Urugwiro Village, April 2nd, 2015
Sylvanus Karemera – RBA: Excellency President, my question is related to the recent National Leadership Retreat. During the retreat, you highlighted issues related to the failures or slow progress in the implementation of big national project. I would like to know what special mechanisms you put in place to incite leaders to work with more speed as you urged them to during the last retreat. Thank you.
President Kagame: Discussing about it so that people can check what has been done or what wasn’t done the way it should is in itself a big step. It reminds people…they remind each other our targets and the way we have to achieve our targets and people analyze the failures and why they happened. This exercise helps people reshape things in their due form. The fact that they were discussed and debated up to that level does not mean that there were no ways or mechanisms that existed already for a better implementation. It simply means that people failed to fulfill their responsibilities. We were simply reminding them so that those responsibilities may be fulfilled. But there was nothing new that came out.
Wilson Twagira – Imvaho Nshya: Rwanda is about to commemorate the Genocide against the Tutsi for the 21st time while there is a problem of genocide orphans who haven’t recovered their properties. Your Excellency, what is missing, what is being done?
President Kagame: I don’t think that it is not the only issue; there are many issues that have not been solved for. Starting even from the first question I was asked. Some of the things are clear how they should be done. People simply do not do them that way. That is why we always monitor and evaluate why what has been planned hasn’t been done yet. So that issue is among many other that haven’t been solved, even though its more sensitive than most. But this doesn’t mean that all orphans haven’t recovered their properties or that nothing has been solved; some of them have been solved even though it’s been slow. I think we should use this as an opportunity to speed up the process.
Felly Kimenyi – New Times: Your Excellency 21 years after the genocide there is this issue of genocide denial that is continuously coming up. Sir, how better do you think this problem can be dealt with once and for all?
President Kagame:: Maybe it will never be dealt once and for all; it will probably be there for a long time. It will always be there. The only way we can deal with the problem is in its wider context of rebuilding our country, of attending to the real issues of people affected by this tragedy of genocide and its history and all the effects that have been there. I think that if we concentrate on that, ourselves, within the means we have and others that can be brought from outside. I think we will be dealing with the issue rather than just dealing with the politics of it all the time. You will always have people who will be on the wrong side on this issue. They have been there, even before the Genocide happened, some people were on the wrong side. Even after, there will be people who associate with the wrong side.
But we need to keep on the right side and keep doing what we can do to simply transform lives, improve lives and deal with the issues that have affected people so deeply. That is the only way I can deal with it.
Rudatsimburwa – Contact FM: Mr. President, it seems that we have more than one corridor now, linking Rwanda to the Indian ocean and it looks like we have a renewed relationship with our neighbor, giving a new boost to the community. I would like to hear your take on this renewed relationship.
Talking about a new season, we are in a season where everybody brings back the 2017 terms limit and eventual change of constitution. 20 years after 1994, Mr. President, don’t you feel that this season is an opportunity for Rwanda to reflect on that tool that we have as constitution that was designed in 2003 based on the 1994 Arusha agreement, based on the constitution that was already there of Habyarimana? Isn’t that maybe the opportunity to widen up the debate and not just about the article 101? Thank you.
President Kagame: For the corridors, more than one is not enough, we need more corridors than even the two [we have]. If we had one going westward and connecting us to the Atlantic, I think I would be happy and another one going to the south and so on and so forth. So the more corridors we can have the better. By the fact that we were working on the northern corridor that is more important to us, even made more important by the fact there are partners who really want to make it happen. Starting with that was very important and there is progress already made as you know in different areas. And the central one is equally important. Now that the parties concerned beyond Rwanda also want, together with Rwanda, to have it operational, and there are plans for it, the mobilization for resources for that to happen, that’s a very welcome prospect. So we are happy that we can and we are ready to participate in any of these initiatives. And in any case, these are thing we should have been doing in the East African Community, so it’s actually deepening integration for the East African community which is a very good thing, as well as benefiting partner countries in the East African Community. It’s a good idea.
On the issue, you known, there are probably many people waiting to ask the same question: 2017. But actually what is the problem? What is exciting people about 2017? What is the issue?
You are probably asking even the wrong person. So now since I am asked all the time, let me turn things around and ask you. What is the issue? 2017? I haven’t made any application for a job beyond 2017 which is a time I will be seen and assumed to be unemployed – I haven’t been asking for a job. So what is the issue? Let somebody give me a good context in which to give you the answer – or the answer you want. What is this thing I am being crucified for every day?
Eugene Anangwe – Contact FM: Based on some of the different people’s …..
President Kagame: I see you on twitter several times ! Go ahead!
