Hello! How is everyone?
I am glad to have this moment to talk to you. It’s been some time but we’ve spent many days, all of us working together, to deal with this pandemic. I hope everyone is continuing to keep safe so that we can continue with the fight.
I want to thank all Rwandans, the leaders, health workers, everybody who has registered their support for the effort to deal with this situation. So, without much ado I am happy to be with you to discuss anything that is on your mind, and also to be able to tell you what is on my mind.
Edmund Kagire (KT Press): On April 14 during your video conference with investors from across the world, you mentioned that some key sectors of the economy would benefit from some government support or package in order for them to keep going. Yesterday we saw that RwandAir will be cutting the salaries of the employees up to 60 percent. We want to know how will this work out and when do we expect to see this approach come through for businesses?
President Kagame: I think what we are doing is really mobilizing resources and we already have ideas on which sectors to look at that would deserve any kind of support. Everything is work in progress, whether it is support for the SMEs, let alone big ones or specific institutions like the airline we have, all these will be looked at. At the same time, we are trying to mobilize resources and making good progress. Some of the problems might be taking their toll already like you mentioned with RwandAir. We are not yet in a position to start fixing these kinds of problems but we are making plans ahead to do that.
Margot Chevance (TV5 & Jeune Afrique): I would like to know if the lockdown is going to end this Thursday, and does the country have a specific plan with different stages, for example, after the lockdown? Stage one, stage two, stage three, what is going to happen?
President Kagame: We are on the 42nd day since we started dealing with COVID-19. Of course from the onset, the challenges seemed to be insurmountable. But we mobilized ourselves and started dealing with the problem as we saw it, as we were capable of, or as we learned from other places that had been hit before us. So we did take measures progressively until we came to the lockdown. In fact, it’s not too long ago when the cabinet sat, discussed, and reviewed what progress had been made and what more needs to be done. This is how we came to extending the lockdown.
This time around before we take other measures, again the cabinet is supposed to meet and put together the information that has been collected from different places, including the work that has been done by the Ministry of Health in collecting data, both from rural and urban areas, specifically the City of Kigali, and also analyzing what is going on around us in the region, cross-border activities, and how that feeds into the problem we have to deal with.
We will, therefore, be looking at this information and deciding what is the next step. And you are right in a sense, it’s not that even if we were to talk about making another step forward on Thursday, that would loosen everything and go back to normal. It is making those steps in view of the care needed to make sure that the progress we have made is not negatively affected but at the same time sort of loosening the stronghold on the lives of people under lockdown.
So, it is a sort of balance act to be made: how much do you continue to progress and do not allow the virus not to make a comeback? And so in that case how much risk, a calculated risk, do we take to balance normal life versus the problem we have had. We will be deliberately taking step by step, looking at the data, looking at how people are affected, how they also get involved in dealing with the problem, and so on. So many things come together in this case.
Lonzen Rugira (Media Analyst): My question is about the region, the East African Community. There have been some suggestions that the EAC has lacked a cohesive response to the COVID pandemic, and much of the blame has been placed on you as head of the block. What is your reaction to such an accusation?
President Kagame: I am the Chairperson of the East African Community currently, yes. That implies responsibility in a sense. But even being the chair of the EAC you don’t manage partner states affairs, countries manage themselves the way they deem fit. Even if one would wish that we look at it in a sense of collective responsibility, working together, so that we deal with this problem that is facing all of us.
For some time now, a number of meetings have taken place: the Ministers of health have met virtually, discussed, and agreed on how to coordinate. There was a need for continued meetings and the effort is ongoing.
We also attempted to hold a summit, for Heads of State to meet, discuss, and give direction in a coordinated way. This did not happen. It did not happen because of a number of countries, three, specifically, and in a sense, because of the procedures that are used in the EAC where all members have to be available for such a meeting to take place. It didn’t happen because three member states’ leaders were not able to connect with all of us for the Summit.
