Speech by H.E Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, at the Unity Club “Intsinzi” party – Kigali, Saturday, 16th October, 2010.
Leaders of our country in your different capacities,
Dear guests, friends of Rwanda,
I would like to first thank Unity Club for two things: For being there and continuing to fulfill its objectives as desired. Second, I would like to say thank you for this Award. I also thank all those who gave their testimonies.
Let me expound a little bit on the significant roles of Unity Club. Among other things, Unity Club helped us to build better understanding on the basis of our good culture. Ministers who left cabinet were retained in ‘cabinet’ in Unity Club which shows that a leader may no longer be in leadership but this does not take away one’s value and one can play a role in several other ways.
Concerning this award, I have received many which is indeed a good thing. However, I sometimes tend to think that this is too much, but when I come to think of it, I realize that these awards are for all of us Rwandans and that they are only in my name because I represent Rwandans. When I look at where we are coming from, what we have gone through and what we have achieved and what we hope to achieve, I get convinced that this is well deserved after all.
We have heard a lot of testimonies although I think if they had time, those giving testimonies would have been able to adequately expound and elaborate their testimonies in such a way that we could see that all that has happened resulted from collective effort. In a few words, I should say that I was quite lucky although I also encountered many problems in almost equal measure. As our saying goes, where there are problems there are also solutions – but all brought about by people in a collective way. Despite the tribulations that we grew up facing, there were also solutions. I believe that culture and upbringing plays a big foundational role. I was lucky to have good parents. My father died when I was aged 15 but what I remember is that both my father and mother taught us discipline and went beyond words and enforced it. They always trained us to be truthful and whoever would go against this would always be in trouble.
I remember where we used to live in different refugee camps; Tooro, Rukinga, Gahunge…there was one time when at the age of 12 as I was walking with my father and passed a place where local Batooro were trapping animals with hunting nets. As we watched, a small game jumped out of the forest and landed into the net and was killed by the hunters. After watching this incident my father drew my attention to an aspect of justice and told me that had that animal escaped those hunters and run into our house, it would not have been appropriate to kill it or hand it over to the hunters. The moral of my father’s story is not only about justice but it also means that it is not good to eat what you have not worked for.
As (Col. Rtd. Dr.) Karemera said in his testimony – although he did not say everything, it is true Karemera and I know each very well and I used to go to visit him when he was doing Medicine at Makerere when I was involved in other things. As refugees we used to have conflicts with local people because they used to look down upon us because we were refugees. I used to tell my colleagues that it was useless fighting with those people because they were not the cause of our problems – they were not the cause of our situation. The war was supposed to be directed at the origin of the problem because those people were still keen on making people remain refugees and continued oppressing those who were inside the country.
I would like to say that in whatever we do we should do it in line with our culture and values. We should not let anyone dictate to us how we should live and how much value we should have for ourselves. Our culture already teaches us to have values – that is why we should draw from our culture to cultivate our values but ensure that they are in agreement with prevailing times. No one should expect someone else to give them value because this is wrong. No one has the right to bestow value upon somebody else. It was wrong yesterday, it is wrong today and it will be wrong tomorrow. But it should be known that this cannot be achieved without truth and justice. In order to have values, you have to give value to others.
Leaders should endeavor to see all this in the context of their roles and then the collective role. This comes through making choices – how much are we keen on having value? If people fail to play both their role and the collective role, the result is individualism and therefore the speed towards attaining values is hampered.
If we take the example of Unity Club which brings together different people who make various contributions but without them, Unity Club is just that- a club. The strength of Unity Club is the people. You could also think about this at the level of the whole nation. How can we transform this country? We are all here for a purpose- to work hand in hand with Rwandans who have different problems in order to find solutions. You could become complacent and work to achieve a few things and deceive yourself that you have accomplished your goals. I always tell people that you may build a good house and surround it with all modern security technology to ensure that there is no intrusion, but if you are surrounded by needy people, you have absolutely nothing- you are constructing structures on sand. This is why we should strive to make collective efforts if we have to achieve what we want. We need to raise our collective dignity and value because Rwanda’s dignity will be judged collectively.
