Cleophas Barore: Does Rwanda reflect the efforts invested in the journey of rebuilding it?
President Kagame: Let me begin by greeting all Rwandans and wishing them a happy day. However, I wish to remind you that today, on the 4th of July, we actually celebrate two types of festivities. The first is the Independence we gained 60 years ago and then the 28 years of liberation, which coincides with the 60th anniversary of Independence.
Independence would have been celebrated on the 1st of July and then Liberation on the 4th, but we have chosen to combine the two celebrations. I wish a happy day for both celebrations to all Rwandans.
Regarding your question. When I look back and see what Rwandans have achieved, all those involved on the frontline, who fought, those who sacrificed their lives, and many others who are no longer alive, and what has been done since the liberation till today with no doubt, one can say, apart from the tragic history that has caused people to fight with some losing their lives… there is no doubt that much of what has been achieved since then is evident even today and keeps improving. Whatever is or was done is meant to improve the lives of citizens for much better lives than what they lived in the past years.
It is obvious, and it’s a positive step, it’s a step we wish to keep adding on, to speed up our actions and achieve a lot that we still have in our set goals.
I would not say that we would have done things differently or that there are goals we had planned to achieve that we didn’t reach because it’s not perfect at a 100% rate. But when there is obvious progress, when there are evident achievements, people believe in the set course and start building on what was achieved to attain even more progress.
Cleophas Barore: Do the achievements match the efforts invested?
President Kagame: Yes, they do! The efforts invested match what we have achieved. I have no doubt that people have put in a lot of efforts. They have made sacrifices. People still work hard. They listen to what the Government wants from them. … The financial means available are not as much as we would wish to have but we use all the available resources to achieve a lot.
I would not say that the two don’t match but rather there is a correlation; the efforts invested match the achievements attained on the ground.
Cleophas Barore: We see Rwanda doing well on the international stage, where does it come from?
President Kagame: In most cases, I would attribute that success to Rwandans because it also comes from what has been achieved so far. Many people even outside Rwanda know where we have come from and where we are now. Which makes them respect Rwandans as they can truly see that we are an honest people.
There are those who chose to misinterpret our history or built their own narratives to believe depending on which side they choose in regards to that history or their role in it. The causes behind our tragic history are well known. The truth about what has been proven to be historical facts as well as what we have achieved so far have helped change even those who at the beginning did not understand our history well. They have accepted the facts about our tragic past because it matches the strides we have made so far as a country.
Our achievements helped a lot. The progress we have made helped the world understand where Rwanda comes from, how it is as a nation, and its truth, especially in foreign countries where there was some confusion. That confusion took some people hostage, including even some Rwandans who ended up indulging in some bad acts in collaboration or with support from some foreigners.
Their bad wishes for Rwanda can never be realized because the progress we have made speaks for itself and makes those who had doubts see the truth. To a large extent, the achievements are what change people’s minds. Those behind those achievements might also play a part but they do so because their deeds have already been noticed.
Cleophas Barore: Today, a model village was inaugurated, adding to many other infrastructures like access to electricity in most parts of the country that citizens now enjoy. What is the link between development infrastructures such as these and the country’s liberation?
President Kagame: Those infrastructures put in place like electricity, etc. should usually be the norm. We do all we can to enhance access to clean water, to electricity, and any other thing that can help Rwandans to go on about their daily activities to uplift their living standards. That’s the role of the government. We try as much as we can to deliver on our citizens’ expectations.
Cleophas Barore: Is that how all governments should work?
President Kagame: Well, I can only speak for the one I am part of. Those of other countries, I cannot really talk about them. I would not waste my time on them except working together with them on issues pertaining to our mutual interests. When it comes to other nations, I mainly focus on how we can cooperate to serve our shared interests. I don’t focus much on how they deal with their own businesses internally.
But I think that a government’s performance is assessed through the results on the ground, the achievements that I talked about earlier. When citizens didn’t have access to clean water, when they didn’t have access to electricity or other infrastructures that enable them to work for their own development, the moment they do, that makes a difference. It becomes obvious to everyone and even the citizens themselves can attest to that. That is why I was saying that achievements speak for themselves. Those who don’t see it it’s just because they don’t want to or they choose not to.
