Petit Stade, 14 December 2012

Good afternoon all! Let me greet you like that because we have just been together in the National Dialogue through Youth Connekt. I appreciate your invitation to join and interact    with you and I will take this opportunity to discuss and share constructive ideas with you. As we share constructive ideas we also build our country.

I am convinced that our interactions with you here tonight will be shared with the youth of the whole country through you. I thank you for having thought about the importance of joining efforts to achieve your objective. This will help you reflect on the past and plan the future; in fact the future is bright but you need to plan for it just now. If you want to have a better future you have to plan it now.However, be prepared to meet challenges along the way.

It is good that you meet and share ideas like the ones you have been contributing to the National Dialogue. Discussions like the ones we had during Umushyikirano mean we are building now to prepare a better future.If you have chosen to have a better future, you have to choose how you reach there. You can choose to go by different roads.

For every destination, you have to choose how you reach there. If you over accelerate a car. chances are that you may not reach well. You may have an accident or affect others. You have been talking about drugs, if an addicted person over accelerates a car to 200 kilometres per hour in a road with many corners or hilly like Musanze road, the probability is that you may not reach safely.

To maximize the chance of reaching safely, you need to choose the right means and the right methodology. If you chose to go by a car you will choose how you will drive and you need to be free from any addiction.

This requires you to be mentally stable with a fresh mind and that’s why the discussions you had here are very important. The country trusts you and expects a lot from you. As leaders of the country and parents, we have to provide all that you need so that you may become responsible leaders who will take our country where it belongs.

Even now you are leaders, but as time goes by your responsibilities will keep on increasing. It is a very valuable thing that you have focused your discussions on culture, discipline, on the way you are educating yourselves, how the country is educating you, or how you are raised by your families.

People lost their mind, youth got involved in using drugs. Now if you use drugs and your mind is full of drugs, what right thing can you do?  I am sure in discussions you had, you realized that there are so many youth who use drugs, yet those are the same people who are our future leaders, the future of our country. Where and how do these kind of people lead? They can’t take you anywhere, and even if they did, they will lead you to the grave. If these kinds of people are leaders, they lead a country into a grave.

The driver of the other car I mentioned earlier, when he drives a car after abusing drugs, he will drive the car into a hole. Indeed, a leader is like a driver with passengers in his car. If his mind is not sober then those he is driving are in trouble.

Even if you are a normal person, a good person, sitting in a bus with some other innocent passengers, but the bus is driven by a drug addict, then you are in big danger, even if you don’t use them.

Let us now take this discussion out of the car context and make it a national issue. Let us assume a country that is led by drug addicts, which is a situation that has already happened in the past, I know you know this. That’s why we lost more than a million people. This was due to drug abusing leaders who made us lose a million people.

This is one million innocent people. They were innocent passengers but in the end they they all lost their lives and a few of them survived in the same way, when a bus overturns and you hear that 80 or 50 have died, 30 are critically injured and others survived.

As leaders of today and tomorrow, you have to focus, learn and be mentored because if you don’t, you will be like bad car drivers who cause accidents and kill people. But then, if you are not a good leader and lead people to destruction, don’t expect to remain safe. Some of the leaders who led this country into problems were also affected in one way or another. But we cannot be expected to be passengers who will get onto a bus and condone poor driving just because they assume that if an accident happens the driver will also die. Everyone dies as an individual and that is why you have to refuse to be driven by a bad driver.

Youth, leaders of today and tomorrow, you need to protect yourselves from any harm, and as leaders, you also have the responsibility of protecting others from anything that could harm them. It is wrong to assume that you can live happily when someone else is living a miserable life. Don’t be mistaken. When someone else is living a miserable life, don’t deceive yourself that you can live happily. That’s how nations, families and communities exist. There is no way any Rwandan should live like they are half dead. They have to live a decent life and as leaders you have to make this your responsibility.

The dignity that we are talking about relates to working together with others, to complementing each other. It all begins with you and me; it’s a collective responsibility. Youth of Rwanda, our country needs you. Apparently, most of you are too young to even know our country’s troubled history, but some others were old enough to understand.

My first point is we shouldn’t dwell on our past; we need to move on and use it as a lesson instead.

