Burera, 25 January 2019


Good afternoon.

I am absolute happy to be here, and let me start by congratulating all those involved in transforming this bold vision, into the beautiful reality that we are inaugurating today.

In particular, I want to express our special appreciation to Bill and Joyce Cummings for their generous support and personal involvement over many years. We are happy to have you here with us today.

The same goes to Bill and Melinda Gates, and the Gates Foundation, for their financial support for this project, and their sustained advocacy for good health outcomes in Rwanda, and around the world.

Let me also say that Paul Farmer and the Partners in Health team, together with Rwandan partners, have once again demonstrated, that they follow through on their commitments, and get things done.

Your efforts are raising the standard, globally, on equity in healthcare.

Partners in Health, known here as Inshuti mu Buzima, has been an important part of Rwanda’s journey to better health for many years.

They work with our institutions to provide high-quality medical care in three hospitals, including the Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence next door, as well as dozens of health centres.

Just as important, is our collaboration on scientific research to measure the impact of health interventions, and continually improve the care that our citizens receive.

This new, cutting-edge university represents an additional investment in the human capital of Rwanda and our region.

The name of the school, the University of Global Health Equity, tells us something critical about its mission.

It is not just about producing highly-skilled medical professionals, though that is of course the foundation.

It is also about, first, teaching students to put the human factor at the centre of care. Hospitals don’t treat diseases, they treat individual people, each in his or her social and cultural context.

And second, emphasising the importance of investing in and strengthening national health systems.

Instilling those principles is essential for reducing the disparities in health outcomes, both within countries, and among different regions.

So we are proud to be associated with this institution.

Phase One is done. And it is very well done.

But we have more work to do, and the Government and the people of Rwanda are ready to keep working with you to sustain the momentum.

There is a famous book, that some of you may know, about a certain doctor. It is called “Mountains Beyond Mountains”, based on a Haitian proverb, about how each achievement brings the next challenge into view.

Each step forward builds our capacity to do more and better in the future. So we will keep climbing together.

Before I conclude, there’s another story that Paul didn’t tell you about, connected to the work of this university. I have a home between Rwinkwavu and the city. Paul was coming from Rwinkavu and didn’t want to pass without saying hello. So he visited me and the First Lady and as we usually do, we talked until two in the morning.

Paul was driving himself in a pick-up and told us he was driving to Butaro. But I told him he can’t do it – not that I was worried about him getting into wrong hands. He insisted and I refused. I told him that I would either detain him, or keep tracking him until he got into city and if he went beyond, I would ask the police to stop him.

And in fact that’s what happened. I had asked him if there was there anything he wanted to do in Butaro that couldn’t wait until morning. And he said he wanted the morning to break when he was there. So maybe we saved Paul for another day. And we have him here with us today.

Let me close with a word about the diverse faculty and student body of this university. It is no exaggeration to say that the world has truly come to Butaro.

We welcome you all, and will do everything within our means to accompany you as you live, study, and serve amongst us. Please feel at home in Rwanda, and consider our country as your own.

Once again, our congratulations to all those involved in this impressive effort.

I thank you.