Citizens know the truth about the progress made because it has a positive impact on uplifting their lives, and the lack of it makes them struggle. That is where it all starts.
Cleophas Barore: What do you ask from Rwandans to whom you have given all that?
President Kagame: We ask them to build on it to make even more progress in addition to what they have achieved working with the government. And to maintain well and sustain those infrastructures in addition to using them for their own benefits as that’s what they have been put there for. They have to sustain those infrastructures to ensure that it won’t require a government intervention to avail them again when the ones already in place are meant to last for a long time.
Isabelle Masozera: On the Rwanda-DRC tension and M23 Crisis
President Kagame: Everything or almost any of these things have a history. It’s not just like it happened anyhow. The history of Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese or these crises that happen on and off over the years between Congo and Rwanda over the years have a history. And in these kinds of situations, we have had to say things that we think need to be addressed but they have never been addressed properly and that’s why these matters keep recurring.
Let me give an example: the so-called M23. There was a crisis in 2012 I think, and this crisis drew in all kinds of countries and regions including international institutions like the UN, then big countries, powers, to decide on many things. And they made one mistake which we pointed out at that time; that such matters are not resolved by force of arms; they don’t require military solutions. They require more political solutions. They ignored what we were telling them and they just…you know, fought the so-called M23 without even understanding why it was born and how it came to be, defeated it and the remnants fled to countries mainly, one group went to Uganda, another group came to Rwanda and these groups some of them are still here in Rwanda, others in Uganda. But we kept reminding them that there was a political solution that they needed to apply which they didn’t. Maybe since they had been defeated militarily there was a need to address those matters politically. And that is, these as you call them “Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese”…it means they speak Kinyarwanda but they are Congolese citizens. How they became citizens of Congo, cannot be blamed on Congo or cannot be blamed on Rwanda. We didn’t decide that these people go to Congo to be their citizens and maybe the Congolese didn’t decide that, but that is the fact of the matter. So how do you at any one point just decide that you’re now going to declare people no longer citizens of their countries, where do you start from? And how can you actually effect that? What happens, the same people you always find ways of pushing back, of fighting back, of making sure that they have to belong somewhere. Now, saying that they belong to Rwanda, is a big mistake because no, all the years they have been in Congo, they know Congo as their own country.
And of course, there’s a mix of drawing of borders in the early times during colonial times, so if you want to push back these people and throw them out of the country they belong to…then you better throw them out with the land they have been occupying which happens to be on one side or the other by just arbitrary lines that were drawn during colonial times.
….Maybe I shouldn’t even have said that because some people will distort it and complicate it and say different things but that’s not what I meant. I am just applying logic to this matter. So these people have forgotten that-by the way we have refugees here from Congo that have been staying here for close to two decades and most of them are Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese. They left their homes, their ancestral homes on the other side of Congo. We have been asking different Governments in Congo that these people need to be taken back to their country and their places where they belong or that the government of DRC, whichever government it was, needed to find a way of speaking to these people and reintegrating them back in the society of Congo…. That did not happen until recently, in fact when President Tshisekedi became the president. Right from the outset these matters were discussed with him directly or with his officials.
In Fact on the side of M23 the officials of DRC came here several times, talking to these people directly because when they were thrown out of Congo and came here, we disarmed them and gave back to Congo these arms they were using to fight the country. But what remained was the repatriation of these people back to Congo which never happened. And even under President Tshisekedi, these officials came here, met them several times, and promised them that they were actually going to address that problem, and with our assistance because we would talk to them with our people trying to assist them to find ways of taking them back. They came here several times, talking to them, and would go back with promises made to them which were never fulfilled. They come back another time, and another time several times until recently when this fighting was about to happen and were talking to DRC again alerting them on the information we had that this trouble was again building up and they needed to do something which they never did.
On one hand, I am surprised and on the other, I am not surprised because, for that history that has been talked about so many times, you wouldn’t expect people to be confused about it because the facts are clear. On the other hand, I am not surprised because this has been a thing to expect that has happened over these 20 years, just back and forth and completely using wrong arguments…
There are people in the world who hear such wrong arguments and make decisions based on them and make wrong decisions. In fact, they were defeated and there was a force that was created for…the Force Intervention Brigade, MONUSCO under the UN. All these in the first place were supposed to ensure there’s peace, there’s ceasefire but that ceasefire facilitating political solutions.
