Friends of Rwanda,
Fellow Rwandans living in North America and those Rwandans who have come all the way from home to be here in Boston with all of us, thank you!
Thank you Bobby Sager for hosting us here in Boston and for the good work you are doing for Rwanda here in Boston and Massachusetts
We came here so that we can meet, keep networks alive and maintain contact with our country. When Rwandans come together, wherever they are, it is like they are home. It is an opportunity to talk about Rwanda, sing and dance to our music and generally feel at home, no matter how far away we may be from home. By the way, if some of you did not know already, there is Bourbon Coffee here in Boston. So, you have an opportunity to have a taste of Rwandan coffee as well.
I am glad to say that many of you are here working hard to improve your lives and those of your families and relatives back home either as students or employed in various sectors. You have seen how people here work hard. How much they love their country and how ready they are to defend it. These are the values that have brought their countries to an advanced level of development and higher quality of lives, Rwanda cannot be an exception.
Rwandans back home are also working hard individually and collectively to better their lives. Their efforts and yours will undoubtedly take us very far. And that is as it should be. It is our responsibility, yours and mine, wherever we are, to build and develop our country. We cannot delegate it or expect anyone else to do it for us.
It should be a source of pride that we are able to drive our development, that we belong to a country of dignified people, that we have a definite identity as Rwandans. I am pleased that you are doing a lot to champion Rwanda’s cause via your sizable remittances and by speaking out for your country and through many other ways.
You must continually tell the story of your country, if you don’t; someone else will want to do it and will do it the wrong way. It’s about the history of our country, it’s about the resilience of our people, it’s about our dignity. It should all be bound together by the determination, our determination to be who we are
Many things should and must be challenged. We should not allow anybody to define us, we have the ability, we have the desire and we have the right to define ourselves. Yes we have made good progress in this direction and it should go on. It must go on. It is what we deserve. Progress comes at a time when we face immense challenges, but that’s fine. We did not expect it to be easy, in any case why should it be easy?
The progress we have made has been without shortcuts, has been without lies, we don’t tell lies about the progress we make, about the fights we make every day to make that progress. And progress invites detractors; still that’s fine, I have no problem with detractors. Detractors: do your job, I will do mine.
Mine and yours is a duty to continue working towards our progress. If our progress hurts anybody I will say I am sorry, that was not our intention. Our intention was just to make progress. We need really to understand and even be careful that if we spend so much time paying attention to these detractors, wherever they come from – they are very few but they make a lot of noise. They are really like empty drums, the more empty they are, the more noise they make. We can pay attention to some of the criticisms made about us only with the view of improving ourselves, if there is anything to learn from that criticism. But most of the stuff out there is designed to simply divert our attention from continuing efforts to make our progress. I will stand here and I say for sure, I say to you that I have no doubt and Rwandans say it themselves, that their lives have improved. Their self worth individually and as a nation has continued to go up and up. There are still many problems that we must address, and here I will say if anyone is looking for a perfect leader anywhere in this world, they should not look my way.
They should not be considering me as one of them. If anyone is looking for a perfect nation they shouldn’t be considering Rwanda as one of them. We are not. I don’t know who is in the first place. We want, and we are ready to do our best for the best of our people and our country. We are also ready to own up to our imperfections and to keep working at them to improve ourselves. That is how we understand ourselves, that is how we understand our society and that is how we understand our responsibilities. In fact that is why many times we have said to people; give us our chance, let’s deal with our issues. If you want to help, you are very welcome, but you must accept that we will take the lead in dealing with our problems. The reason for that is we do not want to be having our imperfections that we are working at to improve and you bring your own imperfections and add them to our own, because there is nobody, there is no nation, there is no society that does not have imperfections to overcome. So, I do not want to deal with double imperfections, I want to deal with my own. And in any case, this understanding is what underlies cooperation, collaboration. It’s learning from each other, it’s listening to each other, it’s sharing, it’s agreeing that we can work together for the betterment of everyone.
If it is for listening to others and being driven by others in the process of our development, we have had more than enough of that in our history. And we got nothing out of it. It just destroyed us, in the end it took a million lives of our people, we lost them. We lost everything in that, we have had to build anew and this is where we are. Much as the challenges to overcome are enormous, they are not insurmountable.
But for that to happen, that they are not insurmountable, requires all of us; boys and girls, women and men, old and young, everyone to work together, to use whatever differences within our society for the common good. Those differences should be simple differences of opinions, differences of what everyone can bring to the table for us to forge ahead for the common good of our nation; not the differences that will tear apart our country because we have also had that and we know what it means, we’ve seen the meaning of that. So those who make so much noise about what they see is negative about us may also want to acknowledge that Rwandans have made huge progress.