We keep saying that the country expects a lot from us, but who is the country if it’s not you? There is a saying that goes like: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. So, what is your country, who is your country? Who is your country if it’s not yourself? The image and the power of the nation reflect its leadership and its citizens. It reflects you and me. When you wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror, the only person you see is yourself. In the same way, your country, your nation reflects you. Therefore, if you look at yourself in the mirror and the image is stained, don’t blame your mirror, blame yourself. So if our country was to look at itself in a mirror, the image reflected should be of good, smart young people with a vision, not of drug addicts.

If we are to take turns looking into that mirror and ask people of my generation to start, we will accept whatever we see in that mirror. When it’s time for the youth to look at itself, what would you like to see? Are you ready to look at yourself as you really are? Even those among you who are drug addicts?

Please be careful not to end up in a situation where you look at yourself in the mirror and you cannot recognize the person you see. A situation where you look at your reflection and ask: “Do I know that person from somewhere?” Please be careful not to end up that way.

We want a youth; we want citizens that the country is proud of, smart people. And here, I am not talking about physical beauty. When I talk about being smart, it is not only about physical appearance. It means being smart in behaviors, acts, thoughts, , manners, that is the real mirror I’m talking about here. There is far more to a human being than their physical appearance, their inner part is far more important. The way they think, act and behave is much more important than the way they look.

For our country, Rwanda, the last 18 years – I’m sure that some of you were born during this period – have been a time to rewrite its history, a time to rebuild the nation for both those born during this period and those who were born before. For those of you aged 18, 20, 30, 35, please tell me: Until what age is someone still considered young?35? I thought probably until 55, and you can guess why I am asking, I was hoping I can still belong to that category, but it seems like it’s not going to be possible. But either way, I have been your age at one time and I still remember what it is like. For that reason, I can try to give you a piece of advice, as someone who’s been there before.

We have seen good and evil. You do not need sophisticated knowledge or research to know it; experiencing it is enough. That is why you young people have to listen to us when we share our experience from that age. There is a Kinyarwanda saying that goes like “Ijoro ribara uwariraye” approximately meaning that there is no better teacher than experience. We know what we went through, and we did not spend sleepless nights in vain. We know what we saw and when we tell you to be careful it’s because we want you to learn from our experiences and be more prepared than we were, isn’t it?

That’s the value of such a forum, the importance of interacting with you young people. It allows us to prepare you for what’s coming ahead, to help you learn from our experiences. Actually we can also use this opportunity to give you a piece of advice, wouldn’t that be even better? If that’s the case, our main advice would be to avoid drug abuse and other bad behaviors.

The fact is that when you are hardworking and patriotic, when you use your brains and your skills, you don’t owe anything to anyone. The only people you might owe are your parents, because they took good care of you, raised you to be who you are today. But again, even to them, you cannot be indebted forever because this is an unending cycle: your parents gave birth to you and they came from their own parents and so on. We cannot repay back forever. So we choose to accept it that way.

But now that you live, live responsibly, live a good life, use your skills, use whatever is possible to make your life better. By having a good life, your families and your country will also benefit. In the end the country is a big family.

We have normal families, so and so are families, but we are all from the same family: being Rwandans. We have one single family called Rwanda. We want one family called Rwandans. That family has its elders on various levels. That family, with its elders that you might call the Government, is ready to deliver to you anything possible in the interest of the family. We will do everything in our capacity. Then it will be up to you. Will you fail us? You shouldn’t. We will do everything possible and work with you as determined people.

Every one of you should take advantage of the various opportunities that your country gives you but also use the potential that you have in each of you: your talents. Each one of you has a specific talent, though some of you don’t even know that you have those talents. People have talents and at times are not even aware of this.

I talked about education earlier, but a good education system is the one that helps you to discover your talents. At times you discover your talent and wonder: where was this talent hidden? Don’t waste your talents, don’t misuse them. The new Rwanda we want is built on talents that all of you have. Exploit your talents and use them to build our country. Do we all agree on this? This was my request. I will wind up here.

I wish you good health, you and you families. You are young, you are smart, you have talents, and you have strength. Dignify yourselves and don’t use drugs. Don’t compromise your lives. You have all it takes and your country needs you!

I wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!