First, there has been a process, for example, as you know of FDLR, these remnants of Interahamwe, they have different names RUDI URUNANA, FDLR all kinds of staff. All these, there has been a process of repatriation – a number of them have been brought back even through the hands of the UN and re-integrated into society and it has been going on for a long time. Many of them came than those who remained for a fact. The ones who remained are from the core group of those who think that this is a fight they are fighting and for them, they’re still fighting and for a wrong cause because they are talking about the old story of Rwanda. It’s like underlying the Genocide itself. So, they want a country for one group of people and not the other and for us, we’ve been saying no. All groups belong here. Those ones, you know…as we found it as God created our country and people happen to be here but for the hardcore, they think of different things.
So now recently, these FDLR are fighting alongside FARDC against the M23, and then to make it worse, the UN got into the mix supporting FARDC meaning the government forces. But they knew very well these government forces were fighting together with the FDLR against M23……
That’s why I can’t understand why the President of Congo in his statement to the press says such things as he said because he should know the facts very well because we have discussed this matter for a long time since he came to power and way before this crisis.
So, this crisis therefore will require one thing: there are a number of things that have happened which I haven’t mentioned but I will mention them in the conclusion of my point.
One, Congo has its own things to deal with and we have our own things to deal with as independent sovereign countries without having to deal with each other. We just have to work together where we choose to work together and it is not acceptable and it’s not going to ever be that FDLR, these genocide forces will be armed to attack Rwanda. And if you remember in 2019, there was an attack that came from Congo, 2019 November, I think where groups infiltrated through the Virunga Mountains and attacked Kinigi and our forces intervened and defeated them and removed them.
Second, we have had shelling from DRC territory in Rwanda which damaged properties and killed people several times. So we are saying all along we need peace and we need peace for both of us. We need peace in Rwanda and there has to be peace in DRC. Therefore, we should give each other peace and it’s not acceptable that FDLR would ever be supported to cross into our territory or supported to shell into our territory and kill our citizens. We have not done that to Congo.
Second, there’s a need to politically address this Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese including members of the so called M23 but that is the problem of DRC to address, not mine.
Isabelle Masozera: Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel, is there anything that can be done from the Rwandan side?
President Kagame: For lack of a better way of putting it myself, first of all, I wish for the best for all of us, Congo and Rwanda. But if the best doesn’t come, it should always find me prepared for the worst. That is the first way I approach it. I prepare for the worst but wish for the best and I mean it.
I wish for Congo the best as I do wish for myself, for my country. But again, there’s no magic solution here for me other than presenting the facts as I understand them and facts have been presented. So it is up to all the players concerned with this problem, whether they are Congolese or Rwandan, or the internationals involved one way or the other, maybe to stick to the facts and find the best way out of this problem based on the facts, not people creating their own facts or simply thinking that they will impose a solution to one party or the other. So that is the only way I can say it. There’s no other way.
Isabelle Masozera: On Rwanda’s participation in the EAC force that will be deployed in Eastern Congo
President Kagame: First of all, they are talking of the East African Community force, and much as we are all new, if my memory serves me well, Rwanda was in the East African Community before DRC. But that’s okay, we are all members of the East African Community, so when they are talking about the East African Community Force, naturally that implies Rwanda is part of the force, right?
But, to make the process and the solution easier, if the party concerned, which is DRC, claims it has problems with Rwanda participating, I have no problem with that. We are not begging anyone that we participate in the Force, alright? But what that also means, whoever goes there, whoever is liked or is invited by DRC to be part of the East African Community Force excluding Rwanda, which I have no problem with, must address these problems I was talking about. Do you see what I mean?
If anybody is coming from anywhere excluding Rwanda, but to provide a solution that we are all looking for, why would I have a problem? If they come saying, we are going to eliminate this FDLR from this equation that keeps creating problems between Rwanda and DRC and keep saying, we are going to support peace in this part of the region of the Eastern Congo and make sure that the Kinyarwanda-speaking communities, M23 are now re-absorbed into the Congolese society and given rights as citizens of this country. Then these people have no reason to keep fighting or causing any trouble and if a force is going to support that political process of supporting the Government of Congo to reach a solution to this effect, then why would Rwanda have a problem with that?
