Kigali, 28 January 2012
David Malinga Doya, Bloomberg: On14thJanuary the military court sentenced four former officials to at least 20 years prison and today the police has issued an international alert for their arrest and is also calling for their extradition. But we know that these extradition calls have been here before but nothing has come of it. What is the Government going to do more in its quest to bring these individuals to justice – that is Gahima, Nyamwasa, Rudasingwa and Karegeya?
President Kagame: Unfortunately, that is the most irrelevant issue that the country is concerned with. But I am talking about the four individuals being least relevant, not the justice process.The justice process had to take its course as it did and this is the case where our country or other countries do what they are supposed to do. We do what we are supposed to do but we can’t tell other countries what they are supposed to do. Trying these individuals is doing what our justice system is supposed to do. The response to that by other countries in relation to this justice process is the business of those countries and I really can’t do much about it. Our country only has to do its part. I really don’t know what more to say because our part is done, our justice system intends to pursue them. Our country works with many other countries on many issues including matters on justice. If countries will respond in whatever way, it’s up to them. We will continue to pursue justice as far as the cases are concerned.
Albert Rudatsimburwa, CONTACT FM: What is your take on what is going on with the post of the EAC secretariat and what do you think should be going on there, also with the AU and the situation in Ivory Coast?
President Kagame: On the first one, the EAC position of Secretary General. First of all I don’t know how much of what I’ve heard in the media is true. I don’t know how official that is because as far as I know, what is official is that the position is vacant. But what I haven’t been told officially is that there is a dispute as to the process, these are only things I’m reading in the newspapers. I hear people making such pronouncements but, as far as I’m concerned, nothing has been communicated to us officially in that regard. But if we were to go by what is all over the news, there are some things that are clear; this is not an elective office or a post for which people have to compete. It is rotational, country after country. So, I don’t know how that is going to change when there haven’t even been discussions on changing that. My expectation is that rules will be followed and, to my knowledge, it is the turn of Rwanda or Burundi. If things are to change, then they also follow certain rules. There are certain ways to change things, so I see no problem. Whatever issues come up, we are well placed to handle it – I mean the East African countries. We will resolve any issue that arises and continue with the good work that the East African Community is doing.
On Ivory Coast side, you have been following what has been happening from a distance – I mean geographically – just like I have. But being on the continent, certainly we get concerned. It’s an African problem, and the distance I was talking about is in terms of being able to know the details of what is happening. We are able to tell that some of the things certainly are of great concern, not only in Ivory Coast itself, but in the ECOWAS region and the continent. As we follow the many efforts by African Union, UN, and ECOWAS, we are waiting to see what comes out of those efforts. We will always be supportive of efforts that are intended to resolve such problems. At the same time, though, efforts from outside may not necessarily deliver. I think the people with the problem will have to be courageous enough to do some of the things that need to be done in order for the problem to be resolved. The Prime Minster of Kenya, Mr Raila Odinga, has been appointed by the African Union to go and help in the resolution of the conflict there. But he cannot not deliver peace or resolve the problems until the Ivoirians themselves are responsive to some of the requirements. Nor will the UN just bring a solution to their problems and deliver it. No, all these are just efforts to help and we all want to help and we can support these efforts, either through the AU or the UN, but I think the Ivoirians have a problem on their hands and they have to be at the forefront of dealing with it themselves.
Marcel Museminari, Business Daily: My question concerns issues of good Governance.There were acts recently that seriously destabilized the lives of the people, committed by local leaders with the excuse of eradicating grass-thatched houses (Nyakatsi). There are cases where women who had just delivered and newlyweds were left homeless and in the cold after their houses were demolished without any conscience. Even in this city, there are people living in houses thatched with iron sheets but it doesn’t mean that they are living better than those living in grass-thatched houses because these iron sheets are too old and pose a health hazard. In my opinion, iron sheets should also be eradicated and instead people are encouraged to use tile-roofing. Apparently there was a systemic failure during the eradication of grass-thatched houses. My question is: who should people turn to when their rights are violated? What are the plans for ‘mudugudisation’ (organized cluster settlement) so that people can live without any concerns in the future?