Eugene Anangwe – Contact FM: So the issue for some people we have talked to or those we have handled debates or discussions wit, is that they have a feeling that you have people in your kitchen cabinet who are….
President Kagame: I have no kitchen cabinet. I have a cabinet
Eugene Anangwe – Contact FM: Yes, in your cabinet, that are pushing for a change of the constitution to allow you to run in 2017. And so there has been a debate on whether this would be good for Rwanda or it would be not good for the country. Based on the track record that you have today, this is the issue Mr. President.
President Kagame: Are you really saying, frankly, that this issue has started with the cabinet? The issue of 2017? I have heard [about it] for a very long time from outside of cabinet – from other people other than cabinet; actually, so many journalists here, not members of my cabinet. They have been the ones who have been asking this question. So it is still even unfair to be saying it’s originating from members of the cabinet. I don’t think so; I think that’s not true.
Now, but let me not waste much time on that. Let’s do it like this. The way it has been put also masks or hides the fact that there are two groups, irrespective of the origin. But one thing I dismiss is that the idea originated from the cabinet. It is not true. But there are two groups of people; at least two schools of thought.
One is a school of thought that says come 2017, there has been term limits in the constitution; come 2017 these term limits should not be removed. The constitution should be respected as it is and there is no reason whatsoever any change should happen. That’s one group.
The other group is saying, No. we think this constitution is made by people, it can be changed by people, we think something else should happen other than what it suggests and we continue with the person we have in place, for whatever reason they may give.
These are the two schools of thought. Do you want to know where I belong? I belong to the first one; the former.
The debates are about that. So what else is not clear is; in any environment, democratic environment especially; are debates an unhealthy thing? Are debates unhealthy? Because I have been educated politically in this process that actually debates are a healthy thing. So it seems people are at each other as if this should not happen. People shouldn’t talk about…
Now, for me, if you want to know my opinion or if you want to know my position, this is why I am saying. I am surprised and I am asking what the issue is? Because when I am being asked, it’s about what I think, whether in a general context or personally.
So, personally, I have not raised a complaint at all to anyone. This is what I have been saying. I have not told anybody how to think or what to think about 2017. I have not and I don’t intend to. Now the issue may be: “But what about what you think generally?” What I think generally and even personally have to be fused together at some point. Based on that, I say, and that’s what I said; I stand with the first one.
I am asking those who think things should continue, or the article should be changed and we continue, they have a right to think the way they want to think. They have a right as much as anyone else. But since it concerns me personally as well, I will have to be convinced. If they convince me I will listen. I will listen to what they are saying. There is a lot of convincing for me to change my opinion about where I stand; which is on the first one I told you.
And for the other one, they will have to convince somebody else, not me, because I have no problem with not continuing. Those who think nothing should be changed don’t have to convince me. Because I am convinced that come 2017, what should happen should happen, the way they expect it. But they have somebody else to convince.
I think you need to turn your argument to those who think that things should change, and convince them that things should not change. It’s not me. It’s what I am trying to say from the beginning that for those who say: “Come 2017, this President should not continue” should convince in this debate those who think the president should continue. This is why I am saying, you are probably asking the wrong person.
Why don’t people go out there and convince whether it is members of Cabinet [as] you said but how about if it is the people? I think you need to go and educate those people, [ask them]:”You people, why do you really want things, why do you want the article to change, why do you want this man to continue when they are alternatives?” Show them alternatives and how they will work and how things will be good or better even for them. Yes. That’s possible.
Why don’t people turn that [argument] to those and say; other ways you are telling me: “Oh don’t change the constitution…. Will you…?” No, it’s not, am not an interested party here and as I said am not, I have not applied for a job after 2017 with anybody, am not worried about it; so as a journalist, analyst or whatever why don’t you [investigate] in your own way instead of just coming to me with everything? You know, it’s like: “You shouldn’t go, you should go” so… and I am saying “what’s all this? Who told them?” It’s if as am here in this office for my own interest, no I am not.
So you turn to those who think I should go and let them debate with those who think I shouldn’t go, let them tackle it out, and give some peace please. And when it comes to my time, those who want me to stay are the ones who actually have the task to convince me, not the other ones who what me to go. As for the ones who want me to go, they have no problem with me because they are telling me maybe what is on my mind.
The only thing is that, those ones will need to convince the other ones that they should not let me go let me free and have my peace. And these ones who want me to stay really have to convince me that I have to stay or why I have to stay, otherwise am just being tossed here and there for nothing. And I want to do my job between now and 2017, so bear with me and stop tossing me around for what will happen after 2017, let me have my peace and do my job and then we will see. What do you think?