If this force gives guarantees to Rwanda that no more shelling from Congo of your territory by either the Congolese or by FDLR because we have eliminated them, why would I be opposed to that? In fact, I am very happy that this can be done without our involvement because getting involved is a cost to us. So why would I incur the cost when somebody is saying no, I am happy to do it for you! I have no problem with that. Absolutely.
Isabelle Masozera: There has been criticism around the Rwanda-UK Migration agreement. Why did Rwanda enter the agreement?
President Kagame: Well, first of all, the migration problem is a very complicated problem all over the world. I’ve even said that if we can contribute even a bit to addressing it, we are happy to do that. And by the way, given that migration and refugee issues are not new to us, some of us have lived that kind of life for decades. So, we fully understand what that means.
The other problem of defining the rights and many issues about migration is difficult itself. There are rights of people as human beings that should be respected wherever these human beings are. To an extent, mine, personally, my rights were respected to an extent when I was still a refugee, which I was for decades.
Of course, but those rights are only limited in a sense as rights of human beings. You are only given the minimum. So, as far as in referring to the minimum, I was at least afforded that.
The other one of, let us say about the bigger question like the one of UK in the partnership with Rwanda, how it came about, this was building on the history again. I like referring to things as they build up in history. We got involved with assisting in migration issues first with Israel, second with Libya, third we helped in a small way with Afghanistan, and then there came the UK. So, this is the fourth.
Specifically, let me single out the one of Libya which we went out to actually ask to help. The other three we were asked to help. But for this one, we are the ones who asked to help. So with Libya, with the people stuck in Libya, with the crisis that had taken place in Libya, which had been used as a transit route for migrants to the north, to Europe from different parts of Africa, going through Libya and most of them dying in the Mediterranean…
But because of the crisis in Libya, thousands of them got stuck in Libya and different towns, and they were in prison, literally prison, this is what I am talking about. That’s a fact. And detained for years, and months, and they were stuck there.
In fact, they started smuggling these people who were stuck, buying them as slaves, taken to different parts of the world. So we could see people in cages and buyers coming and looking at who is still fit, not macheted and starving and they take them.
This is the situation and we offered, in fact, we did that when I was the chairman of African Union, and I told people, I said, Rwanda has many challenges, we have our own struggles we are going through a difficult situation but we can provide a more decent living for these people, a better living for these people than we are seeing suffering.
We told them, we offered, we say you can bring them to Rwanda and then allow the people from the world who are willing to help to be able to help.
One by either a country that can offer these people asylum, they will do it in a stable environment, that is within Rwanda. They come and see who they want to absorb and take to their countries, peacefully pick whoever they want. Another country will come and take whoever they want to go with and settle them.
Second, we would give chance to these people and say: do you want to go back home where after discovering that your venture didn’t work properly for you, would you want to go back home?
The third category would be if you have nobody picking you to take you to their countries and you don’t want to go back to your country, we can even offer you to stay here with us. Still, it is a better situation than you are having, detained in Libya.
So, as you’re aware, so many have been brought here and now about a thousand of them have actually been taken to different countries, to the United States, to Canada, to some Scandinavian countries…
So, could there have been a better way of dealing with it? At least for us, we couldn’t think of a better way of doing it. For others, why didn’t they think of a better way of doing it? But at least, we offered and saved the situation.
And now, with this one of the UK specifically, if I may come to that of the UK and Rwanda, UK has been facing a problem of people smugglers like we had the experience in Libya. These people are smuggled; they are sold and bought like commodities.
So, there have been people exchanging money to transfer people by force and take them into the UK and it has been growing day by day, week after week, month after month, year after year. So, the UK approached us and based on the lessons they had learnt on how we handled the Libyan case and even earlier, the other two: the Israel and Afghanistan cases.
And they said, can you help? And we said for us, and by the way, if any other country wants the same, we shall offer it…it’s not confined to… If any other country approaches and says we have a problem here, can you do this? We will look at the merits of the case and say sure! As long as you don’t overburden us with this problem. Because we are a country that has no resources, we have limited resources!
Isabelle Masozera: Mr. President, where do you draw the line? What looks like overburdening? Because there have been a lot of questions around capacity and burnout for the nation in terms of how much you are extending help?