But the effort was made. We even made another effort to have another summit at another date that suited everyone, still, it appeared not everyone was ready. In essence, here we were affected more by the procedures than the substance. In other words, the collective responsibility and the problem we have is where procedure takes precedence over substance. Because we have to practically deal with this matter, and there are other things we need, we keep trying to make an effort so that we harmonize and work with each other, especially when it comes to these cross-border activities like trucks.
As you have seen in Rwanda’s case, we are noticing a problem whereas we had really taken full control of the situation and were reining in the virus. In fact, more people had recovered than those who were being infected, still sick and in isolation, or in quarantine.
But, all of a sudden, cross-border activities introduced other numbers rapidly, so we are now trying to deal with that. And there is no better way of dealing with that, than through regional cooperation and coordination, and understanding each other so that we manage this common problem.
So, responsibility, yes. I have a responsibility because I am one of those leaders of the partner states. At the same time, I am also the chairperson of the EAC but you will also understand that even being a Chair you still have certain limits on how much you can do even if you wanted to do it.
Nasra Bishumba: My question is about the one million dollar contribution you made to the African Union COVID fund and the Africa CDC. What would you tell a Rwandan right now, who is thinking about where their next rent is coming from, their next meal? What would you tell them about the value of contributing this money, someone who feels that this money should have gone to Rwandans first, and then later to the African Union? Thank you.
President Kagame: Yes, you understand that in these situations it’s not either-or. You either do this or you do that and you can’t do both. It’s not the case. In these situations, you find that you’ve got to do so many things at the same time. So, the statement that the money that has been pledged to the AU COVID Solidarity Fund and the other to CDC is sort of misplacement of the effort, that is not true.
We know we have Rwandans, of course, to take care of, and primarily they come first. There is no question about it. But that also means, you may recall, that there are other things being done for Rwandans as well. I think working together, either as Africans or in the sub-region or the continent or even internationally, you are not going to run away from the responsibility of making your own contribution. Which, in a sense, feeds back to you.
If CDC is doing well, if the African Union is doing well, in the end, it feeds back to us. As Rwandans, we benefit from that as well. So to have contributed like many other countries did to these two funds, I believe is a noble cause that more countries need to contribute to. If we have a CDC that is working and is working well for us, that is what we want, that is what we expect, and that is what we benefit from in the end.
If we have an African Union working very well in this effort to fight Covid-19, we benefit. And that is what we want. So, one million dollars in one fund and five hundred thousand dollars in another may sound like a big thing, in view of if you put it in the hands of Rwandans, but I think we have also mobilized more funds for Rwandans than the one million dollars.
In fact, maybe that is where we are drawing the one million from, it’s from the resources that have been mobilized, and there are more resources going to Rwandans than those we have contributed to the two funds. I think it depends on how you want to look at it. The way we looked at it is the way we acted. And I think you will agree with me at the end of the day there is more benefit from this collective effort than the one million dollars we have put there.
Albert Rudatsimburwa (Contact TV): I have two questions actually, the current pandemic, … suddenly been affected not only in health but involve many on the economic side of it these people want to go back to normal somehow requires a global Kickstarter, meaning global solidarity. Can you perceive in your discussions with the larger international community if this would be an angle to consider in order to come back to the situation before the pandemic? The second question is on current affairs in the region. Mr. President, there are some reports saying that Rwanda could be, RDF could be back in eastern Congo, in the Kivu, and there are some who say that the RDF is actually fighting a war there, and we are seeing actually that FDLR is being taken care of by FARDC. But some media reports mention the Rwandan army, what is your comment on that?
President Kagame: On the first one, I think you see many efforts across the world. If you remember, sometime back we had a meeting of the G20 countries and the others who were invited to participate. It was in view of trying to see how the world can come together, including the rich countries and not-so-rich countries, the poor countries, to discuss what needs to be done for each country, each region, or by every one of those, and together.
Two things: one, dealing with the pandemic itself, reining it in, strengthening and building or rebuilding the health systems and thinking about the future, and so on.
On the other hand, the discussion was also: how about beyond this pandemic? Because there will be a time when we will be beyond this pandemic, and it will have of course caused enormous damage to the economies of countries. Those are the two major things that people were looking at.