Eugen Anangwe – Contact FM: May be as a follow question are you saying that the other side that has to convince you to stay, if they have their reasons and ultimately convince you, you are trying to say that you are open to stay on into 2017, if they ultimately convince you?
President Kagame: Why are you putting it to me? Still put it to them! Just ask them why are you putting this matter to him? Otherwise they want to bedeafand not hear what the debates are. Listening is being open, yes. By the way, what business are we really talking about? Are we discussing affairs of people, of the nation, you know is it a trivial discussion to the point that I have a choice to be open or not to be open? We are talking about affairs and lives of people of this Rwanda, am not talking about another country, it is Rwanda.
What is this issue of term limits? Let me put on my real boots now as not so an ordinary person but as somebody who has fought for this country and for my people and for myself; not just a bicycle ride on the street not knowing which direction to go. What is the issue here? How has it become that the lives of Rwandans can be switched off or on by term limits; then you are trivializing people’s rights, culture and wellbeing or national interests, you are even narrowing… I think people are narrowing [down] in this debate as if Rwanda, Rwandans and their lives, their future, their pride…is just hinged on saying are you going or are you not going? No no no Please! When it comes to individuals and when it comes to countries I say: “Wait a minute please, why you don’t mind your own affairs? Let Rwandans mind their own affairs?” Rwandans are not like grass you decide to dry and burn and set fire on, no! We are proud people and we should be left to decide our business, debate and when it comes to whomever their want.
I was saying, if tomorrow Rwandans came to me and said: “President we are tired of you, now this 2015.” If Rwandans really said they are tired of me I will listen to them, I won’t say “No but I have to go to up to 2017.” No, I will go, and the constitution tells me 2017 is when you should serve up to, but now, it doesn’t have to be written anywhere, if really the consensus was: “President I think you are a danger to us or you are doing nothing for us.” That hour I will allow it to happen.
So the issue is not term limit, somebody said this,… But if somebody who said that is the one who is saying no I want to change my mind and he tells me, am I open or will I listen? So what are you talking about? It turns the whole thing! Term limits, change, or not change and it’s about me…I am just happy with who I am first of all, and where I am and I know how I got there.
Whatever is unfolding, I am open, I am listening. I am open to going; I am open to not going depending on who takes the day in the interest of this country. But I have that side, which I told you, that when it comes to my own self as a person I need to be convinced to the rationale of the argument and either side seems to have good arguments and I have rights to those arguments. So how do you resolve that other than to be open and listening to them? But this is not a trivial matter when it comes to Rwandan lives and our future and the global context we live in. It’s not some journalists’ opinion or some politicians that really should be listened to more than the people of Rwanda. I think we should not trivialize that.
Albert Rudatsimburwa – Contact FM: Mr. President, when I introduced the question indeed I was thinking that maybe the two groups are keeping the debate too narrow. You, as an experienced politician, and from your days of your boots…
President Paul Kagame: I don’t think I am a politician. Yes, I do a lot of politics but I don’t think I am a politician
Albert Rudatsimburwa– Contact FM: Well, there was a time when I was just a musician myself! But I mean with your experience in politics and you are among the people who have designed this new Rwanda. Rwanda in 1994, 2013 and 2015 today with context, the East African Community, all of that… Do you still believe that with the tool you designed with your colleagues and with the approbation of the population of Rwanda, still reflects the rights for the next generation? The article 101 is part of that. The question around the constitution, maybe the term limits is just a symptom of an old constitution that was reflecting a political context after 1994. Maybe in 2015, since we are debating, reflecting, discussing, shouldn’t we be discussing in a broader way? Is it about the term limits or the constitution needs a reshaping in general?
His Excellency Paul Kagame: It’s even broader than that. You see, that’s why the debate is made to sound very simplistic. That’s’ why I think I shouldn’t have been involved but there is no way I can have ran away from it, because whatever I say is used against me, or it is used in favour of one party against the other.
Because like now somebody said “Are you saying you are open?” Now, the way it unfolds, the conclusion will be: “Ah, the deal is done, the President is actually thinking of staying.” It will be used by either side any way they want. Some people will say, you see the other ones have won the debate because he is even ready to listen as if I am supposed to be deaf and not hear anything and that question is my whole being in the first place. And does the life of this nation, the life of these people, these Rwandans, really depend on that one article in the first place? How does the whole country, the whole nation gets narrowed to one piece of article and which article are you talking about by the way? How did it come about? Who put it there? Is it me? Did I write the constitution? Who did?
