Moderator: Thank you very much Mr. President. I will ask you two questions. The first one about health-related issues on the pandemic, and the second one about the situation in Mozambique.
On the first one, you have shown that in Rwanda, you have delivered what some experts in Singapore like to call “functional efficiency”. Functional efficiency, I think is a good concept. It is the capacity of a government to deliver. This issue is closely related to a debate on democracy versus moral authority, if we look at this from a non-ideological viewpoint.
Can you comment a little bit more on how you have done things, on how you have achieved a number of things, progress, where governments in Africa are not able to do so?
It is a provocative question, but I think it is a very important one. So let me start by this one.
President Kagame: Well, thank you. First of all, we start from a point where we take ourselves as blessed human beings, as the rest are in the world, with values, aspirations, energy, and intellect to do what society demands that we should do and do it within the time it demands. That is a starting point.
Second, there is this interaction that should take place between all leaders of all kinds and those they lead, mainly the citizens. There must be that interaction that delivers on values and aspirations, and therefore everyone has a chance not only to participate but also to benefit. This is on the theoretical side, and easier to say and define, and the problem comes in practice, when you do things for the society to benefit and moves on.
Of course, other complications come in the way. It is not just one country operating, it is the society, leaders, and citizens. It is also what I pointed to earlier, the kinds of interests that crisscross borders and so, it is a society in a country and nation that is trying to express itself the way they think is best for them and also there is another side where those who think they are powerful want to shape those values and interests or what you should do. In most cases, somebody will tell, you should be like them.
This is what creates a kind of political conflict if you will, and in fact, it happens to the extent that delivering on those aspirations and desires and values as the society may define, this is completely forgotten. Of course, there are weaknesses in every country, we talked about that without exception. By the way, power has come to set the course of events. Those who are powerful talk about it, and want to load it on the others, but their problems are their problems, and they would want to sort it out and you cannot interfere, but they have the right on the basis of the power they hold to interfere in your problems.
But I also said across the continent in Africa. And when we are saying and arguing like this, I am not excusing in any way the problems we have on our continent and our country.
It is not. I am saying that having problems is normal because even those who are trying to penalize or force you from one direction to another because they think what you are doing is wrong are actually doing wrong in their own settings.
They have a right to do what they think is wrong anyway, deserve the right to use your own problem as an excuse to cover up their own. So, it goes on and on.
But for a specific case in Africa or Rwanda, these are the struggles we go through, and I have said it several times. If in any country, there is something going wrong, you have countries where the governance is so bad that it affects the citizens, and the citizens are complaining. When things are going wrong, you cannot hide. It is actually a matter of time. It goes to a time when you cannot hide it. It is wrong. And it is no longer the responsibility of that country, it becomes the responsibility of the international community, or any other country can say no something is wrong here. So, each country is trying to do the best they can, that is granted. I think the best chance we have is that Africa, we work together.
That is what gives rise to some of the things you referred to. If you took an example where Rwanda is involved, we went to Mozambique, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, under different arrangements, some of them were under the UN, other arrangements were bilateral or both. So, this is all done in search to try and resolve these problems. In the case of Mozambique, we were asked by the President of Mozambique and the government for a problem that had been there for four years.
The place in the northeastern part of the country, a place called Cabo Delgado, is three times the size of my country, and it had been taken over by these terrorists. Of course, for that to reach that point, they must have exploited some weakness, and one of them is lack of cooperation because from the beginning, what the Mozambicans did not have is maybe a neighbor, or a region, which they find themselves, but it came to that point, and they asked and we helped, and SADC is also helping and I am told we are at a point where the European Union is about to help in terms of training their troops, so that they can be able to stand on their own and prevent terrorists from taking over their territory.
Or having to need a friend or neighbor to come and help with a problem. So that is the stage where it is. It is the same process in the Central African Republic.
We are able to make a contribution having gone through the worst of times. In Rwanda, we went through a very tragic situation, after that we picked our pieces even with partners and we were assisted.
But this is where the trick is. Some of the help we got would come under dictation of how we should we use it and how to preserve our medium to long-term interest, and not because the one giving help wants to dictate what direction you must take.