Let me tell you a few of them, I will tell you the most recent ones not the old ones. Did you know that in 2011, in the World Economic Forum Global competitiveness Index, Rwanda ranks the third in Africa and the first in the East African region and moved up seven places globally?
Did you know that Rwanda was ranked among the top most corrupt-free countries in Africa and in the whole world, among the top. Did you also know that our citizens are ranked among the most content in the world?
These are international rankings, these are not rankings made by institutions in Rwanda, no, outside. This is done by international institutions. We are also the most improved country in doing business reforms, among the top in the world. Between 2006 and 2011 we lifted 1 million people out of poverty. That is in five years. I could go on and on until cows come home.
We still feel that this is not enough. Let nobody be deceived. This is not enough for us. We’ve got to do more, every day, every week, every month we are reminded that we need to do more and we want to do more. We just need to play our role; everyone here, everyone in Rwanda and elsewhere. We need to build on the energy of our young people.
The youth: you should not shy away from your responsibility of being leaders of our country. You should not hesitate to improve yourself, to study hard, to improve your talents.
Whenever that opportunity has come as it has happened to many of you who are here in North America. And that should not only go to improve you as individuals, but also to improve Rwanda, your nation, your mother nation.
But, I shouldn’t end this without taking a little time to discuss with you what you read in the media and elsewhere. Two points, I want to add.
So, you have read stories about Rwanda in the media. Recently, Rwanda has been in the media for the wrong reasons, if I may say. About Rwanda relating to the situation obtaining in the neighboring country, Congo, DRC.
I will try to be brief, shortening a very long story, otherwise.
First of all, I want to tell you how I think it’s unfair, but also, how one would even be right to be angry about it, that Rwanda is always held responsible, that it has almost been established as a fact that Rwanda should always be held responsible for the neighbor’s problems. But as I told you one time, or it was others but I’m sure it got to you, that some of those problems we are dealing with, in that region and causes of those problems happened way back, even before I was born. For sure, way before any of you here was born.
But trying to shorten the long story, for me I attribute it to two parts of the same thing. But the thing I’m talking about is the failure, the result of the failure. The failure of those who should manage that country, the people of that country themselves and their leaders. Coupled with the failure of the international community, that has always pretended it is addressing that problem. It is a failure that cuts across these two.
The people themselves who should own up to their own problems and deal with their problems and the very international community that deploys so much in terms of resources of all kinds pretending they are dealing with the problem and both sides have failed together, so the easier way out of that is small Rwanda. Rwanda becomes the easier target, it becomes the scapegoat. Every single day there is a problem in that country, everything you read in the media and elsewhere is more about Rwanda than about the failure.
Sometimes, I am sure, innocent but ignorant people will even not understand what is being talked about, they will be reading about the problem in Congo but they are reading more about Rwanda than Congo.
And of course what brought us together here is very important in this way, because I want us to understand this point and also to understand the next point I want to talk about – “Agaciro” and the “Agaciro Fund” that our officials might have talked to you about. Because the response to these problems in Congo sometimes are absolutely irrelevant to actually finding a solution, because you heard of the moment there was this noise about what was happening in the Congo, without any second thought, most of the people who otherwise have been involved or want to be involved, wanted to be seen to be involved in dealing with that problem, their immediate response was: “Suspend the support we are giving Rwanda.”
In fact I told some of them that I wish some of that support you are taking away from Rwanda would be transferred to help the Congolese to deal with their problems. That way, maybe actually it can make some sense, but to just to do it, and also it has a bad taste, this way of managing affairs, where on one hand you are part of the problem, on the other you are the kind of judge that is just dealing with issues through punitive measures.
Taking punitive measures against these Africans…these Rwandans. There is no other way of thinking about it. They don’t even understand that Rwanda, even on the basis that we are making this progress…we are actually the first beneficiaries and people to want peace in the region. We can’t be the same people who want to make investments in our people and progress and at the same time invest in destabilisation of neighbours with whom we are supposed to do trade and many other things that should lead to that progress. Maybe people base this on assumptions that were are stupid people – which we are not. How does Rwanda benefit from having problems in our neighbourhood? What sense would it make? People should understand that we are the first to not want problems in our neighbourhood.