Why don’t you go ask them why do you want to change your opinion on this? Isn’t it important that you maintain it? This is why I was saying, why don’t these people turn around and go to convince these very people and say we are even thinking of changing this, what business do I have in it? Before I make my decision, something else must happen! It’s not me, because I am not asking anybody to change the constitution. But everybody is finding it easy to attack me. No you attack these ones who are saying they want to change their constitution or maybe also be open and listen to them! Why don’t you listen to them or argue with them and say: “No, you have no point in changing this.” Now, the question should may be: if these people who are saying the constitution should be changed, if they decide now not to change it, President are you going to have problems with them? Maybe you should be asking me that. I think the whole debate, which is supposed to be healthy, is trivialized. Yes, it’s made personal, it’s just about me and the whole substance is lost in that.
Rafiki Clement – Radio Salus: We read in different reports from the Office of the Auditor’s General disclosing names of public institutions which incurred losses and had cases of mismanagement cases like the former EWSA witch loss amounts to 28 billion Rwandan Francs, ONATRACOM over 3.8 billion Rwandan Francs, and recently the Ministry of Health as well was questioned. The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Office of the Auditor General said these reports only contain names of people involved in the mismanagement of small projects referred to as “Small Fish”. In the last National Leadership Retreat, you said that this is due to the fact that some officials cover those involved in mismanagement, therefore covering those involved in the mismanagement of big projects or “Big Fish”. What are strategies in place to apprehend those covering others so that the so called “Big Fish” could also thereafter be brought to justice?
President Kagame: You have named those strategies; they include revealing their names, conducting investigations to get the truth out. The second is that these issues are not in just one sector, all sectors are affected. The problem lies in knowing these issues and those involved.
It has also been revealed that sometimes they go to courts and in the end they are acquitted. They end up being acquitted when they should be held accountable for their crimes. These issues can be found at all levels but the most important thing is to keep pushing so that people can understand their responsibilities, enhance their capacities so as to deliver accordingly. Secondly, people have to be willing to put into light whichever misdeeds they discover. This will help us know where there is a problem, as well as punish and hold the offenders accountable.
These are issues found in each and every layer of our leadership. To address it, we need two things: first we need capacity, and secondly we need leadership. We want leaders to follow-up on such cases and hold accountable those who have cases to answer. But the fact that you are saying it like that – being aware of it and having heard about it – is already a tremendous step. When people have noticed it, the truth comes out and what follows is enforcing the measures in place.
Jean-Lambert Gatare – Isango Star: Your Excellency, in our neighboring country – Burundi there are simmering conflicts such that some Burundians have started fleeing their country because of insecurity. What advice would you give to your counterpart President Nkurunziza? As part of the East African community, what can you do to help them? It is obvious that June elections are likely to raise some tensions. If Burundi suffers, Rwanda will not be spared.
President Kagame: I don’t think that Burundi or any other independent country needs to be given advice on what they should do. I believe that they have the capacity to solve their own problems. But if they want any kind of support, they can ask for it and we are happy to help them. Otherwise, I believe that the issues that Burundians still have the capacity to find solutions to their own problems. But still, as we are observing what’s happening from a distance, we can still ask them: Is there anything we can do to help? There are some refugees from Burundi who have already entered our territory; the two countries have been talking it over to seek a solution. Answers are there, but problems persist then we will seek ways to help them.
Leonard Tuyisenge – Izuba Rirashe: My question is about environment degradation and air pollution in Rwanda, particularly in Kigali city. Let me use an example; if you observe our street lamps, they are turning black all the way up to the city centre. I just wanted to ask you: what measures have put in places to curb air pollution since it is obvious that in the future we might be breathing polluted air?
President Kagame: It has not just started now. This is an issue we have been facing for some years now. It is imperative that our environment be protected. We have had discussions in the past; we have stopped importation of cars which emit air pollutants such as lead. We are also looking at ways to plant new trees and extend our forests. We have out in places institutions to technically control if the vehicles we drive don’t emit air pollutants; they inspect even devices like filters supposed to filter out harmful products which pollute the air.
But that is not enough. We are still looking at measures we can put in place to enhance the protection of our environment so that our people can breathe fresh and clean air. A lot has been done and we still want to do even more. We have halted the use of plastic bags; we no longer allow cars which emit pollutants on our roads; all that show that we have our environment in mind. We will continue to seek solutions to these issues.
Clement Uwiringiyimana – Reuters & Flash FM: Thank you very much. I have a question about what has been in the Israeli Media. They’ve been reporting that the Israeli government has dealt with Rwanda and Uganda to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda and Uganda – these are Eritreans and Sudanese. I wanted to know if this deal has ever been made because the Israeli media is saying their government is saying that two countries in Africa have accepted that deal.
And if you allow, another question is to get a clear response about the Third term – what people call Third term – the constitutional change. The Minister of Justice, the Minister of Local Government …
President Kagame: I think calling is third term is wrong; you should call it something else
Clement Uwiringiyimana – Reuters & Flash FM: …and other government officials have said that, personally, they also support what people are saying. And this is a sign that they might even push what the people might think. Thank you.
