Muhanga, 4 July 2018
Greetings to you all.
I am pleased to be with you all on this 24th anniversary of Liberation Day.
Let me first address a small but important issue related to the name of a site near here.
Earlier, we were told that around here there is a place some call Horizo and others Horezo… I asked about it because I felt that something was not clear. So, let us correct this once and for all. I have been told that the name of the place originates from the word “guhoza” (to collect taxes). You know what revenues are? Revenues come from tax collection, meaning revenue collection. Have you ever heard of “Revenue Authority” here in Rwanda? Their job is to collect taxes. If the name came from the process of collecting taxes, then the place would be called Hoorezo. Not Horizo or Horezo. It is Hoorezo, a place where taxes and revenues are collected. That is what makes sense to me, in my poor Kinyarwanda. I think that this clarifies the issue now. This place was formerly in the Ndiza region, these mountains are ancient and many of the elders from this area are still alive.
Dear residents of Muhanga District, distinguished guests,
We have been reminded that in the past few years Liberation Day has been celebrated in different parts of the country. This year the celebrations are here. We have gathered here for a reason, a reason related to our common history.
As the Mayor of the District said in her speech, the tragic events that took place in this area are part of our history, which we cannot run away from, but rather can learn from, build a better future, and leave the past in the past. Bad leaders such as Kambanda and others contributed to it as said earlier, but let us not dwell on it.
That history tarnished our image, took the lives of our children, our people, the children of Rwanda. Let us learn from it, build ourselves into the people we want to be, and Rwanda into the country we deserve. That is the message I wish to convey today. This is a message addressed not only to the people of this district, but to the whole country.
Another point to bear in mind is that the way we were united during liberation, citizens and soldiers who fought the liberation war – and are still fighting today – is the same way we should stay united to fight the current struggle towards development.
This, you realize, links our history, our tragic past, with our present struggle. However, the liberation activities have proven to be successful and have marked the beginning of our country’s journey to achieving development for this beautiful country we live in.
Therefore, the way we were united during the time of liberation, the armed struggle and other activities that happened during that time, which were very hard even by then, the way we were united by then, citizens soldiers, is the same way we wish to unite in the struggle for economic development, wellbeing, and peace and security. We can’t achieve that without soldiers, who are responsible for our peaceful environment or without collaboration with the population. That is the first message of today.
It is our duty to continue on this journey for development that we have witnessed: the houses, water, agriculture and farming, roads and many more. We have to continue and stay united, among citizens and with the soldiers too, all of us together.
However, this means that the infrastructures we build today should still be in good condition when we come back next time, otherwise it would be very disappointing. But how can they get damaged when all of you are here and while we are also still working together to build even more houses?
In addition to that, if Government institutions collaborate to build homes for citizens and give them running water, it is an opportunity for those who received them to build on that and prosper. They should not expect government to take care of all their needs moving forward. Government won’t be handing cows to those who have received them already, or help them cultivate their fields every season. All that the Government is doing is providing a foundation to citizens to build on and transform their lives.
You have heard what Antonia Musabyimana told us. She has received a cow, a fully furnished house and electricity. It is a good start. When we come back here next time, we want to hear that the cow has reproduced, that the house is well kept, that electricity is working correctly. We shouldn’t come back to find that the house no longer has windows; that the doors are gone or that the roof was destroyed by wind.
After giving Antonia a house, a cow, and all other necessities that will improve her life, we want to help others, because as we all know, we don’t have enough means to help everyone at once. We try to use what we have efficiently by
Prioritizing those who need help first and identifying who should follow. I think that as we keep making progress, we will find that by the time we get to some of the citizens to help them, they will tell us: “Thank you very much; we no longer need your help; we managed on our own.” Wouldn’t that be great?
There are many ways to reach progress. There might be some citizens that the Government hasn’t reached yet in terms of support, but whose children received a Government scholarship, graduated and are now employed. Those young people who are educated and now working should know that it’s their turn to help their parents and younger siblings.