Later on, we had a couple of meetings, of the African Union. The Bureau of the AU under the Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, and the Bureau and other Heads of State invited for different reasons to participate, it was again looking at everything through the lens of Africa but linking with the rest of the world.
We looked at the pandemic as it was affecting us and how do we deal with it using the collaboration with other countries outside of Africa. And then how do we bring in other actors, the private sector, for this mobilization against the pandemic. But how do we bring in everybody else now to also prepare for and deal with the situation when we are past this pandemic.
I can see, therefore, these efforts building up, coming together, sharing best practices, and identifying different places where resources can come from, putting up different formulas as to how different obstacles can be addressed and so on.
I think there is good progress in dealing with the pandemic in each country, in the regions, sub-regions, continental, collaborations across, we are seeing that.
Institutions like WHO that has played a part as the driver of what needs to be done in the sight of the pandemic, all playing their rightful role and I think with significant progress. Then we see the World Bank, IMF, AFDB, different institutions in Europe, America, different places; China, Russia, Canada. Through these multilateral institutions and other institutions, how do we utilize or mobilize resources to help deal with this across the board, across the world? And how do we deal with the socio-economic situation that comes after that? Good progress on that I think.
The second part of your question, you know every time this thing comes up it reminds me of the long history we have been with the problem. We are now 26 years into the problem. The problem of genocidaires, different armed groups that have been born, some of them now have grandfathers and great-grandfathers. They have continued to be born every time, everywhere.
But, I have always seen there is one constant. The one constant is the failure to deal with this problem even if the discussion for the last 26 years has always been to deal with this problem.
What is even worse is that certain people, I don’t know how to call them, who should be responsible for dealing with this situation end up perpetuating the situation.
And all these survive on myths, rumors, all kinds of things you find anywhere. Including, surprisingly, the experts. There are experts who have been operating in this region for the last 26 years. They tell the same story, sometimes spread the same rumors, another time spread the same lies. That is what we are now used to for the last 26 years, without actually seeing a solution to this problem.
Now, why am I saying this? I have heard the same stories you are talking about.
Let me start with the southern part of Eastern Congo; that is Uvira, Minembwe, where the Banyamulenge live, that whole region south of Bukavu.
You know, I am surprised that you have some of these experts who don’t see what is there, that is actually supposed to be seen by anyone who is there, but instead, they see what is not there. What I mean is, how could somebody be talking about Rwandans or RDF, the Rwanda Defence Forces, in that part of the region? Because they are not there. And this same person or these people don’t see the very things happening there.
Through our intelligence collection, which we share, by the way, with those who are supposed to be dealing with the situation, we give it to them when we have collected it so that they can do what they are supposed to do. Our intelligence collection tells us that we have forces from Burundi, government forces operating in that region. We have a number of rebel groups, you can’t count them easily, in that situation. They involve Barundi, they involve people from here, those old groups connected with the FDLR that kept breaking-up into different pieces, and we have those groups that have gone as far south in those areas of Fizi and have been operating in that region, working together with different Mayi Mayi groups and the other groups from Burundi on both sides fighting each other. It’s a cocktail, a mess.
So, I don’t know whether people are confusing genuinely or deliberately the Rwandans that are said to be there, and have been there for a long time. These are off-springs of FDLR, not RDF. These are two different things. There is not a single soldier of RDF that has gone to that territory, not a single one. I say it with authority.
But some NGOs, some journalists are able to see battalions and all kinds of things, but the government of DRC knows the facts, knows that not a single soldier of RDF is there. They know those facts. I don’t know what MONUSCO says, I don’t know what whoever wants to say will say. So, please, take it from me, there is not a single soldier in that part of the world.
Now you come to the North, I will tell you again something that is intriguing, linking to the history of this problem. Fortunately, we have a government in the DRC that has come to agree to work with the region, countries in the region, their neighbors, to try and resolve this problem that has been there for decades. And the current government of the DRC has been very helpful in working with the countries in the region.