President Kagame: On that arrangement between Rwanda and Israel – I will say for Rwanda because I don’t know for other countries – I know there has been this discussion, and it has been a debate in Israeli. It is these Africans who have migrated to Israeli, as they do to many other European countries, some of them are either there illegally, or others are with different status. I think the issue was: Israeli wanted to return them, take them back to the country they came from, and some of them are saying: “No; if you take us to the countries where we came from, there is a danger.” Depending on how they left. So Israeli suggested taking them to other countries and we will tell you which countries and you will tell us which one you want to go to as an alternative other than your own country. And I think there is – as I learnt about it – there is some package they give them to leave. Yes, we have been approached. Some of our people have been handling it, especially the Immigration Department. I don’t know the details this far, more or less that has happened.
On the term limits and Ministers; well, Ministers have the right to say what they want to say as well. So what they say, and what people say, so on…For me I am just waiting for any to convince me to their viewpoint when it comes to making my decision.
Berna Namata – East African: Thank you Your Excellency. My first question is regarding Rwanda- Tanzania relations. We’ve seen in last few weeks exchange of visits. One key question we’re wondering: to what extent the two countries relations have improved, specifically the substantive issues around FDLR, support to the opposition… To what extent have they been resolved? My second question is about the recent meeting in Addis where you were talking about ‘Agenda 2063’. Now for many people when they see Africa countries come together with things like that together, they think again about so many protocols that that we have that haven’t been implemented. So you were in Addis, what is different about agenda 2063?
President Kagame: Well,I didn’t realise that things were so bad between us and Tanzania that when we talk to each other it becomes a headline. Yes, we are all in the East African Community, we work for the common objective of integration… Well people may have different views around different issues but at the end of the day the interests are the same; there are common objectives. So the visits happened as you said, and it’s a good thing to discuss things of mutual interests, but this time around whether the visit of the President of Tanzania to Rwanda or my own visit to Dar Es Salaam – Tanzania, we didn’t touch the issues to do with FDLR or some of these others issues that have characterised the media. We are more forward looking and addressing future good relations and working relations so that our people benefit. We do more business, we invest in infrastructure for our development and for the people to do the businesses as I was talking about; that where we really concentrated, the rest we left it in the background.
Berna Namata – East African: My second question was about Agenda 2063.
President Kagame: Agenda 2063 came in the context of COMESA. COMESA is about trade, investment of course leading to development and COMESA is part of the continent, last time we celebrated 50 years of Africa coming together, doing things together, then we said: ”In the next 50 years, we could double or even triple or quadruple our efforts and move fast our development”. So COMESA as a regional organisation part of a continent was looking at its business in the context of what Africa wants to be. That’s what really provided the umbrella, it gave the guidelines as to how does COMESA improves, how it does business in this context of wanting to see Africa where we want in this next 50 years that is all.
Eugene Anangwe: Thank you Mr President, I want to revisit the issue of integration where you said that there need to be more corridors. The worry here is that maybe with this deepening integration with a sort of threatened security of some of the members’ states, it might be an elusive dream, or it might be threatened in many ways because this morning Kenya woke up on terror attack in Garissa, North Eastern. Last time we were sitting here during the Northern Corridor meeting with the President of Kenya and Uganda, we talked of an issue of sharing the intelligence when it comes to issues of security and of dealing with insecurity as a region. I would like to hear maybe from you, how do we move from here and assure the East Africans that we are one when it comes to fighting terror attack and not just each individual country seemingly dealing with insecurities on their own? Thank you.
President Kagame: We can assure the East Africans that we are working together. And maybe let me put it this way: if we were not working together, additionally to partner countries efforts, maybe we would see more Garissas than this one. This one is bad enough, we don’t need it, but without countries’ efforts individually and then collectively, we probably would have more of those. But if the question was: is there room for improvement? I think absolutely. There is always room for improvement, there is always a room for us to work together closely and effectively and even prevent one from happening if possible. There is always that desire and need actually, we keep working together, we’ve created a force for East African Region. We’ve assembled; we’ve equipped it, having as a planning element to it. Already that is good steps and then with intelligence, leaders working together, they share; maybe they do more of it and better and so on. So I think the idea of working together more closely is a pertinent one and every time we see such incidence, maybe today it was there, tomorrow it will be somewhere else, every time it happens we are reminded there a danger we need to confront of insecurity and the best way to do that is to work together.
