Kigali, 6 September 2010
Excellencies, Heads of State and Government;
Excellencies, Heads of Delegations;
Leaders of Rwanda’s High Institutions;
Friends of Rwanda;
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all. I extend a special greeting to my sisters and brothers, Heads of State and Government, who graciously accepted our invitation to be part of this occasion.
Excellencies, your presence here is a shining example of African solidarity. On behalf of the people of Rwanda, I thank you most sincerely and, through you, express our unwavering unity with fellow Africans across the continent.
Among us also are friends of Rwanda from different parts of the world. We appreciate your friendship and support, and consider you valuable partners in our development journey.
Fellow Rwandans – I stand before you greatly honoured by your renewed trust and confidence; and mindful of the responsibility you have bestowed upon me, to lead our country in this new mandate, and the new challenges that come with it. I pledge to do my best, as I have always done, in order to meet your expectations.
One month ago, Rwandans made their choice in the most emphatic and unequivocal manner. They freely exercised their inalienable right to make decisions for themselves, especially those that most affect their lives. It is this will of our people that is the sole basis for the authority of government.
For more than a decade and a half now, the people of this country have increasingly come together as one, to determine and shape their destiny. They demonstrated their willingness to put national interest above all else, through a clear vote for unity, reconciliation and socio-economic transformation.
In the months and weeks preceding our elections, there was an onslaught of bad press reports from sections of the media and human rights organisations, that deliberately misrepresented the situation in Rwanda, and sought to give the impression that our country was, so to speak, falling apart. This led some to expect an eruption of violence, in line with the prejudiced way in which African affairs are viewed.
But Rwandans know what it means to sink to the lowest level possible, and we have learnt lessons the hard way. Over time and with progress made, Rwandans have redefined themselves and are determined to forge ahead. They made their point defiantly by campaigning enthusiastically, and voting in peace.
The experience of starting from a very low base, has shown us that rapid progress can only be achieved when the people for whom it is intended, are mobilised and participate fully in development efforts. That, in itself, is a democratic process.
As a result, we have seen tangible improvement of living conditions, expansion of access to education and health services for all. Our system of decentralisation, as well as investments in information and communication technologies are giving Rwandans a greater voice and opening them up to the world. All these factors are empowering citizens in a way that has not been seen in our recent history.
Why then should there be a contradiction between development and democracy? In fact, we hold the view that you cannot have sustainable socio-economic development without corresponding growth in democratic governance. And, in turn, political rights without a matching reduction of poverty and improved quality of life would be meaningless.
There is no doubt that we face many problems in Africa, and the biggest one of all, is not the lack of democracy, but poverty, and the dependence that comes with underdevelopment. It is this situation of dependence that allows some governments, and even NGOs – who are not accountable to anyone – to think they have a right to dictate the conduct of legitimate state actors.
African governments are often accused of being corrupt and not responsive to the needs of our populations. But when we do what every government is expected to do – deliver services; instil accountability, transparency and efficiency; build social and economic infrastructure; and raise living standards – the goalposts change, and we are then accused of forcing progress on the people and of being repressive. Furthermore, these external actors turn around, and promote the ideas of adventurers who have no legitimacy, and who do not relate to the majority of the people, and deserve nothing more than to be ignored.
This duplicity cannot be construed as confusion or lack of understanding. Rather, it is evidence of hypocrisy and a patronising attitude towards our entire continent, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and underdevelopment, continues to deprive our people of their dignity, and which Africans must continue to stand up against.
What we really need are more tools and resources to implement ideas that are relevant to our circumstances – this is what partnership is all about.
The most successful societies are those that have achieved a certain level of national cohesion and rally around common national interests. This is why we have found it important to revive the cultural bonds on which our society was founded, and used our energies and resources to restore a dignified nation.
We are constantly told that our politics should be organised along ethnic lines, ignoring the fact that these so-called ethnic divisions are not inherently Rwandan political classifications, but rather colonial constructs.
This approach may work elsewhere, but in our case, divisive politics and extremism led to the tragedy we witnessed in our country not long ago. And this is the reason Rwandans voted to reject this kind politics.
Of course, pursuing national unity does not blind us to the value of diversity and the benefits that come with it. Similar to other countries, it simply means that our common interests supersede what separates us.
Our practical experience has taught us to deal with the toughest challenges. We have had to manage countless orphans and supported hundreds of thousands of widows; repatriated millions of refugees and settled them back into society; reintegrated thousands of soldiers who served in the genocidal government; administered a difficult restorative justice process, which has built bonds between victims and perpetrators of genocide. And all of this would not have been possible without a political system of where power is shared to unite rather than divide.
Given this background, it is difficult for us to comprehend those who want to give us lessons on inclusion, tolerance and human rights.
Habitual critics of Rwanda may say what they want, but they will neither dictate the direction we take as a nation, nor will they make a dent in our quest for self-determination. And we therefore categorically reject all their false accusations.
This does not spare us from constantly looking at ourselves critically. We need to continue to govern effectively, provide expected public goods and empower our citizens. Our motivation and reward for staying the course of the choices we make, is to witness the transformation the lives of our peoples.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
We are moving to the next stage of development and prosperity. If what we have achieved together so far is any indication, even better awaits us in the years to come.
We will continue to ensure food security; provide better education and health for all; promote trade and investment; and build modern infrastructure that responds to the direct needs of our citizens, including access to clean water, and energy to power homes, schools, health centres and industry.
We will also promote economic and political participation of all our citizens, as well as deepen empowerment of our women and girls; and ensure that our people have the skills necessary to succeed in a competitive world.
We will advance regional integration, and nurture good relations with our neighbours, because we share the similar aspirations and continue to work for the wider integration of our continent.
In conclusion, fellow Rwandans, I make this solemn pledge to you: together, we shall tackle the job ahead of us with courage and resolve, in order to consolidate our achievements and build a country in which every Rwandan exercises their responsibility and has equal opportunities.
Let us march together, in solidarity with the rest of our continent. Let us stand tall, tap into the rich tapestry of our societies, and build a nation and a continent we are proud to call ours.
I thank you all for your kind attention.