New York, 21 September 2009
President Kagame today in New York delivered a keynote address at the African Leadership Series of the International Peace Institute. Speaking on Pushing the Boundaries of Peace, Reconciliation and Development , President Kagame said there has been in recent years, a fundamental shift on the continent with Africans increasingly seeking self-driven solutions to challenges facing them, and demanding a more productive and mutually respectful relationship with the international community.
• Mr Terje Rod-Larsen, President of the International Peace Institute;
• Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
I thank the International Peace Institute for the opportunity to share with this esteemed audience how we, in Africa and in our region in particular, are “pushing the boundaries of peace, reconciliation and development”.
I am pleased to state that on matters of stability, peace and development, today’s Africa is unrecognizable from that of yesteryear.
Like other parts of the world, present day preoccupation in Africa revolves around creating prosperity, especially strategies to mitigate the ongoing global economic crisis – including strengthening markets, regional integration, productivity, competitiveness, science, technology and innovation.
Greater peace and security are part of the recent achievements that are enabling most African countries to sustain economic growth rates of above five percent – this has been the case in the last half a decade or so before the current global economic crisis.
This turn-around in Africa is illustrated by among other things, emerging economic markets that are attracting bigger volumes of venture and equity capital in the context of improved capacity to trade and attract a larger share of foreign direct investment.
Africa’s sources of trade and investment, in the meantime, have been broadening beyond our traditional partners of North America and Western Europe – Asian countries especially China and India have become key actors.
More importantly, Africa’s own private sector has been gaining strength in most sectors, notably in the mobile telecommunications where several African companies have become highly profitable transnational operators.
Mobile telephone technologies are also changing the lives of millions of Africans by increasing access to information, facilitating education, health and trade – reaching even the remotest villages.
A good indication of our continent’s recent developmental milestone is the various reforms aimed at improving business climate.
The latest World Bank Group’s Doing Business Report shows that Sub-Saharan Africa is reforming at a fast pace.
For example, Liberia, a recent graduate from conflict, has become the second most active reformer in sub-Saharan Africa, while another post-conflict state, Sierra Leone is making progress in that direction.
Our country Rwanda is identified as the top reformer worldwide, moving from one hundred and forty third position, to sixty seventh, out of one hundred and eighty three countries.
Yes – our continent still has a long way to go in recovering from decades of endemic conflict.
There were times from the 1970s to the early 1990s when there was neither peace to keep, nor regional or continental institutions to keep the peace.
With the exception of a few conflict hotspots, Africa is a different place today – the establishment of the African Union with a fundamentally different vision and mindset from its predecessor, the Organization of the African Unity, is indicative of this significant shift.
This is particularly the case in peace support operations – as demonstrated, for example, by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council that plays an active role in promoting and keeping peace.
It is through this institutional framework that the African Union deployed a mission in Burundi in 2003 to monitor the ceasefire agreement; and in Darfur Sudan in 2004, before the mission became a joint effort with the United Nations in 2007.
Rwanda has participated actively in peacekeeping operations of the African- and UN-led peace missions.
This includes the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur, where we remain the largest contributor.
Let me now turn to our own neighborhood where, together with our colleagues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have recently achieved what I may describe as a major breakthrough towards extending the boundaries of peace.
Although this particular conflict has roots in the colonial and post-colonial history of our region, the current situation arose in mid-1994 when the government that committed genocide in our country, fled – with all its institutions and a hostage population of three million Rwandans – into what was then Zaire.
Regrettably, the “definition” of this problem kept changing in the minds of the international community – resulting in delaying the closure of this chapter of misery and havoc.
Initially, the issue was caring for the millions of refugees in camps in Eastern Zaire – considerable resources were expended into this effort.
There was, however, no corresponding willingness to separate genuine refugees from the genocidal forces that were openly armed and rearming in the camps.