President Kagame: I think there is a confusion here which is making things difficult to understand. I would like to clarify this in three ways. First, the move to get people out of grass-thatched houses and into decent houses is a government policy that is quite justifiable. We would like all Rwandans to live a better life. Second, grass-thatched houses are temporary abodes and moving people into better houses is part of Government’s rural settlement policy. Third, the problem could be in implementation of this exercise but not in the policy itself. There is no doubt that the goal and intention of this policy is positive.
Settling people in ‘Midugudu’ is also a Government policy that people should not have a problem with and we will continue to implement it. As for people committing mistakes during implementation of these policies, this is not a new thing. These should be punished like all wrongdoers. But it should be understood that people are not moved out of grass-thatched houses and settled in houses covered in old and dilapidated iron sheets. I concur with you on the fact that even people living in old houses – covered with old iron sheets – should also move out of them and live in better houses. As to wrongs, this world is full of wrongdoers. People commit different crimes in different places. People kill others and take their property; leaders oppress people. What should be done is to follow up and apprehend them.
So many positive developments have taken place and people have been helped to construct better houses. A joint team has been formed, including the police and army, and that will be able to help in the implementation of this exercise and make it better and faster. This good policy should not be overshadowed by the deeds of a few wrongdoers. These small stains will definitely be removed and people should heed advice to live in better houses. There are people who have the means to construct better houses but adamantly want to live in grass thatched houses. They are also committing mistakes. There are also those who live in two countries during different periods and therefore can’t have permanent houses, especially in areas along the border with Burundi. This is also a problem that should be dealt with.
Burasa Jean Gorbert, Rushyashya Newspaper: After your election, everybody expected that you would make changes to the Government but this did not happen. Recently you asked people in the Diaspora to come home and participate in nation-building. Is there a plan to change Government to allow people participate?
President Kagame: I see no connection between my call to the Diaspora and changing of Government and contributing to national building. I was not asking them to come and join cabinet……
Burasa: The connection comes in where people in the Diasporarequested that they also be given space to express themselves on nation-building instead of having to listen to Ministers sent to them
President Kagame: I still see no connection between having to change Government and allowing people in the Diaspora space to express their opinions and ideas on nation-building. But I think I have understood what you want to say. I think what you want to say can be clarified in two ways; I met with close to 2600 people and I encouraged them to come home. There is no way you can ask 2600 people to come and join cabinet…but people in the Diaspora do contribute to our country in many ways and I always encourage them to do so whenever I meet them. But your fundamental question concerns change in Government which did not happen after elections. Change in Government comes with a reason. There were no changes because the Government had performed well and there was no need to change. Those in charge of effecting changes look at many things and do so when it is necessary.
Steve Terril, AFP: Yesterday this woman, Ingabire Victoire, was in court and she told the judge that he couldn’t make a decision without your approval and he was not happy. Also in relation to that, her friend – her former attorney Peter Erlinder— is telling the press in America that he can’t possibly come to Rwanda because for sure he will be killed. So I would like to perhaps give you the opportunity to respond to these questions.
President Kagame: Sometimes I’m asked questions that should be asked to someone else. How do I react to a question between Ingabire and the judge? And how do I responding to what Ingabire says? It’s a problem for me. Ingabire says whatever she wants to say! Should I be exchanging accusations with Ingabire? First of all, she is in court, I’m not. I’m not a judge, I’m not being tried and I’m not a witness. But I think the judge had the right to be angry because Ingabire should instead be answering the questions that are being asked to her…. (Journalist interjects with “but can the judge make a decision you don’t approve of, is that ok?”) Yes. But that’s what makes me sick about the whole question and that I don’t need to answer that. I have nothing to do with it. In any case, the reason I wouldn’t even need to answer that is that I’m not even sure that whatever answer I give would satisfy Ingabire or even the one who thinks Ingabire is asking the right question. So, I don’t want to waste my time on that. Erlinder by the way was here, so why wasn’t he killed when he was here? He was in the hands of those killers. Maybe he will get out of their hands the way he did in the first place! But, maybe Erlinder also deserves to be asked some of the questions. I don’t know what he represents, either here or there (USA). I don’t know what type of person he is and I shouldn’t waste my time on either Ingabire or Erlinder.