According to some people, of course, that is not a good thing. The same people who create those stories like you have in the south. It is not a good thing that the government of DRC would be working with neighboring countries to deal with this matter because for some reason it is a problem they want to preserve so that maybe it stays for another 25 years, I don’t know. And that’s why, they are putting pressure on them by creating these lies and saying look, you know there is another group coming.
First, they don’t talk about other countries, they talk about Rwanda all the time. That’s okay, I have no problem with that; because anyway we are the ones with a bigger problem to deal with.
I told you that we give information to our partners in the region including the UN and others, the information that we get about these activities. We have been giving information as well to the government of the DRC. And in fact, they started acting on some of the information we gave them because they were also able to verify and see what was growing in North Kivu and started operating against these groups of FDLR, they have all kinds of names I don’t want to go into that.
When they started operations based on this information and collaboration we had with them, the whole thing turns against them.
It’s like actually acting against these groups is a crime in itself, and then a dynamic set up internally to start questioning, harassing the government. They say, you see it is Rwanda which is coming in. They are not complaining about the presence of FDLR, they are not complaining about the havoc they cause against the people of DRC. They are creating a myth and some kind of monster of RDF having crossed into DRC to carry out operations. Nothing about what they would be operating against if they cross.
Recently, you saw the FDLR laid an ambush on the road in an area of Rutshuru. They killed these guards who work in the Virunga massive on the DRC side. There was only one mention about some rebels from Rwanda having killed people and that was it, not a big deal, not an issue. They just mention it in passing. It’s like these people have been made to feel entitled to do whatever they want to do in DRC and if anybody raises anything about them …
But the UN forces are there. In fact, they were brought there to deal with that problem. I wish they had dealt with the problem or are dealing with the problem. They are not. Everything comes to be summarised as Rwanda getting involved in DRC. That is the answer to every problem that is raised about it.
So my dear friend, one: DRC has been very helpful because it is their territory and the people in DRC are the ones actually suffering at the hands of these rebel groups. Maybe except those who work with them, and some benefit from working with them.
As you saw, it is not even based just in DRC, it is external. Somebody complains about Rwanda being in DRC operating against FDLR, and they prefer to call them refugees rather than FDLR, and they are doing that from abroad. Some of these people who are doing that are Rwandese who actually finance or support these groups operating in DRC or their supporters who are not Rwandese necessarily, who are from Europe or America or wherever. The whole thing keeps being a cocktail. And that explains why this problem has been there for the last 26 years.
So, I probably gave you more than you expected or wanted, but that’s the way I can put it.
Jean Pierre Kagabo (RBA) : The consequences of this pandemic come during the period in which people have dubbed “ubudasa” period of speeding up what was started in 2017-2024, and four years remain. What you promised Rwandans are in line with the government’s plan of improving citizen lives. Based on the consequences of this pandemic on people and the economy of the world and our country, can you say that the promised plan will be achieved, or this government plan needs to be revised based on the consequences of the pandemic? Lastly, Rwandans went through difficult times and in the last 26 years they came up with solutions. Would this pandemic be a way to think again and find a solution that will make us progress as the consequences are enormous?
President Kagame: This pandemic is not the first or only challenge that Rwandans have faced. Rwandans have faced many hardships. Each time Rwandans joined hands, put their strengths together, and did everything in their power to move forward.
The pandemic is also a challenge to deal with because it affects the lives of Rwandans and the country’s economy. But it also reminds us what we should do in case we encounter challenges like this pandemic; looking within our means, and beyond when there are things we don’t have. But we have to start with what we have within our means. That’s the lesson we have learned over the years, every Rwandan, and I think that’s why we are not easily shaken and try to always successfully resolve our problems.
Coming back to what you asked, this pandemic will change a lot of things on what we had planned, on our plans for the country in general, on development, on the wellbeing of citizens. A lot will change but not everything. Certain things will be given new meanings such that they will maybe become our priority or just base on them to do other things. A lot will change in mindset, in numbers, and in wanting to speed up our activities. This pandemic is like something that awakens people to do things differently or pushes people to find new ways to do the things they were used to doing.