At the time, Rwanda had no option when the international community did not intervene to repatriate our citizens, and seek justice and accountability from the genocide criminals – we had to deal with this because we understood what would happen in the future.
Our intervention brought about another distorted definition of the problem – Rwanda was now accused of exploiting DRC’s natural resources using the pretext of hunting genocide perpetrators.
Numerous reports on this subject were written by the “experts” – all them were false and were not worthy of the resources and time spent on them.
I am always amazed quite frankly by the naivety of this discourse – you just do not go and gather minerals on the ground and instantly become rich.
The question I always ask is this: if in real fact Rwanda does not have the technical capacity to exploit our own mineral resources, how can we take advantage of those in DRC – a country like many others in Africa that have not fully utilized these resources for decades for their own advancement?
These issues are far more complex and lead to entirely different questions.
In reality, these accusations have always been a diversion from the truth – no one should be under the illusion that Rwanda’s modest developmental achievements since 1994 are based on such illegal exploitation of the resources of another country.
We are steadily improving the lives of our people because Rwanda is making all the effort to build a nation of laws, and institutions that promote security, peace, reconciliation and development.
We are painstakingly building the confidence of domestic and foreign investors to put their money into our hotels, energy projects, agriculture, the construction industry, and ICT on the basis of transparent governance and predictability.
We wish to work with successful nations, and build productive capacities to fit into the global completion – not anything less.
These objectives can only become further enhanced by a stable, peaceful and a more integrated sub-region – as opposed to one where criminal gangs with genocide ideologies roam our neighborhoods, pillaging and destroying communities and killing or raping women and children.
In 2002, the United Nations asked Rwanda to withdraw from the DRC and said that they would assume the responsibility of disarming and dealing the negative forces – we knew it was not going to be done, and it was not.
The United Nations set up MONUC, a peace keeping mission of seventeen thousand soldiers that have been in the DRC for seven years at a very high price without corresponding results.
The genocidal forces continued to operate, destabilizing both the host country and Rwanda.
This situation has now changed fundamentally because Rwanda and DRC both now recognize that we must work together to find answers to this problem.
When Rwanda and the DRC undertook a joint military operation against the negative forces earlier this year, some skeptics expressed the fear that things were going to get worse – and that there was going to be a humanitarian catastrophe.
This could not have been further from the truth.
The results were to speak for themselves – in the brief period of the joint operations, we seriously weakened the command and control structure of these forces; nearly one thousand combatants and over five thousand civilians were repatriated to Rwanda; most significantly, confidence at leadership and citizen levels at the successful Congolese and Rwandan collaboration has drastically increased.
Following the achievements of the joint operations with our counterparts in the DRC, MONUC has now joined the Congolese armed forces to continue the fight against the destructive forces in Eastern DRC.
On the political and diplomatic front, we have now exchanged ambassadors with the DRC – paving the way for further efforts in the more important realms of economic growth and development – including joint projects in energy, environment, trade and investment.
We realize that there is still a lot of work to be done, and we can continue to count on the international community but this time around with a serious focus on dealing with the root causes of the problem in the sub-region.
There is no doubt that things can change for the better in this regard, if we continue with the right approach.
We appreciate many global leaders, including the United Nations Secretary General, that have been highly supportive of these efforts.
Let me conclude by restating that today’s Africa is increasingly one that seeks its own solutions as well as different relationship with the international community – one based on mutual respect, trust, and a collaborative outlook.
We acknowledge that our continent still faces considerable developmental challenges compounded by the ongoing global economic crisis – but our national, regional and continental institutions are working diligently to find appropriate and responsible solutions for greater peace and security.
Our sub-region and the African continent should remain focused on the bigger objective of socioeconomic transformation – while paying attention to strategic and corrective measures required to preempt factors that undermine this vision and agenda.
I am most certain that we will continue to make progress in our quest for pushing the boundaries of peace, reconciliation and development on our continent.
I thank you for your kind attention.