David Keyio Musoke, REUTERS: Congratulations on winning last year’s presidential elections! My question is about Laurent Nkunda. He continues to be locked up in Rwanda, as President of Rwanda wouldn’t you wish to have a speedy trial so that he can be extradited back to Congo? The reason I’m asking this question is: don’t you see it is creating a diplomatic nightmare between the two countries? I don’t know if they have asked for him. It looks like everyone is forgetting about him; what is his fate basically?
President Kagame: First of all this is a problem we have on our hands that shouldn’t have been our problem in the first place. I wish we didn’t even have Nkunda here at all, or the Nkunda case with us. What I am aware of is that we have been trying our best to resolve that issue with all parties concerned: Nkunda himself and the government of DRC. We have even tried to bring in other parties to try and help so that we see how to resolve the problem. It has taken long, but not because we are doing nothing about it. It’s probably because of the complexities of the case itself. Still, the effort has resulted into some resolutions of other problems. Some problems were addressed because of that case but the case is a problem in itself. We have moved from one situation to another and now, indeed, we have to find other ways. Whether I would wish to see a speedy conclusion of this case, that is true. That is why I say I wish we didn’t have the case at all, right from the beginning. It is one thing to resolve the case, and another to just wish it away. If you want a speedy process to resolve a case like that, that’s what you work towards and that’s what we are doing. But you can’t wish for a speedy conclusion of the case by simply wishing it away. We can’t just close our eyes and wish it away and forget about it. Somehow it lives with us. So, I think that’s where we are right now. The Minister of Justice is here, I don’t know whether he has anything to say about that. He has been working with his counterpart in DRC to find a solution. The fact that they are even working together is proof that what you were thinking of – resulting into a diplomatic nightmare – is not going to happen because people are working together to solve the case.
Journalist interjects: “I would like to prompt you, Excellency, to tell us what the complexities of the case are”?
President Kagame: I think you know it. You are talking about that possibly being a nightmare. I think that’s because you are referring to the complexity of the case.
Kim Kamasa, Izuba rirashe: My question concerns population growth. Statistics show that the population of this country is increasing at the annual rate of 300 people per year, which is 3million people in 10 years, which is quite alarming, considering that our land stays the same. What is Government doing to curb this?
President Kagame: Well, this is an issue that we have always labored to explain but apparently people have not been following. There is a lot being done in connection to this. There are sensitization efforts on family planning,carried out in different ways. On top of sensitization there are actions that are carried out. People have been asked to have children that they will be able to look after and numbers have been set to a maximum number of children to avoid overburdening national capacity. Sensitization campaigns have intensified and women and girls have been sensitized more because they are at the center of the whole scenario. The response is good and the message is being understood. If you go out there and ask anyone you meet, they will tell you about the family planning program.
Faith Mbabazi, ORINFOR: My question concerns the economy.Reports like Doing Business and Economic Growth Index which were released last year indicated that the Rwandan economy was growing at a commendable pace. What is being done to sustain this growth, considering that in the past three weeks we have seen inflation tending to rise?
President Kagame: I would like to say that inflation will always be unstable.The most important thing is to make sure that it is controlled and kept within such a limit that it will not have any effect on the economy. When you look at the economy of Rwanda, it is hinged on agriculture and a lot has been achieved on this front, despite the fact that we are yet to reach where we want to be. The country has been experiencing good agricultural yields but we want to sustain and increase this, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of nutritional value for the people. The fact that there is still room to improve means that we are still young and growing and we will not relent. But there are other aspects of economic growth that are doing well. The construction industry is doing quite well and contributing a lot to the economy because it provides employment to the people. There is also the service industry which is also booming and propping up economic growth. Good governance is also a pillar of economic growth because it renders sustainability to all other aspects of economic growth. The facilitation offered to doing business is also a way of enhancing economic growth by making it easy for investments to take place and conversely lead to the creation of jobs available for citizens. We are continuously seeking to increase our capacity to clear the ground for so many things to happen and so that we can widen our economic base and provide the necessary utilities and infrastructure.