I think that even if it was not for this pandemic, when we have elaborated plans and implemented them, in some instances we depend on the challenges you meet on the way in the implementation process. In activities based on your planning, you may see things that have to be changed. We don’t move blindly. For every step we take, we cross-check to see if it fits in the current context if it is in line with our planning or if there are things we can add or change. It is in our duty then to rethink our plans, redesign our implementation processes, or even do those activities that are still in line with the current state of things. We have the right to do what is right for us.
Fiona Muthoni (CNBC): What are some of the recovery plans for the economy that the government is currently working on?
President Kagame: We have to be dealing with two things at the same time. We’re dealing with this pandemic that continues to affect the whole world, so we are channeling resources there to make sure that it does not continue feeding into other things we are doing for a better future.
But at the same time, while we deal with the pandemic, we are also thinking about how we deal with the consequences on the normal lives of people. Whether it is at work, with employment, productivity, and all kinds of things that have been making our economy what it is.
We want to see business activity internally resume. We want to see how we do business with the rest of the world, avoiding the problems that would come along relating to the coronavirus and so on.
All of that comes into being by looking at a number of things, the measure we are getting, for example, there is going to be some kind of contraction to the economy. In our case, we were looking at the economy growing in excess of 8% this year for example. We are going to see it come down, according to the estimates we are getting, around 3.5%.
That means, therefore, the economy has been hit already or even going forward, some of the things won’t be done the way we expected them to be done.
So how do we revive businesses? How do we revive our exports? How do we have tourism thrive again? It’s going to be a slow process, so we are taking measures along these lines. How to really inject life back into the system and allow what was happening in the area of construction, in the investments we are making, in the area of energy, the mining sector and so on.
As I said from the beginning, we are not only looking at sector by sector and seeing how it has been affected, and what is needed to restart the activity, but we are also looking at the resources required. How do we now mobilize resources to inject back into the system as required as well?
It’s a comprehensive plan, looking at every aspect and prioritizing of course. Priority here being the people of Rwanda, how do they get back their life – their economic, their social life and be that driver they have always been.
Claudine Mahoro (Radio & TV10): Some countries including those from Africa have started easing lockdown restrictions by reopening some businesses to revive the economy, as the WHO showed that we will live with this pandemic for a long time. For Rwanda, are there measures that after the 30th of April some ‘non-essential’ activities/businesses might be reopened?
President Kagame: I have said this while I was answering a question that was asked in English but let me say it again in Kinyarwanda. Some businesses and people’s movements stopped to reduce the spreading of this pandemic. The way things came to a stop in our country, be it in the economic sector or even in cross-border movements of people and goods, followed what needed to be taken care of in order to intensify our fight against this pandemic.
In the past few days, we had a cabinet meeting to assess how things are being done and we decided to extend the lockdown because of the situation.
Later on, we indeed put in place ways to assess, to go in different parts of the country to see if the pandemic was spread elsewhere, and we realized that we needed to extend. But in a few days to come, we will have another meeting to reassess the situation, based on the information available and on research, how the pandemic has affected lives in rural and urban areas, and decide which restrictions can be eased for life to start going back to normal, and which ones to keep that cause us problems.
We have another cabinet meeting this week that will do an evaluation based on the numbers and research, and we decide which restrictions to lift and the ones to keep, and the ways in which we take small steps for life to come back. We will continue to evaluate the situation to be able to do things that don’t compromise our efforts in fighting this pandemic.
Saul Butera (Bloomberg): My question is in connection with Fiona’s. With the government bailout plan, I want just a clear picture. Other companies that have been affected, apart from RwandAir, which other companies have been identified to get the bailout? Would you plan for an external borrowing to cover the bailout plan? How difficult has it been for the government to secure protective gear and ventilators? Where have they been coming from?
President Kagame: There are people already at work, looking at each sector. It’s not just one company that is going to be favored against the other, it’s looking at the situation holistically. I think RwandAir has been talked about so much because people see it more easily than other things or need it to travel and so on, that’s how it has come up. But the economic life does not start and end with RwandAir, it’s a comprehensive thing.