Stephanie Aglietti- AP/RFI: Thank you Mr President. I will talk about diplomacy too. Your relations, relationship between Rwanda and South Africa went tense last year, after the death of Patrick Karegeya. Both embassies expelled diplomats, and in consequence it seems complicated for Rwandans to get visa to go to South Africa. Are you worried about of the consequences of this clash on Rwandans companies and you see any improvement in the future in these relations?
President Kagame: Yes, there is always a way to resolve any problem, so whatever problem there is between us and South Africa or any other country we always find ways of addressing them.
Mbabazi Dorothy – Radio1/TV1: Thank you Mr President. My question is about unresolved cases from Gacaca courts that the populations have and don’t know where or to whom they should address it to. For example in Rusiga sector – Rulindo district in the Northern Province, every individual or every family have been obliged to pay 500.000 Rwandans Francs in order to collectively pay damages to those who’s properties were destroyed during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi. This is when the ones who were actually accused cannot be found.
This issue was raised with MINIJUST and they were advised to appeal but they don’t know how to appeal when they were never accused or don’t have the case files. The problem is that when we ask MIJUST for clarification, they don’t give tangible explanation.
President Kagame: Yes, I think the issue here is how to get to MINIJUST but the problem I see here is that MINIJUST doesn’t give through explanations.
Mbabazi Dorothy – Radio1/TV1: I also have another problem regarding investors who sometimes mistreat Rwandans. I will give an example of one company that is constructing houses in Gacuriro where one Rwanda lost his life and it is said that one of his supervisors deliberately killed him using a machine. Days later, another person was badly beaten at the same site. When we try to approach the institutions that hire those companies, they don’t give us enough explanation.
Mr. President don’t you think this might make us look like we are giving more value to the money brought in by investors than to the lives while of Rwandans?
President Kagame: No no, that’s not true! Please think positively before you jump to negative conclusions and if things don’t work then you can find another way to deal with them. On the first question, this issue has to be addressed to MINIJUST as it was done. If the problem is that MINIJUST does not give sufficient explanation then we shall see how to handle this problem, but I don’t see anywhere else that this issue would be addressed to. But if MINIJUST does not resolve it satisfactorily, we shall intervene.
On the second question, I think those who were harassed and mistreated by the investors should have addressed their problem to the Police and courts of law not to the investors themselves. But the conduct of investors does not in any way relate to being obsessed with money. People sometimes do wrong and that’s just the way it is.
What would surprise me is if these people reported the problem to Police and Police told them they would not handle it because it involves an investor, then we would have to deal with the Police to see why. Otherwise, I would be surprised if either investors or any other people mistreat people and they are not brought to justice. But this is our problem not investors’ because if one investor does something wrong then it does not stop the relevant authorities to take the required decision. But since these cases are clearly known then they should properly be handled.
Shyaka Kanuma – Rwanda Focus Newspaper: Thank you Mr President. I will turn the question to the economy Mr. President. We have been experiencing good economic growth of 7%, but I think we could even be doing better if the red tape in certain government departments and agencies were reduced. Mr President, there’s incidents where the government expenditure should have been more to stimulate the economy, but because of certain reluctance to act if I may say, sometimes it can take seven months, eight months for a decision to spend money even when the budget is there Mr President. To the extent that sometimes a whole economic year ends and budgets go back without being spent which translates into a direct loss to businesses and economy in general. I wonder whether there could be actually a special focus on this because it’s really very bad when the economy is not being stimulated enough, we could even be talking about 10%, 12% growth and so on.
President Kagame: It doesn’t need to be a special focus; it just has to be focus. It needs to be done the way it should be done, why should anybody delay something that would have been achieved in a shorter time and have it in a much longer time? I am on the same side with you, I didn’t understand that, may be what we need to do is not only focus, but also penalize the people who have the means and tools in their hands, but don’t use them to deliver what they need to be delivering and these mechanism to deal with such issues are there; we just have to make sure they are working.
Shyaka Kanuma – Rwanda Focus Newspaper: Some of these people might me using excuses, which in my opinion do not really count, they might say: “Okay, in the last Umwiherero there was a concentration on misuse of “then they become very frightened.
President Kagame:That is an offence they should be penalized for, that’s why I am saying some of them need to be held accountable and don’t accept such an excuse because it shouldn’t count.
Flora Kayitesi – RBA: Thank you Mr. President, allow me to take you back to the question of presidential term limits. Now if democracy is about the will of the people and the Rwandan people have poured out their hearts, some have even threatened to take their lives if you don’t continue to serve. If people are already threatening to do this and some have threatened they will even migrate, don’t you think this is convincing enough? Thank you.