At the same time, that we are the first people that if partnered with and work together with whoever, we would actually contribute best to a solution. In the previous years we had invested ourselves to work together with our neighbours to make sure there is peace in Eastern Congo, in Congo and the whole region. We are the people who have been pushing more than others to have a successful integration process in our region. Why does all this not register in people’s minds before they put the blame on Rwanda? We cannot be dealing with our own problems and challenges and at the same time be forced to carry other people’s problems as well. Some of the sources of misrepresentations of this situation are not caused by Rwanda, were not caused by Rwanda, including the current problem. It did not originate from Rwanda, and neither did it involve Rwanda after it had happened. But some of those underlying causes, and I will tell you one of them…we have Congolese of Rwandan origin on the other side. We did not send them there. It has nothing to do with us; this is a colonial problem.
The fact that borders were drawn dividing families and societies is not a problem that Rwanda created, in fact it was a problem created for Rwanda. So, when people across the border, talk to each other, communicate in whatever way; how would you hold me responsible for that. If the Government got involved in supporting any group across the border that would be wrong, that’s what you should hold me accountable for. But you cannot create, fabricate a story, for Rwanda as a scapegoat and turn around and tell Rwanda to actually own that problem. That’s why we say: no way!
People have come to me; it is really…it’s even a scandal. Some people come to me and say, you know what? You know you must say something, you say you actually maybe had a hand, so that we move forward. You know it is a terrible situation. Some of you are lawyers, you would help me or others to understand it better: somebody comes to you and say you are guilty and then say; “prove yourself innocent.” How do you deal with that situation? To be told to prove yourself innocent all the time and there is no effort to actually prove you guilty: there are no facts, there is nothing and they say; “no, we are saying this: prove yourself innocent”, how do you deal with that situation.
But really, in any case I think there has been, in my view, an overreaction again arising from either frustration but also maybe arising from fear to be seen to have failed. How do these big powers accept failure? How do you tell these big powers that be in our world, to accept failure even when it is obvious? They will find a way of making it somebody else’s failure, not theirs. That is how we have found ourselves to be in this problem. You know the saying in Kinyarwanda, “insina ngufi.” Iyo umuntu agiye guca amakoma, agenda ashaka insina ngufi akaba ariyo akataho, indede izisumba... So in this context, u Rwanda barugize insina ngufi but we are trying, u Rwanda we are trying turisumbukuruza ngo two kuba insina ngufi. Twanze kuba insina ngufi. (When someone goes to cut banana leaves, they always go to the shortest banana tree…so, in this context, they see us as the shortest banana tree from which they can cut leaves. But we refuse to be so, we will always try to stand tall)
Ariko nkuko nabivugaga, ibi ntago bikwiye kutuvana mu nzira yo gukomeza gukora uko dushoboye, yo kwikorera, yo kumenya ko ntaw’utugomba icyitubeshaho; tugakoresha uburyo bwacu bwose. Kandi ngirango hari byinshi twifitemo tutamenya; ubimenya aruko ubikoresheje.
Kimwe rero mubikwiye gukoreshwa, bitarangiza ikibazo mu gihe gito, nubundi kurangiza ikibazo bizaba igihe kirekire, ariko ugomba kugira aho utangirira, cyangwa se ugomba gutangira. (However, all this should not divert us from progress and self determination. We have to give our all, do our best. We have all it takes in ourselves to find solutions to our problems and we can discover this only if we exploit our potentials. This is one of the ways in which we will solve our problems, maybe not in the immediate term, but you need to have a starting point)
One way of dealing with a problem, which is medium-long term solution, is to invest.
It is called a fund but it is really something else, bigger than just a fund; it’s a mentality, it’s an attitude, it’s a determination, its saying: No! We can soldier on, we can fight on to be where we want to be ultimately. This is what Agaciro Fund means: it’s more than the money that may be found in the fund; it’s the cause behind it. It’s that burning desire to really make a difference for ourselves even at a time we are faced with immense hardships. So, I am sure they would have explained to you issues relating to the Agaciro Fund. And we invite everyone: every Rwandan, every friend of Rwanda, to one way or another be associated with this. And it is more than the fund; it is that desire, for us Rwandans, to say: we will overcome these difficulties.
And then of course, the investments we want from across the world; that’s why we are preparing the ground for investors, whether local or foreign, and we appreciate that Rwandans embrace these efforts to invest in our people and our people to invest in our country to develop entrepreneurship in Rwanda, business, innovation, technology and many other things. And working together with others in our region in the form of regional integration.
So navuga bugacya, nagirango mbashimire cyane, mwakoze mese aho mwaturutse kuba mwaje ngo twifatanye kuri uyu munsi, kandi tuzakomeza! Nuguhozaho. Mugire amahoro, mugire ubuzima bwiza. (I could talk till dawn, but I would like to thank you very much, those who came from everywhere so we can be together on this day. We will continue to come together. I wish you the best in all that you do.