Shyaka Kanuma, FOCUS NEWSPAPER: Mr. President recently Wikileaks exposed the French judge jean Louis Bruguere as someone who is not as independent as he claims, when he launched his arrest warrants against officers and officials of the government of Rwanda. This might also apply to Fernando Andreu, the Spanish judge with similar inclinations. Now Wikileaks has exposed these people for what they were, ‘political operatives masquerading as judges’. What do we do as countries that are always targeted by these people? For example the so-called principle of universal jurisdiction, what does this exposure by Wikileaks contribute to the fight by the targeted people of the world in the future? And I think Rwanda has a particular part in answering this question.
President Kagame: I may want to link that to the question asked by the AFP person about Erlinder. I don’t know who is worse or if they are the same: Erlinder, Brugiere, in a way this question you have brought up based on Wikileaks exposes the real problem. It is revealing: a certain conversation, certain things that have been happening. This means this issue about the case brought up by Bruguere and others has actually been known in the international community system because they are discussing it, not only secretly but outside. They act as if this is a case that should hold! You see the double standards and the hypocrisy here? It is known by the same people who tend to believe in universal jurisdiction. Since it was said by Bruguere, we must respect it. They are the same people secretly talking about how this thing is false. That has been revealed by wiki leaks, hasn’t it? It is the same case with Erlinder, he is just a pretender, a genocidaire. The fellow is masked in international justice. I hear he is a renowned lawyer, professor of this, so we must respect that. The falsehood he rides on doesn’t matter, since it is Africa or Rwanda. Let them be treated as such. It is an issue! That is why I asked why anyone should be asking me about Ingabire saying this to a judge, about Erlinder saying if he does this he will die. First of all, why don’t you ask yourself, who is Erlinder? What does he represent? Or, in real terms, Ingabire and her background and what she is accused of, why does somebody take her out of this and make her a symbol of something else? Rwandans by the way don’t see it like that. It’s only people from another world that see her as something else to Rwandans. it’s not Rwandans who matter , it does not matter that they should be giving their view on what they think about Erlinder or about Ingabire. No, they feel it’s they who matter because that’s what the outside world wants! And because of how it looks at Rwanda and Africa, this should be the case. The Wikileaks issue you’ve brought up is just an example, whether you want to see it or not. It simply explains the problem and that’s why I’m surprised many times that some of my brothers and sisters don’t see how they are looked down upon and held in competent. This so called outside world, this international this, the media, Human Rights Watch: it’s about the politics of people in this world, thinking they are the ones who decide for others. They are the ones who know better even what should be good for others. You have no place in it, until you give yourself a place in it. This is what Rwanda has been facing all along. It’s like saying you Rwandans, what are you saying? You are not supposed to be deciding for yourselves, here is the story we have created for you, this is the storyline. You must treat yourselves like this because that is the way we want to see you. This is how the Ingabires are the models of civilization, of democracy. The Rwandans who are saying anything different are not free. The one who is free is Ingabire, and she is suffering because she is expressing her freedom. So she stands out from the 11 million Rwandans as the symbol of what Rwanda should be. The 11 million Rwandans are not. This is the problem! And you Rwandans, whether journalists or whatever, you are just kidding, you either decide to stand up for yourselves and your dignity, or you just go and lick the boots of these people who want to make you something else, who want to make the choice for you. Musoke was talking about elections. Outside t is no, how can 11 million people be supporting this man? It’s not the opinion of the 11 million people that matters, or the 5 million or so who voted. No, they don’t matter. What matters is the opinion of somebody with a microphone from outside to say this should happen like this…Ingabire is the one who is right and not over 5 million people. This is the issue of the debate people must hold and that you should be talking about. Bruguere stands there and indicts people no matter how fraudulent the whole thing is, and without question it is respected because he is from where he comes from. The people he is indicting are these Rwandans, whether they are President or Minister, they mean nothing. It is Bruguere who matters, not these ones. This is the world we are dealing with. You must wake up and understand.
Interjection by journalist- Focus newspaper: Mr. President, my question also: much as you’ve answered it, from here do we have a situation where people who go and make wrongful accusations based on their political interests, once they are exposed for who they are, do we then extract an apology from them? Do we make sure that this thing doesn’t happen again? What do we do to make them even respect us more like for example the Mucyo report.