President Kagame: Well, we need to hear more! Not only from those but from others who say democracy is just about just term limits because basically that’s where the argument is. Some people are saying that term limits are so central to democracy that nothing should be said or listened too about it that is in different direction. It has many angles for the argument either way, so let’s have it play out and then see what Rwandans want and why. I think at the end of the day, this is a simpler problem to resolve, at least where I stand personally. I have been in worse situation than this one; so if I wasn’t swallowed by the other one this one really is some kind of breakfast.
Dan Ngabonziza – KT Press: Thank you Mr. President. Last year you presented some bankable projects when you travelled to UK, United States and some parts of Asia. What’s the impact so far? Is it satisfying or disappointing? Thank you.
President Kagame: I should be turning to you to tell me because these are things you should be seeing and knowing other than me going out asking people to come here to invest but I think if you ask different sectors of our economy, if you ask RDB they will show you numbers and names. In fact, recently there has been different groups from UK, of real investors, who came following the meeting we had together. Others, who have already opened companies here, have opened business, they have started investing, the processes are on-going following that conversation we had last October. That’s one example and we see many more from Dubai, from Europe, Germany, from the Netherlands; the other day Belgian groups were here. They are not just visiting for fun, there are those who visit for fun and tourism so on, but there are those who come here for serious business as we realize the numbers speak for themselves.
Cleophas Barore – RBA: Your Excellency, I have two questions.
President Kagame: Can you ask only one to allow other people to ask questions too?
Cleophas Barore: When we visit different parts of the country, we see plans of extending roads; we see poles marking the extension areas and that is very commendable. But your Excellency, citizens living at 11 meters from those roads are considered as owners of those lands and are even paying taxes for them. Today, they however are not allowed to use them while they are still paying taxes. Your Excellency, when we talk to these people, they wonder whether they will continue to pay taxes for lands they are not using. How can their problem be solved?
President Kagame: Are they paying taxes?
Cleophas Barore: Yeah, because they are still considered as owners.
President Kagame: But, you know, some plots too close to the roads should not even be considered as private properties. I don’t know why they are not respecting that, but we can still check what laws say about that. The law is being breached on both sides, there are those living in restricted areas, that’s a breach of law and the other side who make people pay taxes for things they shouldn’t be paying for; that’s also a breach of law. Our organs need to investigate on that and get the truth about it, we will make a follow up to understand the issue and resolve it.
Berna namata – East African: Mr. President, I wanted to take further the discussion about 2017, and I am so sorry I have to do this, but I wanted to shift the discussion to the economy. For instance, what we have seen in the recent election in Nigeria, because of investors’ concern around unpredictability and stability, we had them pull out resources from the economy , as a result the Naira has gone down, so, looking at Rwanda…
President Kagame: Now, actually what I was reading about Nigeria, the stocks are hitting the roof because of what happened these last couple of days…With the victory of Buhari.
Berna namata: For an economy like Rwanda, of course being a small economy we don’t have that luxury. I am wondering, what assurance can you…
President Kagame: No, we even have that luxury it depends; it doesn’t happen one way. See, you could have easily had the situation where the incumbent in Nigeria if he had been the one re-elected, actually it could have had the stocks going even higher and it was possible! But this time, it was the other way around for different factors. You see what I mean? For us, I think I get your point, it’s about markets whichever way you look at it, beyond markets, I think we are talking about people…This is why I was saying that, sometimes we shouldn’t just trivialize the issue and limit it to some textbooks or some story by somebody who after all when they quote a situation, sometimes they quote them out of context or they don’t tell the whole story, isn’t it?
So it’s about people, in Rwanda precisely, that’s why I was saying let the debate play out. The debate will most likely show us where that confidence stands and that will contribute to the decision people will make after that. Do you see what I mean? So the combination of factors, internal, external and the markets will play out to the point that, for example, what has happened, since you use the case of Nigeria that the stocks went through the roof when the results were announced. It’s not something that happened just that time, the story was even before, do you see what I mean? The story must have been written well before, which means when things go this direction signals are very good, when things go in this direction, the signals pointed in opposite direction, this is the story that builds up to that point, right? So here in Rwanda, the debate playing out is an indicative of that as well; at some point people will start saying: “You know what, if we take this direction it means this for the country, when we take things in this direction, it means this for the country”. This is the good thing about these debates. And of course the markets, even if they would be there seemingly silent, they also have a way to express themselves.
But now let me really summarize for you the story of 2017 in brief and the peculiarities of Rwanda per se. In Rwanda, I think in my understanding, in politics, there are a couple of things, may be three, that are very important for the country, over which we may not even negotiate: one is the security of the country, we have had enough of lack of security. The people of Rwanda, I think for a long time, they’ll need to have what they lacked for a long time and that’s security. Security for the people, to feel secure and then be able to do what they do best and what is good for them. Number two is social and economic progress that must be made …The economy that changes people’s lives. Number three is their freedoms, their self-determination of the people of Rwanda. These three for me will have to be fulfilled by whoever comes after me at any one point or will have to be fulfilled by me when I am still in this office.