So what we are talking about, therefore, is looking at all sectors of our economy. I talked about different businesses, including small businesses, I’ve talked about our hospitality/tourism sector, there are different sectors that have been talked about. All are being looked at in detail, that’s why I’m not comfortable just spilling out a few things here, and then the others that are left out may think they are not being considered, but that’s not the case. We are looking at the comprehensive picture in this regard. It will definitely be coming up and you will get to know the details of that.
Laura Broulard (RFI): I have a question about the death of Kizito Mihigo because different NGOs have questioned the fact that he has committed suicide. And some representatives of the international community have asked for an independent investigation. I was wondering what may you answer to their concerns?
President Kagame: It depends what is going to satisfy you because I’m also informed that there have been explanations given not by one person, but by many and on several occasions.
So if you’re still asking me to explain that, it means you’re not satisfied or those NGOs you’re talking about or whoever is not satisfied, I’m sorry that means they’ll never be satisfied. So I don’t think I can satisfy you either.
You will have to make up your mind whether you are satisfied by those who explained it so many times before unless you’re telling me you’ll only be satisfied if I explain it. But if I explained it the same way you have already heard, I’m sure that will add up to not being satisfied again. So can we put that question to rest?
Philbert Girinema( Igihe.com): Different countries and people working in the health sector are doing research to find a cure for Coronavirus. I was wondering if in Rwanda there is something being done in particular to find the cure. And what do you say about the vaccine that Madagascar claims to have found?
President Kagame: Rwandans do everything that is possible based on what is in place around the world, on what science tells us, based on World Health Organization (WHO). I can tell you that myself and other leaders in this country trust what science tells us, we don’t believe in superstitions or speculations. We base our understanding on what has been proven.
In regards to COVID-19, there are things that scientists and other health experts have not yet discovered about the virus. They are doing research, they are things are not known yet, but a lot is now clear about prevention measures against this virus, and that’s where our focus is.
But even if that’s where we stand, in Rwanda we are also trying to do certain things. If you have seen, there are those who have manufactured many things that are used in the health sector, I have seen those who make ventilators and other things.
Maybe tomorrow Rwandans may manufacture testing kits, and researchers in collaboration with other experts are still trying to understand the nature of this virus and how it can be treated, or even a vaccine. All those are things that are done in collaboration and Rwanda was not left behind.
But today, I cannot tell that they have reached this or that level in treatment, prevention, vaccine, or any other thing. Rwandans are yet to reach that level. I cannot tell you that, I don’t know.
Concerning Madagascar, I saw it the same way you did. You can accept it, it’s you right. Or you can wait and see what will come out of it. I have seen and heard about it, but I also told you that we chose to trust science. We will also follow closely on those other things and see what will come out of it.
Clement Uwiringiyimana (Reuters): My question is about what you recently said that Africa as a whole continent needs 100 billion dollars to defeat COVID-19 effects. How much exactly does Rwanda need, and how will you raise it? The second question is whether Rwanda is negotiating with its creditors to postpone the payment.
President Kagame: Yes, the experts have told us that we need around that 100 billion dollars, possibly more. These are experts who have gone into details, specifically to deal with this pandemic and how to get out of it. We will need more to rebuild later on.
For Rwanda, I think if you gave us a billion of that, we would be happy to try and get started on something decent.
Yes, we have been in touch with lenders relating to the debt problem. There has been a lot of arguments going around, Africans asking generally instead of paying money that is due for the money we borrowed some time back, if they could a standstill on the debt for at least two years, that money would be retained and reinvested in our systems therefore to fill those gaps that exist.