President Kagame: Yeah, that’s a good question. But what I mean is simple. If you are going to bring someone here, and say I will bring them here and I look after him, it’s not you to look after him, then I have no problem.
Overburdening I am talking about is to bring me somebody and say look after him. Because I have no spare capacity to look after even one, to look after Rwandese … it is so limited. But to that extent, I think… and by the way, we also learned lessons long ago, remember when some of us were refugees, outside of our country, and whenever we demanded to come back home, the government then used to tell us Rwanda is overpopulated, we have no place for you. It’s like: “You stay where you are!”
So, but what we learned from that, the country or any other country is never full to that extent. It always has space, especially for its citizens. No question about it. But even then, a country like ours which is, yes, densely populated actually still not only has enough space for our people, we have enough space even for others. This is a lesson we learned.
Isabelle Masozera: We do have another member of the international media; Abdil Latif from the New York Times who is asking about some academics and human rights who characterise the Rwanda-UK partnership as an echoing and troubling practice of moving people across continents and seas without their consent. How would you respond to that?
President Kagame: Well, first of all, I have seen a lot of writings in the New York Times that are not well informed at all. But rather things that are just written there reflecting biases of those who write them. But that is a question for another time.
On this one, for academics, rights groups… I wish this person asking this would be telling us or telling me the right way of dealing with these problems, complex problems, as of their academics and rights groups. Because academics and rights groups should present to us well-researched, well-informed, and right ways of dealing with these challenges. And then maybe once we have seen that and argued about it from different experiences, a guideline could be created and say you must follow this guideline.
But they are not presenting… Even the person referring to these academics and rights groups is not referring to us, are not giving us the guidelines people have set forth through research, through different ways of experiences that could contribute to that. No, they are just making a criticism…
But I have explained where we have come from ourselves as Rwanda, knowing that the migration issues are broad, complex, and everywhere,
In fact, it happened that one time I was being asked about this migration problem and the UK and Rwanda partnership, and then just as I was stepping out of the room I was watching the news there were things happening between Morocco and Spain, then there was another thing was happening on Mexico- US border then… to do with the same. Why don’t these people advise those countries on how they should go about these matters?
All I see is the complexity, really difficulty, of these presented by migrants and those having to deal with them. Is anybody in the world dealing with it the way they want? I have explained what we are doing with the UK, it is specific, it is dealing with people being bought and sold and forced across borders and the country is saying no, we can’t keep having this!
There are those, naturally, there are people who have been made by the way UK citizens as we have done.., there are people who have been made Rwandan citizens from other countries because they meet certain criteria and standards enabling us to give them either this status or managing them in whatever way that is appropriate that gives them a chance for life in the future
So I have, I don’t know if anyone is saying what we did between the UK enough to characterise that way generally without being specific. What is it that is being done wrong? By the UK saying there are people being smuggled into our territory, we have to accept some people, and they have accepted some people into the UK and even given them citizens of all nationalities… we have done that ourselves. Now here they are saying: we have to stop this smuggling of people into our country so that we have enough time and space to identify those who meet the criteria, those who we can allow in, and those we have to reject. Because that is the issue!
If you are going to say, everyone will run to every country they want or will be smuggled to any country and that country is forced to accept them, I don’t think you are going to succeed. It’s not going to work that way!
Yes, all countries, including Rwanda, will accept people but we have criteria for how we accept these people, except for example refugees. Refugees, when they come rushing into a country because they are refugees, in a way you just accept them. But that’s why they are put in camps and they are kept as such as refugees in those countries but they are not necessarily accepted and integrated as citizens of any country automatically, no! That’s not what happens.
So, but if you had people smuggling others into any country, then that country has the right to say no! We don’t accept this smuggling! We have to stop it, we have to sort out these people according to certain criteria. It will be accepted. This is what I am saying. These good people should explain to us, should draw for us guidelines, what do we do? How do we deal with migrants? But for the time being, I think we have to deal with it the way we are dealing with it and we think there is nothing wrong with it!
Isabelle Masozera: The President of DRC, in his independence speech, said that there was no doubt that Rwanda was backing a rebellion around their territory. How would you respond to that?