Because I know the story of Rwanda very well, I know what Rwandans deserve, I know most of the things about Rwanda as you would know and I think these three things are very important. The rest, people are free to say whatever they want, they are free especially those outside of Rwanda. Three things that I am talking about, you can say anything, you can write anything, you can dictate anything theoretically but these three things must be fulfilled, and I think on that one it’s a life and death issue so if you get me, then you know where I stand.
Bazirwimana – Family TV: From the 20th Commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi, the commemoration at the national level will be held each five years. Don’t you think that during those four years of waiting the national level commemoration, the event could be devalued by citizens, that genocide deniers and revisionists could use the opportunity to…
President Kagame: You did not capture it well: Kwibuka is at the national level [every year], there is no other level which is not national? It’s done at the national level but in a different way, how can it be at another level yet we remain with April 7th as a public holiday that appears on our calendar? It can’t happen if not at the national level, so it’s at the national level but in a different way and it has a great value because it’s done in all parts of the country which is very valuable. To me, i think this is more important and should be valued; it’s just a different kind of arrangement.
Bazirwimana – Family TV: I have a second question. Zambia is one of the countries that received many Rwandan refugees and its evident that the 2 countries Zambia and Rwanda have shown the will to repatriate those Rwandans but refugees seems to be reluctant about it, is there anything Rwanda is doing to convince them to return home?
President Kagame: What Rwanda is doing is to continue taking to the host countries and the Rwandans themselves. Sometimes it takes time, explanations, giving examples… So this required time and following up with both side people and the host countries.
Philbert Hangengimana – igihe.com: The end of last year was characterised by resignation of mayors and some of them are currently facing justice, it seems this did not surprise people because these mayors have no term limit to the extent that a good performer can stay for ever.
President Kagame: Do think mayors have no term limit? Anyway let’s proceed with the question.
Philbert Hangengimana – igihe.com: I think mayors should have a limited number of terms because this can help them to leave before they engage into the many problems created by overstaying.
President Kagame: In fact they should not wait, that’s why they have resigned. I mean, the mayors that resigned did not wait for the end of their term; they were pursued before even completing their term and some are facing justice. So term limits does not solve anything here because for those who were stopped, we did not wait until they completed their terms, they were stopped because we noticed some problems.
So when a problem arises, the person responsible is held accountable without waiting until their term ends so the term issue does not add anything. Let’s assume the mayor has that term limits and he/she has a problem in the first, second or even the third term; they have to be held accountable at any time despite of any term limit. So to reduce the number of terms, unless you want to say those with problems should serve two terms but that is judging even before they become mayors. So the issue of term limit is not the issue so you want to say beyond 2 terms they become greedy and create problems but there are two things here:
1- Most of the mayors that were forced to resign are not the ones who have been there the longest and this explain it all
2- Even those who develop an appetite to create problems face justice and will be removed. So from this, I don’t see really how term limits can help. What is important is that whoever commits any offense should be held accountable at any time whether in their first, second or third term.
Anyway this is the same context with the other terms limit; I am being penalized for a fault that I haven’t even committed, you should wait until I commit that fault instead of penalising me now! You keep asking me about term limit before I finish what you even gave me, and now I have to pay?
Solange Umurerwa – KFM: Thank you Mr President. There is a businessman called Rwigara Assinapol who died in the last few weeks. His family wrote to you requesting for an investigation of his death, do you have an answer for them?
President Kagame: Yes we answered them, they came here and met the Minister in the President’s Office, but they first met RFI and BBC! In fact, sometimes things are difficult in Rwanda I don’t know why they had to first go to the likes of BBC. In fact, RFI could have reported about them even before they went for it because they follow issues in Rwanda very closely and brand them the way they wish despite of the reality on the ground, but this is the world we live in. But they met the Minister.
Stephanie Aglietti – AFP & RFI: Thank you very much. I just wanted to have a precision on the issue of Israel Immigrants …
President Kagame: There is no more precision than what I gave you
Stephanie Aglietti – AFP & RFI: Is there any agreement between Rwanda and Israel?
President Kagame: I am saying there is no more precision than what I gave you. Take what I gave you, leave what i didn’t give you; I think is the best way. Were you following what I was explaining about that?
Stephanie Aglietti – AFP & RFI: Yes but I do not want to write any mistakes, it was not clear to me!
President Kagame: You write that it was not clear; you won’t have made a mistake if you say what I said was not clear.