That is going on and some of it is already bearing fruit because we have received money from the institutions we have been working with from the World Bank, IMF and we’re going to get money from the African Development Bank as well under different forms and structures. But all to make it easy for us to be able access the funds to fight against the pandemic, and also to move forward into after the pandemic
Berna Namata (The East African): My first question is related to regional integration, your current capacity as chair again. We have seen that due to the pandemic, international cooperation is an imperative. To what extent, despite the current frustrations you have had trying to put together a meeting, what could the region do differently? Because despite what you try to do within your national borders we continue to see that there are cases with truck drivers, if the region is not working together we will still have problems for a very long time. So going forward, what can be done differently? My second question is in relation to Rwanda’s development strategy. 2050 for Rwanda, had been placed, there is a lot of focus on MICE, meetings, events, and conferences. And what we are seeing as a result of the pandemic is that there is a real threat that revenues from these sectors will take long to rebound. Do you see the need to revise the country’s strategy at this point? How are you planning to raise the revenues to fund the kind of days that we are getting at the moment?
President Kagame: Well, For the East African Community and in that sense, regional integration, that remains important, no matter what. We may fail to do this or to achieve this, but it remains important that we keep cooperating more closely even than ever before, there is no question about it. So we will find ways of overcoming our failures and weaknesses, that remains the most important thing.
And the points you’ve raised, for example when we’ve seen how truck drivers, affecting countries because they are coming from one country to another and back. What they carry with them as relates to the pandemic of course is very significant. We need to deal with that. And there’s not a single country that can manage that on its own.
So, it is imperative, you may postpone it, you may delay it, you may fail to do it but it remains important. It remains important that we find ways to work together. And we will find ways to work together.
You’re asking what do we need to do differently, I don’t think we even need to do anything differently. We just need to do what we all along agreed we should be doing. And that is working together. But we have had weaknesses in that, which we need to overcome.
On the second question, I said earlier that even if there was no pandemic, in implementing your strategy you always keep checking the steps you take with the results you are expecting. If that’s not being achieved, then you find ways of tweaking it and maybe changing some things here and there.
But this time around, we have this pandemic and the weight and impact of which is obvious. At the same time you’re also aware, it has affected every country. And for MICE to work, yes we expect people to be able to travel. But it has affected everyone so there won’t be people coming not only to Rwanda both the whole region and beyond. There is no movement, it’s like there’s lockdown across the world. So to say in the earlier strategy, I’m going to replace MICE with this, maybe it is too early because everything else, even what you’re thinking of replacing it with, has also been affected. Because the economy is built on people and activities they get involved in.
So everything has frozen, we will, therefore, wait a little bit to move forward, even when things start unlocking to see in the same way what is working, and whether there is anything that you can replace it with.
But to say it now, I think would be too early in my view because everything else has been affected. You can see even the trucks that were remaining as the only ones on the road, are also being affected. It seems that there’s nothing that is not being affected.
So we are dealing with a very complex situation but for the strategy we have had, we will be careful and deliberate how we alter it, or change anything that needs to be changed.
Thierry Kevin Gatete (GateteViews): The 1973 oil crisis began in October 1973 when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries proclaimed an oil embargo. By the end of the embargo in March 1974, the price of oil had risen nearly 400%, from US$3 per barrel to nearly $12 globally. Arab countries became excessively rich since.
– The US is likely to print money out of thin air without reserves to sustain it;
– Private lenders are likely to lend Africa speculative money;
– China will devaluate its currency further to flood African markets with their products.
In all this, our fledgling industry is likely to fully collapse, as commodities sustain the global economy
What shall it take for Africa to come together and control the price of commodity Coffee, Minerals, Cocoa, Minerals, etc. to raise capital for post-COVID industrialization?
President Kagame: I think I got your point much as it was getting distorted a bit. Look, for all the work that has to go into thinking, and therefore implementing what you’re raising, I guess that is more for the future than for now. The situation we are in is not the moment to think about that because it will just take you to another territory that will worsen your problems for now.
But that kind of discussion can come in the future – if you want to plot in terms of how you leverage the resources of the continent. That needs a lot of work to be put into it. That work is something that you can see over many years in the past and also if you look deeply at why it fails or failed in the past, reversing that needs a lot of work by the Africans, by the leaders, and so on.
Even if I’ll also have to say not only a lot of work but a lot of caution because you may do it so badly that while you think you’re leveraging your commodities to get what you want, others can leverage on, at least temporarily, not needing your commodities. And that means you’ll be stuck with your commodities.