President Kagame: I would respond to that by saying it is the opposite. It’s the opposite in a sense that the DRC is supporting FDLR and unfortunately with the knowledge of MONUSCO, the UN force on the ground and actually that’s how it happened that they were shelling our territory when it happened. There have been incidents happening since 2019 November when FDLR entered our territory in a place called Kinigi and were fought off and defeated by our forces. They had come from DRC and they were armed by the DRC.
Then there was shelling three times with heavy weapons. They killed people, destroyed property and we were discussing all these matters with DRC. And so that’s what I can speak to.
Otherwise, why would we be involved in DRC as such? But they have done everything to involve us in their problems. We have been resisting that but I don’t know for how long if they continue doing what they have been doing that we have been bringing to their attention.
But of course, the other problem has been Congo in the past until recently they’ve been behaving like spoiled children. They cause trouble and then, in the end, they start crying and shouting and saying somebody is doing something wrong to them. And actually, unfortunately, the world, some parts of the world have responded by being on the side of DRC even when they are the ones in the wrong.
This was a very big issue in the past and we explained it but it seems we are not being heard. So I think, by this time around, I think they did what they did blatantly with … they made a very big mistake which everybody was able to see, creating a war that had no good grounds. And then within the crisis of Congo that has been there for a long time, but they always want to explain it by referring to somebody else like they have never accepted taking their problems as their own problems. They always want to say these problems are originating from somewhere else, and it seems the world had come to accept, but I think maybe the way of seeing things is changing also across the world.
I haven’t seen that they have bought into the lies that the government has been airing on different occasions even though we found this case where a UN force was actually supporting them, and by the way, they are supporting them against their own people.
They are supporting the government of Congo and the government of Congo’s forces against their own people. The M23 we are talking about are Congolese. But to explain it further and make sure how bad the whole thing is when they are having problems with M23, meaning the government forces, then they had to take it to the Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese, meaning like you are the same people, if you are fighting then we shall go for your…
I mean I don’t see how anybody can justify this. How anybody can justify that … but also it is proof that actually these Congolese, M23 are associated with these other Congolese who are being persecuted. So, it explains the point that … the internal crisis touches the persecution of the people of Congo, that’s why you are fighting M23 and when you are not getting your way, then you take it to their families, to their next keen and… It becomes ethnic persecution.
But the fact of the matter, is these are Congolese not Rwandans. They are only of Rwandese heritage or culture, but they are Congolese by nationality.
How that happened, you can’t ask me because I was not there. I was not responsible. Rwanda is not responsible for Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese in Congo, and of course, the other one, is when they have fought M23 and they have not defeated them, then it must be somebody else. So for them the Congolese, the problem is somebody else, coming from somewhere else, it’s not…
They learn to take their problems as their own problems and find a solution, then we shall stay in this kind of mess that we find ourselves in. But who needs a mess and why would Rwanda anyway need to be involved in Congo? When we were building peace and security between the two countries from the beginning how things changed all of a sudden, I think the Congolese have a lot to explain themselves, not me, not Rwanda.
The outcomes of the Luanda meeting, will they contribute to the relationship amendments between Rwanda and DRC?
President Kagame: But things keep changing even after meetings. What we have agreed in the meetings when we are out of the meetings things start changing. We have had three meetings, two of which I attended and another one I wasn’t able to attend. Three meetings in Nairobi, but the second one which I did not attend but in which I was represented by the Foreign Minister, I think it had reached a good way of dealing with the problem. And that was; first, ceasefire, those forces stop fighting, second, the political process continues in Nairobi, and then, third, fight and make sure the problem of FDLR is addressed. Those three points mainly.
In fact, we had discussed that in the first meeting, then affirmed it in the second meeting, but between the first and the second what we had agreed in the meeting turned out to be different because then the DRC Government started saying “No, no, no, we are not going to talk to M23 because these are terrorists.” So all of a sudden terrorists were born as an excuse to not continue the political process. If they are terrorists, why do you fight terrorists as you call them and the same time, go looking for an ethnic group that is related to these “terrorists”? How can you brand an ethnic group a terrorist group? This sounds crazy, you can’t do that. But that explains itself.
