San Francisco, 25 September 2016
President Kagame has addressed thousands of Rwandans and friends of Rwanda who gathered in San Francisco, USA for this year’s Rwanda Day, organised under the theme of celebrating the richness of the Rwandan culture.
Speaking to Rwandans who travelled from across the US, Canada, Europe and Rwanda, President Kagame highlighted the significance of culture to any society, which he said glues together people as they work for their common good.
“Culture is neutral. It is the common thread that runs through a society and brings people together. The moment we put our people first, culture becomes the glue that holds our people; we do not give up; we are never thrown off balance. We are held by this rich culture.”
Drawing the example of the lives of Rwandan refugees before the liberation of Rwanda to highlight the resilience of Rwandans, President Kagame said that Rwandans living in refugee camps always worked hard for whatever they got and went ahead to fight for their country and dignity.
“Life as refugees kept people together, they wanted to work for whatever they got and later fought for their country and dignity. The quest for dignity did not end with life as refugees; the struggle has to continue to change the life of everyone. The life of everyone was changed by their hard work towards being where they deserve to be.”
Speaking about Rwanda’s critics and those who are fixated on giving lessons to others on how to live their lives President Kagame said Rwandans were ready to stand together against any challenges as history has shown.
“People write a list of things you cannot do and do not expect you to express yourself as to the life you want to lead. Despite criticism, I feel fine. Because the people of Rwanda are there for each other. The harder you beat Rwanda, what comes out is people who really want to give it back to you, who want to push back. We will not just bow to you. It is not where we belong. We belong to a nation that can engage in a conversation.”
President Kagame called on Africans to always strive for “modern Africanisation” and avoid adopting westernisation blindly.
“What I am looking for is modern africanization. I am an African that can relate well and meaningfully to the rest of the world. I am not an African lost in the jungle looking for magnanimous people to give me a sense of direction. I don’t mind if you hold me accountable for what I am doing, but you must be able to listen. There is no such power that people have that they should not be able to listen to others. We are expected to swallow what we are told without chewing. In our culture, we chew before swallowing.”
President Kagame challenged the youth of Rwanda and Africa to value and protect their identity wherever they may be.
“You must have an identity you call yours, you should be proud of, that will endure and stay with us for generations. You can choose to waste your time or live on borrowed time, but I want us to choose believing it is our time. There is no reason we cannot catch up to the rest of the world. We belong up there. It will come from every one of us. Injustice, prejudice will not be history and Rwandans will be where they want to be.”
The thousands of members of the Rwandan Diaspora and friends of Rwanda were entertained by Rwanda’s National Ballet ‘Urukerereza’ which presented a theatrical piece showcasing Rwanda’s rich culture and traditions.
During the event, panels of eminent speakers who included Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church Pastor, Andrew Mwenda, a member of the Presidential Advisory Council, Pro. Shyaka Anastase, CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board, Michael Fairbanks, co-Founder of SEVEN, among others, spoke about the correlation between culture and development.
The speakers also talked about Rwanda’s rising from a failed state after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, transforming into a model state for effective leadership and remarkable socio-economic transformation.
Minister Louise Mushikiwabo pointed out that the uniqueness of Rwandans as a people lies the fact that they aim for nothing but excellence – which is also at the core of the Rwandan culture and identity.