Kigali, 22 February 2019
A good afternoon to you, and I welcome you all to our traditional annual lunch. Though we have all realised it comes about two months late in the year, nonetheless we are not yet near the end of the year. So you can bear with us. Even though the year is no longer very new, let me take this opportunity to wish all of you a very happy and productive 2019.
I would also like to welcome all the new envoys, including those who have presented their credentials earlier today. For some it is the first time we have ambassadors accredited to Rwanda from those countries, notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as the new Ambassador of Israel who is based in Kigali. We welcome you most sincerely.
We appreciate the work that you do as the custodians of the bilateral relationships between Rwanda and the countries and organisations you represent.
Last year was a busy and satisfying year for Rwanda. We made good progress in key areas that make a difference in our lives as Rwandans. I’ll mention a few.
First, we were pleased that our efforts to nurture an even more conducive environment for business have been recognised, as we see in the annual World Bank Doing Business report. Rwanda moved up twelve places from the previous year, and now ranks 29th in the world, and number two in Africa. Next year we’ll be number one. We want to attract more investment, innovation, and joint ventures, both at home and with our partners — the countries you represent — from the region and beyond.
Our parliamentary elections in September marked another step forward in Rwanda’s democratic dispensation. In keeping with Rwanda’s inclusive approach, the new Parliament welcomed two more political parties, and now has a record number of young deputies, while women continue to form the majority. I think here we are number one, right?
Rwanda’s justice system is stronger than ever to ensure equal rights of all citizens within the rule of law. We are grateful to countries that have collaborated with us to render justice and sustain the fight against impunity.
Let me say something on this, about the rule of law. As I said a few days ago, we want to continue to be a country that can make our own choices, which fit us and which match what happens elsewhere in the world. So I said it has more to do with the choices we make than with the rulebook, which in many cases we have not written or contributed to.
The only rule we follow is that of law. There are some other rules, many times written for us, which say: This is what we must follow. I am sure you will bear with us, those who become uncomfortable with this kind of position. Maybe gradually we will get used to this right that we have to insist on making choices and being the ones to draw the rules that are based more importantly on law than on rules set elsewhere for us and which we have to follow.
I thought I needed to emphasise this: This is who we are, this is what we want, and this is also dictated in many ways by where we have come from. As we continue our journey to be like many of you here in this room, who have got used to, and in fact take for granted, the kinds of rules and choices that we wish to follow. We want to be like you. We want to work with you. But here we are.
Last year, I had the honour to serve as chairperson of the African Union. Good progress was made in implementing the institutional and financial reform. We worked tirelessly in very close collaboration with our peers across the continent. There is this mood in the continent that things must change for us in Africa, and I had the honour and pleasure of being part of that steering group and part of that process. We also advanced key pillars of regional integration, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will enter into force very soon, because the number of countries to ratify is about to be achieved, and even many more are coming.
We intend to continue contributing to African Union priorities and engaging meaningfully in the region as Chair of the East African Community for 2019. Rwanda will again continue to do the best we can so that East Africa continues with the progress that we have already seen.
This year marks the 25th commemoration of the Genocide and the Liberation of Rwanda. These are important milestones that we look forward to observing together with our friends and partners, which you represent. We ask those of you who live in Rwanda, and nearby, to continue to join us in sharing the real story of what happened here, as well as the present reality. On this note therefore, I am also inviting you to be with us on that day of commemoration. In the context of rising genocide denial, in our case and others — there is a rising of so many things in the world, but I am concerned about this one first — it is our common duty to fight that.
In conclusion, let me say that Rwanda will continue to work with all of you to advance together our shared interests as a global community, from development, to security, trade, and climate change. We will make faster progress, all of us, by working together.
May I, on this note, ask you to find a glass and join me in a toast to friendship, progress, and prosperity for all our nations.