So now in the third meeting, it is this time we have a Force, the East African Community Force which would go to Congo to ensure that the ceasefire that we are talking about actually holds, and allows political processes to take place. The political processes are actually important, and for me, I guess everybody else, they come first. This is what I was saying, you just don’t keep fighting and expect to find a solution for political problems, political crises, or for governance problems, or other problems. No, you reach a point where you now start putting all the weight on the political processes and stop fighting. So the first meeting we had in Nairobi was to have a force which you asked me earlier that we are not going to be part of, which I said I have no problem with. But I can see the president of Congo talks about it as if it’s victory, No, but victory will come when you have solved the crisis or these political problems, not just because you could not allow Rwanda. But Rwanda is not asking for it, is not complaining about it. But there’s a big catch here. If you don’t address the security concerns of Rwanda you have a problem on your hands.
Cleophas Barore: Rwanda aspires to become an upper-middle income country by 2035 and a high-income country (HIC) by 2050. Vision 2050: What is required to reach that target?
President Kagame: Those two targets. The state of the economy in 10 years or 20 years depends on what has been achieved so far. You know that we started this vision in 2000 and set a target of Vision 2020. We achieved much of the target we set and I can say that we achieved 80-85% and that is not bad compared to where we are coming from as I said before. It is not possible to always hit your target and get 100%. But if you achieve 85% of your target then you have done well.
So for the years ahead, I can say that the state of the economy is on a good path.
So what is required is for Rwandans to understand and continue working. That includes young children to continue to study, to acquire knowledge, to innovate, and to create jobs. Then the government will also continue to fulfill its mandate of putting in place the infrastructures that the population can use to play their respective roles which include agriculture and farming to enhance our produce so that there is plenty to satisfy our needs and serve our local markets, and everything else that helps increase our exports and from which our economy grows.
I think what is needed is for us to build on the foundation that we have already laid in the last few years, so that people can move forward even faster, work hard, faster, and do high-quality things; but all that also depends on the state of our governance, the state of our security, so that people can work freely and steadily to achieve their own progress as individuals but also move the country forward. That is what is required and I think that our experience in the last two decades shows us that all that is possible.
Cleophas Barore: The world is changing, there is covid and other things, don’t you think that will be a threat?
President Kagame: If you think like what I have just said, it means that you have to think about the challenges that you might encounter both in the country and those from outside. As the pandemic came to be, people started thinking about it, and still even think about it, that is why vaccine manufacturing facilities are being put in place as we did recently.
All that shows you that we are getting prepared for what lies ahead. We shall even continue, as you can see various factories/industries are coming up across the country. That is a way of providing for ourselves in order to not suffer from the lack of basic needs if any challenge comes.
That is why I started with the issues of farmers, to be food secure and have all that our citizens might need, and stop expecting our food to come from outside which might become a problem as we have seen in some countries because of the Russia-Ukraine war; people lacking cereals, etc. and the issue has even affected the bigger market of petrol and fuel. That is why reducing our imports helps a big deal. It even helps our journey of moving the country forward.
Cleophas Barore: On the country’s security being compromised because everyone was busy with CHOGM 2022
President Kagame: No, security is built for a long period of time. You don’t just react to every small thing that happens. There are always people who want to compromise the country’s security and this happens across the world.
If you look at the state of security in the whole world, Rwanda is one of the most stable countries in the world – it is because we have built our security and stability with all Rwandans, because they play a big role, with government institutions playing their part.
Those security incidents that happen time and again are closely monitored and there is a long-term plan to deal with them. Those who attempt to compromise our security are dealt with properly using the capacity we have acquired over time.
Some of them even wanted to compromise our security during those days when they thought we were busy, but it never happens that we are so busy to forget to ensure our security. They even wished that security would be compromised in the city where those meetings were taking place but it wasn’t possible, it didn’t happen and it won’t be easy for them to do so even another time because security is of paramount importance to us so that our citizens can go on with their lives in all peace.
And the issue we talked about earlier, the problems we have with our neighbor, DRC, we hope that we will also find a solution to in one way or another.
Isabelle Masozera: On the Russia -Ukraine aggression
President Kagame: Well, the problem of Russia and Ukraine has again a long history, it has a context, it has… you can identify the wrongs, the rights but at the end of the day, I hope the world in the way it has been working together differently should find a solution and go back to a normal situation. I hope that time will come.
But for now, it’s clear the intensity of the fighting between Russia and Ukraine increased, the crisis that affects the rest of the world starting with those people neighbouring that area.