President Kagame: You have the answer: the Mucyo report is the answer. How effective it is in changing the attitude is a different matter. And asking them to apologize – they will not apologize. Even if they apologized, they would apologize by word of mouth but will continue to do the same things to you. So, what you concentrate on is making sure that you protect yourse by the very actions you must carry out to protect yourself. That is, building solid, firm institutions; being aware of the problem and the magnitude of this problem; and acting in such a way that some of the things you do don’t create the weaknesses for you that people will use to attack you. What does that mean? What it means is that we just need to go about our business of educating our people, making sure they have jobs, that they are doing those things that create selfrespect for themselves and the demand for global respect that they deserve to have. You just work your way through. You don’t wait for anybody to bring you respect and give it to you as a gift. You must do things that make you respectable. You don’t go asking people, “No please, don’t do an injustice to me”, or “I deserve dignity, I need to be respected”. That’s the easier part, it doesn’t give you anything, but even if it does, you still benefit from what you are doing for yourself. That’s why I don’t care much about what some of these fellows say. I look into the eyes of these Rwandans and I say, “Do you feel we are making good progress together? Are you happy with this?” But about one person saying he or she is not happy, Ii will just ignore you because these people are the best judges.
Ramba Mark, Umuseke: Your Excellency, you said thatfood security is a pillar of development and a fundamental human right. However, currently, the weather has not been favorable and most parts of the country are experiencing drought and a good example is Kirehe. How is the country prepared to avert imminent famine?
President Kagame: I don’t agree with you that the situation is as serious as you put it. It is true that the situation is not turning out as well as we had projected but the situation is not alarming at all. You gave the example of Kirehe only but if you look at the national situation, the harvests of maize were not 100% as we expected but we expect around 75%. Beans harvests were affected and it is expected that there will be a reduction to around 30-40%. There are other foodstuffs like rice and others that were not affected much. The only problem is that we were not able to hit our targets but we don’t expect far-reaching effects
Regarding what should be done, strategies to address this. What used to happen before is that the entire nation used to suffer from hunger and if it happened that one part had enough food, it would go to waste while the rest of the country was starving. The short term strategy now is that we look at how much food is available and where it is so that we can distribute it to regions that have no food at all in different parts of the country. In the long term we want to do away with the dependence on rainfall. We cannot always be at the mercy of the weather if national food security is to be sustainable all year round.
Nkusi Leon, Umusanzu: My question concerns Mutuelle de Sante.Contribution used to be 1000Frw per year but this has been increased to 3000Frw. There are complaints that this is too much money for the ordinary Rwandan to afford. The suggestion is that instead of increasing the contributions for Mutuelle de Sante whose affiliates are mainly poor people, the increase should instead be effected on private health insurance providers.
President Kagame: There is no need for this at all. If the contributions to private health insurance companies should be increased, this can be done and the extra funds will be utilized todo other things.You need to understand that even when the contribution to Mutuelle de Sante was only 1000Frw, there were still complaints that the amount was too much. There are modalities in place to help those who cannot afford to pay the contributions. However, we don’t want to make people think that they should expect free things although we are conscious that there are those who are genuinely unable to raise the money for the contributions. They are able to benefit from each other in the logic that there are those who are better off and can afford to pay the amount. The amount is used for others also to benefit from the Government.
Gatete Jean Bosco, Umurinzi: My question concerns former MVK employees who have been on indefinite suspension since 2006 butto-date they have not been reinstated or dismissed once and for all so that they can get their terminal benefits. This issue has been put before different institutions of justice including the Ombudsman’s office but not much has happened. Your Excellency, I am confident that as usual you will be able to solve this problem.
President Kagame: If I get the facts on this issue it will be solved. Mr. Musoni should follow up on this so that we can see how it should be solved.
Dusabimana Claver, Umusingi: Last year when you visited the people of Nyabugogo, one of the issues presented to you was the issue of ATRACO Association membersfor which you appointed a commission to follow up. However, nothing seems to have come out to-date because the members are still following up the same at the Ombudsman’s office.
