I would like to thank you all for coming so we can meet, greet and discuss. I will also bring greetings to you from Rwanda. I am happy to get this opportunity of meeting you because I am here primarily for the European Development Days, where I am supposed to make a presentation.
I would like us to talk so that I can be able to know how you are doing here and also be able to inform you on how things are going on back home. On first impression, I have come to understand that some of you are not very well informed about what is happening in your country. Someone mentioned something to do with the issue of languages in Rwanda and I would like to clarify that nobody banned French or English in Rwanda. What happened is that English and French came in as additions to Kinyarwanda. There is a misunderstanding but I will try to explain.
Each and every one of you is here in Europe for different reasons; some of you came here as students, others to work or as refugees. But there are also those who just came without knowing where or why they were coming. Whatever the reasons, Rwanda is your country and Rwanda will never change. We may have different opinions but our common goal for our country must be the same. We should all aim for a Rwanda that belongs not to Hutus, Tutsis, Twas or foreigners. Rwanda is for ALL Rwandans.
For instance, if today you went to Japan, Australia or America, the first thing they will notice about you is that you are African. They may ask you where you are coming from and if you tell them that you are Hutu or Tutsi, they will definitely not understand you. They will only understand you if you tell them that you are Rwandan, because that’s what your passport says.
There are those who claim that they feel proud to identify themselves as Hutu or Tutsi. This is entirely up to them but I think we should feel more proud to identify ourselves as Rwandans. We don’t speak Kihutu or kitutsi. We all speak Kinyarwanda. Some may say that they speak English or French but in Rwanda we speak Kinyarwanda. We are well aware that there are people who use self-hating stunts for survival because there are people who are ready to make a celebrity out of anyone who is willing to hate their own country. But be informed that if the same people as much as suspect that you hate their country, they will give you their full wrath. The reasons of our meeting today is therefore to see how we can be able to put ideas together on whether we need to perform our national obligations or whether each of us should do whatever they want.
Contemporary Rwanda is quite different from the Rwanda of the past in that it belongs to all Rwandans. There are good and bad Rwandans living side by side under the guidance of the law and their culture. No country can exist without those. In today’s Rwanda we don’t promote corruption and divisionism. We promote self-worth for everyone. Every Rwandan should have dignity which cannot be given by anyone else as a gift. Dignity is earned.
As for those who make it a career to hate their country and line the snowed streets to hurl insults, they should know that there is no dignity in this. People may have different opinions and thoughts but if they came together and put their ideas together, they would develop their country. Dignity is about construction and not destruction. People who do not see value in themselves can never develop at all. That is why we in Rwanda and Africa are where we are, in terms of development after 50 years. Fifty years ago we were at the same level of development as Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and even Latin America. But after 50 years we have not moved an inch and, in fact, some of our nations have even moved many steps back. Why have we stayed like this? Is it because we did not adequately sing the chorus of being Tutsi or Hutu? After all, we did that quite well but has it helped us in anyway? The countries that I mentioned also fought their wars and settled and forged ahead. Why can’t we, Rwandans in particular and Africans in general, do the same? What are we lacking?
Someone talked about people completing school in Rwanda and failing to adjust when they come here. I would like to differ, because I am sure that someone is trying to generalise. I know people who have come directly from Rwanda and excelled in many places in the world. And it is true that there are people who fail to excel in Rwanda itself. Our responsibility – and your responsibility as the Diaspora – is to ensure that things continue to improve in Rwanda. It would be unfortunate if the Diaspora assumed that their role towards the development of Rwanda is to supervise and award marks. There should be direct involvement. Good and bad things exist in Rwanda just as they exist elsewhere in the world. Those who regard Rwanda as their own country, I ask you to get involved. If you wait for things to be better so that you come home, I assure you that you might end up not going home at all.
Those who have concerns about Gacaca should understand that it did not come into existence from nowhere. If this was the case, I would be the first to question its existence. What people should be concerned about is not Gacaca itself but whether it’s going to execute its role without causing more problems. I know of places, even in developed countries, where cases go on forever. Yet they don’t have even half of the problems that our justice system has.
I would also like to talk about the good things happening in our country. We have problems but we also have good things happening in Rwanda. For instance, enrolment in primary schools moved from 800,000 to 2.2 million in the last 17 years. Affiliation to mutuelles de santé is now more than 90%. There are regions in Rwanda that had been known as famine areas for generations and accepted as such but things have changed now because the whole country is producing enough food for everyone and people are happy. Rwanda is no longer regarded as a nation of killers but the world’s best destination for investment and business. We have also ensured that there is good governance by instituting decentralisation and for this we are regarded as an African model.
Rwanda has been hailed as the best nation in terms of utilisation of donor money. All these are self evident to everyone because Rwandans have understood their role and know what they need to do. That is why during the elections the turn- out was more that 90%. But some people see this in a negative sense because there are some countries where people are tired of their country’s politics. There are even some people who have problems with Kagame being elected with 93%. You are left to wonder whether there are democratic standards for vote numbers and percentages. If people had been forced to vote, they would have gone to the voting booth and left their cards blank. But this was not the case. That is why people should respect the choice of the people. It’s not the journalists who vote; the NGOs, the so-called Human Rights organizations. It’s the people. If you don’t respect Rwandans’ choice then that should be your problem because it’s their life and they know what they want.
My responsibility as the choice of the Rwandan people is to look after their needs. As long as I still hold this position whose responsibilities I understand very well, I will endeavour to safeguard the security and dignity of Rwandans. It is my responsibility to make sure that people know what is expected of them. I am here today because I am expected to perform my duty. Those who want to go back home, I have to ensure that they understand that they are better off at home. However, it should be made clear that if you are a criminal, you should expect justice to take its due course. Unless one sincerely asks for forgiveness and comes clean about their crimes, there cannot be a way of evading punishment. I heard people talking about fearing to send money because of consequences. I would like to make things clear. Even in the countries where you live, if you are caught sending money to terrorists you are severely punished. The cases cited here involve people who were sending money to Interahamwe. If anyone else is caught in this act they will also be punished accordingly. We only encourage forgiveness in Rwanda to killers because we want to compromise and forge ahead.
If anyone wants to promote divisionism and the ideology of genocide we will not let them have their way. We compromise in some ways but there are limits. I will have no problem if Rwandans decide that their country should be in turmoil and insecurity. That will be their decision and they should be ready to bear the consequences. But for as long as Rwandans want security, peace and prosperity, then we have to follow that line. This is what Rwandans want and that is why they are so eager to vote and do other things. If someone comes from nowhere and declares that due to democracy he should kill whoever he wants because they don’t like him, we will not allow them. There are those who mislead people that they should not go back and should instead wait for Kagame to be toppled. In what way? Toppled through democracy or by violence? They are deluding you. They have no idea about the new Rwanda and Rwandans. Rwandans went to the polls the way they did because they wanted to dispel such illusions. I call upon those who want to go home to come with me. Those who still want to stay, let them do so out of their will and not because someone wants to use them to insult their country. Being used is not dignified. If anyone is here because they want to be fed, we can feed them better because Rwanda today enjoys bumper harvests.