So there’s a lot of work and you have to look at many sides to it. But I’m even hesitant to say that discussion doesn’t come now because now we are in a different situation. I’d rather discuss it when we’re in a good place, a good position. That’s when you start talking about it.
But in a situation like this where you are almost entirely strangled by the problem, the one we are facing – the pandemic – and the way to come out of it and deal with the situation after, injecting this, even if you were 100% right, you would be bringing it at the wrong time and it will give you a very painful result. So maybe let’s think of that in the future.
Gatete: Just a quick follow up, if I may. Some countries are blaming the World Health Organisation and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of not acting decisively in response to COVID-19. We saw African and global leaders expressing support to him. Where do things stand?
President Kagame: Given the magnitude of the problem we are facing of the pandemic across the world, I am of the strong view that this is not the right time to create or bring up these kinds of problems. I think if we do that, it will take all the effort we should be putting into dealing with the pandemic and divert it to something else and therefore we will lose the battle.
So my view is, even from what I have seen, from the beginning up to this moment, I’m not aware of anybody or any country that can stand there and say “I have even done everything perfectly well, the rest are wrong”. I don’t know if anyone or any country can claim that.
I think all of us have demonstrated some kind of weakness or another, even given what everybody says in this world. Maybe we need to humble ourselves a little bit and work together, pull together, deal with the problem and once we are through, people are free to raise any questions they want and to whoever they want to hold accountable, you can hold them accountable.
I’m sure there are ways of holding people accountable whenever the right time comes. So why don’t we do that? I think that is the best way we can approach it. Let’s deal with the pandemic, let’s pull together as much as we can. When we get over it, we can sort out that problem. So that’s where we are, some of us.
Simon Wolfhart (AFP & France24): We have seen a number of Rwandans arrested for not respecting the lockdown and public health measures. But so far… have not shared precise measures for those violating the lockdown and I would like to know what are the exact sanctions for the offenders.
President Kagame: I think some of them have just been arrested and later on released, warned and released, or fined and released. At least I haven’t heard of anybody being hanged because of violation of the rules of lockdown.
But definitely there has been enforcement in making sure that people don’t break the rules they know they have been told about.
In fact, there have been light measures so far in terms of breaking the rules of lockdown. Some of them I’m told have been locked up during the time they have been arrested and then released the next day, others have been warned and released, and so on.
I haven’t heard of anybody given a six-month sentence or a one-year sentence for that. It’s just some way of making sure that some discipline that is required is realized going forward.
Assumpta Kaboyi/VOA: During this period of Covid-19, a big number of factories incurred losses and some of them have suspended employees. How do you intend to revive these industries? The last one is about some leaders who abuse people while enforcing Stay at Home measures. What is your say on that?
President Kagame: Industries and many other sectors of the country have been seriously affected. Before reviving industries, we have to assess our progress in the fight against the pandemic. It is true that industries have been affected, but also households, where people live; all things have been affected.
That’s the reason why, we are looking into modalities of identifying some activities that can be allowed to start working, of course basing on the progress we have so far made in our fight against this pandemic.
I told people that we will have a cabinet meeting that will discuss the collected information regarding numbers, the entry and the spread of the virus if those who were being traced report. It is a long process.
The collected information will help us decide our next step. Probably we may decide to lift the lockdown on some activities such as the industrial sector, a few or maybe all of them will be allowed to work but in regards with established prevention measures like protective clothes and equipment, safe distance while at work as well. We hope that people will respect those measures once they are back to work. That is how it will be handled.
On the second question: Often, in such situations, regarding how people work while implementing directives or enforcing laws, people are human and they make mistakes. Either those who are affected by the laws or those who are willing to respect them, they both make mistakes.
But whenever the issue of a leader who abused people under the pretext of enforcing laws – which finally turns into breaking the law – is raised, it is directly fixed. Anyone found involved in such malpractices is held accountable.
There may be some leaders who don’t accomplish their duties as expected. It is important that all people, including you journalists, whoever may be aware of such information, report it so that people try to put things back in order. That’s how it has to be done.