Minister Musoni, head of the appointed commission to follow up the issue: Thank you Your Excellency. It’s true on 8th May last year when you visited Nyabugogo and this issue was brought to your attention and appointed a commission which included Minaloc, MININFRA and the Kigali City Council. We brought in experts in legal issues, finance and operations. It emerged that there were two issues which were the centre of controversy. There was the issue of financial management and another that is legal. Experts in financial issues helped them with streamlining their financial management and a system was put in place for them to follow. On the issue of membership, ATRACO is a not-for-profit organization and therefore members are not entitled to receive dividends. ATRACO’s legal structure does not allow this. The other issue concerns membership. The association is for omnibus taxi drivers and owners who become members by paying 4000Frw. Disagreements arose because some members thought that they should automatically become members by merely paying taxi park access fees which is not the same. It emerged that some of them did not even apply to be members but consider themselves to be so. Other complainants were of those who were dismissed due to different reasons. Other cases are in court but nothing was done on this end. The fundamental thing done to solve ATRACO’s problem is to advise them to make ATRACO a cooperative or a company so that members can receive dividends. Members have been receiving training from the national cooperative federation and now ATRACO will put in place cooperatives at district level which will ascend to the national level as a federation.
Shaba Eric Bill, Igihe.com: After the release ofUS secrets that include some on Rwanda. How is this going to affect the relationship between Rwanda and the US?
President Kagame: I don’t find any reason that has the potential to jeopardize the relationship between the two countries. These are problems affecting America and other concerned nations and not Rwanda. We don’t find anything to suggest conspiracy against Rwanda because if that was the case, we would have demanded explanations. We are therefore not concerned.
Asumani Niyonambaza, Rugari: Your Excellency, congratulations upon your re-election because this is the first time we are meeting since elections. You promised a media fund but o date nothing has materialized. What happened?
President Kagame: Well, I did not promise to place a basketful of money for journalists to pick from, whenever they wanted. There are many ways of helping the media like other professionals. Minister Musoni should give us some clarifications.
Minister Musoni: The fund was aimed at assisting media development in the country. We chose the option of capacity building and that is why we put in place the Great Lakes Media Center where most of these journalists here study. We are also offering them training opportunities in India in collaboration with the Commonwealth Organization. We have 17 journalists currently undergoing training in India. We are soon shifting the Great Lakes Media Center in the city center at the Media Center and another one at Kacyiru to ease access. We also want to train them in other aspects like business skills, etc. The printing press is up and running now, despite the problem that came up initially.
Frank Ndamage, Imvaho Nshya: As the local leaders’ elections come close, what’s your message to Rwandans – considering that in the past we experienced a scenario where local leaders were forced to resign and some were taken to court for problems related to bad governance and corruption.
President Kagame: I wish them peaceful and nice elections and we will be here to support them.
Gonzaga Muganwa, Rwanda Dispatch: Previously you have articulated your vision of seeing Rwanda where there is no Hutu, no Tutsi, no Twa but Rwandans. There is a case of some international organizations picking up an issue on the Twa people saying they have been denied their right to be what they are. They say they have problems specific to them being pigmy people. What is Government’s policy of people having one united nation but maintaining the concept of people being what they are because Twas also are not happy being referred to as abashigajwe inyuma namategeko.
President Kagame: You have not talked about what they are happy about. They have immensely benefitted from different Government programs. If you were there during the National Dialogue, there were a couple of them who stood up to tell us how their lives have changed for the better and they were speaking on behalf of many others. But this is confusion and it comes from these pretenders who want to think that they know and care for us more than we care for ourselves. There is nothing that targets any of the sections of our population to disadvantage them. There is nothing that could be said as a fact or by anyone who is not satisfied. If you want to call yourself a Muhutu, a Mututsi or a Mutwa, there is nothing that stops you doing that that I know of. What is there is to use what you are to the detriment of anyone who is different from you. We are not going to have an identity card like we used to have many years ago, detailing who you are so that you can be treated according to that identity and either be given advantage or disadvantage over others. This is what we have stopped, period. But people can interpret things the way they want. The accusations that people have been stopped from calling themselves Abatwa – I think the same should be extended to say people have been denied the right to call themselves Abahutu or Abatutsi. But that’s not the issue because it has not happened. What we have institutionalized is the recognition of diversity in our society in all forms but emphasizing national unity and therefore denying anybody such an opportunity as there was before; that of using what they are to target the others that are different and cause problems for them. That’s the way it is and whoever wants to interpret things differently, that is their problem.