Today some of us are Presidents, Ministers….but there will come a time when we will no longer be in these positions. When this happens, it should not be the end of our role to advocate for the dignity of Rwandans. For what we have done along the way and achieved together, the most important thing that I will regard as the most significant achievement will be to see that there is continuity in what we have achieved when someone else comes in as President.
I have been hearing about debates that are based on what this country has achieved and I have not had time to take part but once I do, I will say what I think. People have been asking me whether I might seek a third term but the truth is that if you seek a third term you will also be interested in a fourth, a fifth….but my problem is not a third mandate. My concern is “for what reason should I seek a third term?” I remember telling people that what they think justifies the need for a third term is the very reason that should stop me from seeking an extension of my mandate. If the Kagame people have been talking about in the testimonies we heard has been a leader for all this time but could not find somebody else to replace him, then he is not a good leader after all. This should be considered a failure on my part because part of my responsibilities as a leader was to be able to find people who can take over.
In all the good things you have said about me in your testimonies I know that in my life there have been failures and successes, but if you add the negatives and the positives, the balance would be a positive – which is a good thing. What I want people to focus on is not whether Kagame should continue or not but continuity. Rwanda should continue on a progressive trend whether there is Kagame or somebody else. All of us should be able to fight for the dignity and value of Rwanda and Rwandans and demand for delivery of what we want from whoever will come after Kagame. What we need to do now is to ensure that we have a system that allows us to ask for what we want and get it. Otherwise those foreigners and journalists who keep asking me whether I will leave office are just saying nonsense.
Sometimes one cannot help being angry and ask them who they are to feel tired of me. You know, Africans have been all dressed in one dress which was now taken away such that we are now fighting to cover ourselves. Those who want to continue being nude should continue doing so but we will not because nobody has the right to dress us and undress us whenever they want.
I ask you to be ready because the seven years ahead – they are no longer seven mind you- which are in addition to the seven years that we have just finished, we should be able to build mechanisms that will enable continuity. In my policies, my character, my interaction with you, I don’t need an extension of my mandate. All I need – and what all of you need is continuity of progress. Therefore, we cannot accept someone to come and reverse all this progress that we have made because this would be the worst blunder. If we fail to choose well, some of us would be forced to go back – if we still have some energy left – and fight. Yes, we will not accept that somebody comes and messes us up. But I want to say this in the context of telling our young generation that they should learn through this process so that they should be the ones to take this up even when it comes to struggling for our rights and justice.
All these stories you hear – that the Rwanda army has committed genocide in Congo, people assessing governance in African nations…we can teach some of them governance. There are people who have money to spend on everything and anything……….this Mo Ibrahim foundation…they even put up a fund to bribe African leaders to leave power…I mean, are we that bad? Must we be bribed to leave power? What money is that? It smells! Why don’t they create it for Europe? Why don’t they create it for Latin America? Why don’t they create it for Asia? This is what they want to look at Africa. This is an act that is demeaning and I am not one of those who can accept to be treated like this. I don’t even see how any of us would sleep and be happy to be treated like this. We should be able to have the courage and look people in the eye and tell them “you are no better than me.” Some of these people who are suffering the consequences of bad governance are the one who come here to teach us how to govern. We have developed countries that don’t have governments in place for a long time because they cannot put one in place and come to talk about political space, media….this is utter rubbish.
Sometimes we are polite because of the situation we are in. If these people had a good culture they would understand that if you give someone something – like some of them give us money- they would understand that it is not appropriate to give somebody something and again follow up that money and remind them that if they don’t behave you will withdraw the money. This is not there in Rwandan culture. Some of these people don’t have a culture, let alone government. Why don’t you young people put up a fight and say No? You must agree to disagree, you must have an opinion. There has to be something you call your own and defend it. Even in politics, we can differ, we can quarrel, we can argue with Pio and Damascene but in the end we are all Rwandans – we belong together.
We really need to celebrate many things including overcoming many challenges and we should be a proud people. We should not accept to be stepped on – please. No one should come causing stampede. When you come here you will find nice, welcoming people but who also need to be respected. This is what Rwanda needs.
Thank you for all the kind words, the cooperation and dedication. We appreciate our friends and partners from outside Rwanda who have been part of the story that we are trying to write for our country. Rwandans must always be fighters for rights and dignity. We must stand up and express ourselves and continue to make progress even after some of us who have been part of this progress are not there.