a new way.
As for all of you students present here, what I am saying is important for your education, for both students and teachers. Even teachers need to be educated. These teachers and parents of yours need to be educated. They need to learn about the mindset and ideology that leads to transformation. Let us avoid spending 50 years doing something that changes nothing and still persist doing it. Because of the low quality of education students and teachers have become people who cannot think for themselves.
Only because they have told you that if you keep quiet they might do you some favors and give you something. Talking about democracy? What democracy? This is the cradle of humankind, the source of wisdom. Before singing their song, first listen and take everything into context. What is the proper definition related to your life, to your context, to your rights?
You should not do things blindly just because you were asked to do it. Do not be one of those people who when they say “Jump” they ask “how high?” Ask why before anything else, “Why should I jump?” You need to make sure you understand why they are asking you to jump. Where are you jumping to?
Dear students, our dear children -please don’t get me wrong; by children I meant mature sons and daughters who can build the country or start families, isn’t it? You are now children who are old enough to start your own families. By the way, when you take good care of your family; you are contributing to the development of the country. Therefore, we need to understand that what we do with our lessons, the way we use our knowledge should reflect what, we as Rwandans, as Rwanda want, what we want to achieve, the dignity we want to get, which we can give ourselves and achieve what others have achieved, because we are still lagging behind.
I would like to conclude by saying that our lives, our studies, our knowledge, all should be directed towards transforming the lives of Rwandans; let’s contribute to the transformation of the country in general. The rest, processes, how people deal with them… policies, programs, those are elements that enable us to achieve goals but we need to start with a change of mindset for the better. These are the things that will help change the way we deliver and the transformation of our living conditions. I would like to thank you for your time and attention.
Let me give you the floor for any questions, or advice, it cannot always be about answering questions; you too can answer some of the questions, thank you.
Is there anyone ready to ask a question or say something? I have time for those questions before you get back to your daily tasks. Thank you!
Any question? If no question, I will also be fine with that.
Hurry up; use your youthful energy…