Clarisse Juompan Jeune Afrique: In a country where the language of communication in education is essentially – and I believe soon exclusively, if it’s not the case already – English, what is the future of French? Is French going to decline definitively? Yet I believe that Kigali City plans to construct a 12-storey French Cultural Centre, and that it is an indication of a project to promote French in Rwanda.
President Kagame: Let me correct that it is not the City Council that is going to build the French Cultural Center – it is the French Government through the French Embassy that is going to re-build the French Cultural Center. There used to exist a French Cultural Center in Kigali and the French Government or the Embassy is going to rebuild it. This re-assures you that we are not targeting the French…we have nothing against the French…they are re-building and upgrading the French Cultural Center.
Second, we have not banned speaking French – not at all! Neither have we stopped people from learning it in school. French is studied; people speak French, and so on. But if the question is about the decline of French in favor of English, then this bears some truth although this is not by particular design. As you know, the decline of the use of the French language is global and not only in Rwanda and therefore we should not be the ones to pay the price for what is happening elsewhere in the world –we should not carry the burden of that. One good example is China, the most populous country in the world. When you go there you will find that they are struggling more to learn English than French, the population of 1.3 billion is more inclined towards English than French. The whole of Europe too, is more inclined towards English than French – and Rwanda has no influence in this at all.
The reason is that the English language, which some of us are very poor at, and by the way, the French that was spoken here in Rwanda was also not that good – factors conspired to globally to make English the dominant language and Rwanda has nothing to do with this. English is the language of business, technology, diplomacy, and so on. At the same time, Rwanda happens to find itself in the region – the East African Community – where the language used is English. All the countries that we do business with and majority of East Africans use English. Our imports and exports go through Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya which use English and therefore our daily transactions are done in English and we did not decide this. It therefore makes good sense for us to come out promoting the use of English.
But then we have not been out there discouraging people against the use of French. In any case the use of both languages is good for us because it makes us a bridge between French speaking Africa and English speaking Africa. We don’t mind being that bridge because it comes with benefits. When I go to Congo Brazzaville, I go with our Minister of Foreign Affairs who is a very good French speaker and when we go to South Africa she takes her with me to speak some English….Really we have no ill feelings about speaking French but we certainly have a lot of desire for our people to speak English because it integrates more and more deeply in the East African Community and the world. It’s about common sense for us.
Thedore Ntarindwa, Umwezi: While countries in the West are working towards unity, countries in Africa are working towards separation. If you look at Sudan, Congo and Somalia you will know what I mean. What are your thoughts on this as someone who is keen on integration? If you allow me, I would like to talk about media issues in the country. We held a media Dialogue meeting last year where we invited foreigners who are versed with media issues to give us thoughts and I hope you were given the resolutions that came out of this meeting.
President Kagame: Well, the case of Southern Sudan is unique in many ways because seeking independence has a fundamental reason originating from their historical background. Nations can seek separation and again seek integration basing on their independence. The case of Southern Sudan is not a case of disintegration. Even when they decide to separate they could as well integrate but this time as two independent nations, just like the East African Community has different countries integrating as independent nations. The problem in Somalia is that the country is divided on clan lines and it is similar to that of Sudan in that it is rooted in historical background and clan politics are at play. If these small clans understand that they can be able to work within one nation then a lot of problems will be solved.
Mugabo Justin, Isango Star: There is a problem where farmers harvest their crops in plenty but don’t get the deserving price until the dry season comes. I wonder if something can’t be done to ensure that the prices remain constant on-season and off-season. Another thing, I keep wondering if a prolonged dry season happens, what would happen since there are no storage facilities for foodstuffs?
President Kagame: This is already happening and modalities are in place. But the principle is that we need to have enough food for people to eat. Once you have enough to eat, you need to take the excess to the market to earn some money to solve other needs. The next step is to stock the rest to safeguard the future. As for the issue of controlling food prices to make them constant across seasons, I think this is not practical. We need to leave the question of prices to the market. This is supposed to be self regulatory. If you don’t like the prices, you can decide to stock your produce. The Government has put in place storage facilities but has also encouraged the private sector to do the same.
Thank you very much!