Africa is affected in many ways. There’s already talk of the food crisis, rising fuel prices, fertilisers. Those who were getting plenty of those things from either Russia or Ukraine, things are not flowing as well as before and therefore naturally., So, you see inflation attacking different economies because of that. Prices of many things are rising.
Rwanda and Africa are affected as much or if not even more than others. Now, the issue for me, I want to look at it as a crisis for some reasons or in some ways that will come to an end but the issue is how, the question for me saying this one is wrong, this one is right, here, there, in the end, I think it doesn’t provide a solution for me or Rwanda, it doesn’t even contribute much.
So, we hope the international system in its way of working and dealing with problems, a solution can be found and at least minimise the damage caused by war and people dying and then the economy is being affected.
As Rwanda, we have very little to contribute to that in one way or the other in a way we tend to look at it and prepare for its effects and try to survive that.
But also working together on the continent of Africa, we need to find a way of making our economies resilient and make our survival in such a crisis possible. What else can I say about that crisis?
Isabelle Masozera: Which lesson can Africa learn from the Russia-Ukraine crisis?
President Kagame: I did use the word resilience. I think we need to build resilience in our systems, especially economic systems so that such shocks that come from these things that happen in one place or another at different places do not overwhelm any country or our country. This is the lesson one can get from it. It prepares you to…
Suppose this crisis is over and then another one starts somewhere else, how do you survive? How do you overcome the difficulties that are going to come along with that? For me, it is the biggest lesson. So, everything we do here we try to factor in that kind of possibility that there is a crisis coming, there is… of a different kind, so how do we… If it came, how do we survive?
Isabelle Masozera: A Question from Berna Namata of The East African: Doing all it does, is Rwanda punching above its weights?
President Kagame: Well, we are not trying to do anything that looks like or sounds impossible. We do things because in our calculation we have found that we can contribute something. We don’t want to be a solution for everything everywhere. Far from that because in any case, we can’t be doing that, given our own limitations which we are very consciously aware of.
So, when we are trying to do whatever we have tried to do, we do it because we think it’s possible. And really, we look at it in terms of not carrying the burden ourselves alone but rather contributing, we always want to contribute.
Everything that was mentioned is about the possibility we see available and the opportunities that come with that, and then the fact that we can make a contribution and we have it within ourselves to be able to do that.
So far, whatever we have done we’ve proven ourselves right that we could contribute. We haven’t seen anything overwhelming us to the point that we should be reminded that we shouldn’t have done it, or we took too much on ourselves. So far, we haven’t seen that!
So, but it is a good point as far as that becomes a reminder that when we are going to do something you see beyond it and see what it is going to attract, is it opportunities? Is it problems? Is it… We think about that always before we do anything.
COMMUNITY ISSUES: On the water crisis in Nyagatare farms
President Kagame: As agreed, the issue of the water crisis will also be closely monitored, and surely there is no reason why water should be an issue since there are water sources in those areas.
Water can be accessed from lakes, but also we can store water when it rains and use it during the dry seasons. Before, as you might recall, there were also programmes to build water dams, so there were challenges met along the process. We will follow up and find a solution for that.
Isabelle Masozera: On the impact that the President’s family has on his daily activities
President Kagame: Well, I think everyone finds a blessing in what they love, what they feel good about. As far as my family is concerned, it comes first and the wellbeing of the person “me” and so getting children and getting grandchildren simply makes life better.
And as we go about the other very important things, the duty is part of all of us. What we have to do every day, the other one I said, me, the person, how life changes with that, then the work also is part of it. And work is made much easier if my well-being is uplifted.
So, my ability to do my work and do it the best way I can is impacted or improved by my well-being as far as my family and everything else personal and private is concerned.
So that’s how it goes.
Cleophas Barore: Mr. President, when one asks about your family, your face lights up, it must give you enormous joy?
President Kagame: I think everyone is supposed to be like that. Everyone who has a family should be happy. In life, when you have loved ones, when you have a family, then there is no reason to not be happy.
That is the essence of life. That is the ultimate goal of everything we do. It would be better if it reaches every Rwandan family. That is why in our duties as a government, we want Rwandans, and Rwandan families to live happy lives.
Do you get enough time for your family given your busy schedule?
President Kagame: Yes. I do have that time. You cannot fail to get time for something that you want or something that is important to you.