Maputo, 25 October 2016
Thank you very much Mr President for the kind introduction, and for the warm hospitality. I am very pleased to be back in Maputo for this long overdue visit.
We are happy for the opportunity to deepen the friendship between Rwanda and Mozambique, and revitalise cooperation, in areas of mutual interest for our countries and our continent.
Today’s discussion reflects this desire to share experiences and learn from each other.
Rwanda and Mozambique share a history of liberation struggle. We also have in common, the determination to build an independent and prosperous future for our citizens.
The scale and depth of devastation, that Rwanda experienced in 1994 led many to believe that our country would never be viable again. For the last twenty-two years, most of our energy has been absorbed by nation-building.
This is why we are often asked how Rwanda was able to recover, rebuild, and make new progress. It is a difficult question to answer for several reasons.
First of all, we don’t consider it a miracle. It’s a set of things people can do, a picture of what human beings are capable of, both positive and negative. That’s the story of Rwanda.
We took many risks and improvised solutions as we went along. And many of these answers may not be transferable to other contexts.
More importantly, while we continue to advance, we know that we are not yet where we want to be, and the modest achievements we register, must be safeguarded.
But a few principles, anchored in universal values that we all share, have been consistent.
I don’t want to give a long academic lecture, but allow me to offer a few thoughts, to start our conversation here today.
First, we defined our priorities, based on the needs and interests of Rwandans, and we stuck by them.
At each point, we asked ourselves: Will this unite Rwandans, or divide us further? Will it contribute to making Rwanda a dignified and prosperous nation for all?
We also worked hard to bring our partners along, as opposed to responding to plans made elsewhere, that would ultimately benefit neither Rwandans, nor even those supporters.
An example to illustrate this thinking is the decision our government made to invest public resources into major commercial projects.
These included, to name but a few, the five-star hotel, now Serena in Kigali, which some of you may know, and later on Rwandair, our national carrier.
These decisions were made despite the objections of partners and bankers, who did not see a business case. And maybe traditional, that’s how it should be seen.
But we saw it differently and learned important lessons. The naysayers were right in a narrow commercial sense but completely wrong in a broader view of Rwanda’s context and economic future.
We believe strongly in the power of free markets and entrepreneurship, and the state has no role running commercially viable businesses.
However, at that stage no private money was willing to come in because of perceived risk.
For us, these assets are like utilities. We knew that there would be no immediate profit on these enterprises but ultimately, we’re looking to profit as a country.
Now that we have them, I can let you know that, first of all they have paid off, especially hotels for which we had acquired loans to set up. We see them serving everyone and businesses are making money from using the services.
The second principle we relied on to move forward as a country, was mobilising all Rwandans to participate in building a new society, completely different from what we had known before.
This process could not even begin, without bringing back home over three million Rwandans who had been compelled into exile, by the former government forces.
It also meant delivering justice for genocide victims and survivors while fostering reconciliation among all Rwandans because we had no choice but to live together again.
The solution to this unprecedented justice challenge was Gacaca, our community court system as of old, which went to the core of institution-building in Rwanda.
Through Gacaca, Rwanda was able to try two million cases that would have taken hundreds of years to try in conventional courts, in less than 10 years. Most importantly, it resulted in a more harmonious society.
From this experience, we learned the importance of tackling the hardest things first. Once Rwandans saw that we could deal with the legacy of genocide and were living side by side again, other goals which had seemed impossible became more realistic.
We also learned how to find solutions through dialogue and consensus. Bringing people together regularly, while investing the time required to answer questions about new changes, and having them own the process, had a tremendous impact.
This drive for inclusiveness necessarily meant empowering previously marginalised groups, in particular women.
In practice, ensuring the broadest possible participation of Rwandans meant that everyone who subscribed to the agreed constitutional order, which is defined by national unity, had a place in the new Rwanda.
Finally, from the beginning up to this day, we have been working to change mindsets, not just laws and policies.
It is indispensable for each and every Rwandan to reflect on our collective experience, to get us thinking differently about the kind of Rwandans we aspire to be and country we want to have.
The choices we faced were absolutely fundamental.
For example, on national identity, are we Rwandans first and foremost or something else?
On service delivery and accountability, do officials serve the public or will we tolerate it being the other way around?
And on the quest for prosperity, is every citizen responsible for our well-being or do the state or foreign donors owe us a living?
These choices involved extensive dialogue and consensus-building among citizens.
But once agreed upon, we were able to set about building the institutions and systems necessary for implementation and tracking progress toward our goals.
Even as we were focused on healing, and reorganising internally, we have always believed in the importance of integration, both economic and political, with partner states in our region and across Africa.
Our visit here is in keeping with Rwanda and Mozambique’s shared commitment to go beyond national interests to continental unity, to bring African countries and people together.
We do this not only because it is a good idea but because it is essential for taking full advantage of the benefits of globalisation, for the advancement of our citizens.
Mr President, I wish to once again thank you, and also thank the distinguished audience for your kind attention, and I look forward to our conversation.