Even if you can’t be grateful to them for giving birth to you, you should recognize them for the Government assistance you received which helped you complete your studies. The Government helped you through your parents, therefore you should recognise them for being the foundation of your education.
You remember we started by talking about revenues? Do revenues come from children? No it’s not young children’s responsibility to pay taxes. It’s their parents’ responsibility. So if parents work with the government to find the capacity to fund a child’s education, why wouldn’t that child then assist their parents when they need it, even before the Government intervenes?
Those are some of the cases where I said that we might go to those parents to offer our help and they would decline saying: “I thank you for offering your help, but you helped fund my child’s education and now they are helping us as well.” That should be the Rwandan tradition: dignity, honour.
Let me add another thing: a generous heart solves a lot of problems. Access to hospitals, schools, electricity, water, is every citizen’s right. You should indeed hold us accountable and demand that we deliver. It is you right to have access to those services. Do not accept to pay anyone a bribe for giving you access to Government services. If you find such people, report them and we will hold them accountable. That money they ask from you in order to serve you has already been paid by Government, for building hospitals and paying employees…That’s why those services are free for citizens. Please make sure you report those authorities who still ask for bribes.
I would now like to address our fellow citizens who live near borders with neighbouring countries. I have said this before; I don’t want to hear again that some children are crossing the border to go to school in a neighbouring country because the nearest local school is five or seven kilometres away while the one across the border is only three kilometres away. The same applies to health services. I have been told about children who leave school and cross the border seeking medical care and so on. Children, primary school aged children; and some of them end up being abducted while using illegal pathways.
There are even some people who cross borders to smuggle drugs and sell them in Rwanda, or alcohol, Waragi, etc. These things happen, even though they might not be very common in this region but this message is for everyone listening. Even those living near the borders are listening.
This is not right. We cannot get better services outside our borders than we get in Rwanda, whether it is in health, education, etc. That is not right. Parents warn your children, and children, I hope you are also listening.
To conclude this point, I promise you that we are going to do everything possible to reduce the need for people to get services across borders. We are going to ensure that people living near borders get all the services they need close to them. It is our responsibility, and as I said earlier, you should hold us accountable so that we can identify where it went wrong. Once all that is solved and citizens have all the services they need near them, it will be easier to identify those who cross borders unlawfully.
There is also another danger we should protect our children from. I think you all know about it. It is a worldwide challenge that is also present here. Those children who cross borders seeking health services, might not come back due to child trafficking. Even adults might disappear due to similar human trafficking.
The Rwanda National Police always brings back people from China and other countries who were taken there to be sold. Those who take them sometimes lie to them or they choose to go by themselves and when they arrive, they get in serious trouble and then start reaching out to our embassies, saying that they need help, that they found themselves in China, that they don’t even have water to drink, that they didn’t find what was promised to them…And then it becomes our responsibility as a country to bring them back, which is costly.
Some of those people are trafficked by people promising them jobs abroad, or people go by themselves looking for jobs, and sometimes those jobs they are looking for, which they are capable of doing, are available even here in Rwanda, but they leave anyway. So they lie to them, and once they get them to various destinations, there are no jobs to be found, and they become victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a crime and it’s not allowed anywhere, especially not in Rwanda. We cannot allow it.
All of that is part of the Liberation we talk about: giving human beings the dignity they deserve, allowing them to have a decent standard of life. No one deserves to be trafficked, not Rwandans, not anyone. Human beings are not goods to be sold, people are not for sale.
Fellow citizens and Leaders here present,
Today, we celebrate our 24th Anniversary of Liberation. A lot has been achieved, and a lot is still to be done, but what I can say is that we have come a long way and as capacity increases, we will be able to do all that we couldn’t in the past. That’s how liberation should be defined.
Let us continue on our path to development, build our country, protect ourselves, and protect what we have built so that it doesn’t get destroyed. Let no one destroy what we have built. Let us continue to work together in peace and unity.
I thank you all for all the great things you are doing. Thank you very much.