And there was always this interaction where we would say that we appreciate this help, but you must give us a chance to determine where we need the support most.
The support will enable us to stand on our own feet to enable us to deal with our future problems, so that we do not need you perpetually.
In fact, this is the same conversation we are having with the Government of Mozambique, when we are there assisting. We have been saying that we can only do so much, the rest is for you. Therefore, we can even work with other partners like I said, even European Union wants to help or is helping. It is to help so that Mozambique stands on its own and does not need us because we cannot be there forever. Whether it is Rwanda or Mozambique or any other country, you cannot be in Mozambique forever. For us we learned our lessons and we did not miss the opportunity to build on these lessons we learned of saying that we fell short, and it is a problem we had and it is our problem. Going forward, we need to help, and we need help to help ourselves and that is where we stand now.
Moderator: I want to remind the audience that in 1994, we saw the Rwandan genocide and that Kagame came in as President in 2000. 9/11 happened in 2001, and of course we saw the US and allies move into Afghanistan. We saw the Afghanistan war and occupation, and for some the Afghanistan war and occupation was a very bad situation and major burden. When you look at what Rwanda has done since 1994, it seems like yesterday, it was a very short time ago in which you achieved so much. Ten years ago in Istanbul, we spoke about smart cities, bigger cities about a vision, a plan and I am interested now as you are entering your third decade as President of your country, is there a new vision or you are still continuing with the one of two decades ago.
President Kagame: Look, we have rebuilt a country, people have come together and narrowed their differences. We have made investments in our people whether we talk about education, skills, technology, health, and many others. We have also been able to create an environment that attracts more investments from outside and, on that basis, we have seen how the country has grown up to this point. Therefore, what we are trying to do now is add Vision 2020 which has been running for 20 years, since 2000, and we made these investments and brought in energy from the region for regional integration and so on and so forth. We did not just talk about domestic issues, we also dealt with other matters, regional and continental and also the partnerships with Africa and the rest of the world. So, we have learned lessons ourselves. We really try to learn a lot of lessons.
We consolidated the lessons we made in the past and understood why we made such progress and then continued making gains. It is still work in progress. There are lots of problems and challenges to deal with. So, we have now put in place another vision that spans 30 years and broken it into two parts, 15 and 15, and it is about where have moved, initially a low-income country aspiring to be a middle-income country. We look at what progress we have made over these years and then we want to move even further and be an upper middle-income country in those 30 years, if not a developed country after that. So that is really what is preoccupying us now. It is consolidation of the gains and things that have worked, and try to do more and better on those and then deal with the challenges that remain and new ones that come up.
But at least, we have been able to create the foundation, and it is a very firm foundation with our people, with the understanding of where we have come from and what we have to do to be where we have targeted to be. So, I think that is in the 30 years when, indeed, you look at the change that there has been, in close to 30 years now since the Genocide, I think 30 years looks very small, so each Rwandan plays their part, and we want to continue on the same path.
Moderator: Let me ask you a question, President Kagame, that is at little bit delicate. In 1995, I had the privilege of interviewing Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, and I compare you to a Lee Kuan Yew leader, and I asked then senior minister, when we relax, when we feel the model we have is secure enough, the security, the liberal dimensions of the Singapore story should be relaxed, and he said that he will relax when he realizes that the political opposition was not trying to tear things down, but trying to build Singapore, but that there were too many combustible issues that remain beneath the surface and he said that if you let those up then, they will eat away. And it is interesting that you have been criticised for treatment of journalists and intellectuals that have spoken out. How do you get the balance right, what are equities in an increasing society where liberal becomes an important part of the picture right next to a robust economic development. I will ask you the same question, when will you relax some of these issues?
President Kagame: Well, let me start by saying that I welcome the criticisms made, some of them unfair, others fair, but that is life.
We always wonder, if we had not made progress, or if we had not survived at all, what would be the criticism today? So, I think that was settled. We can be blamed, we can be criticised, for making good progress, maybe not relaxing, that is a simple matter to resolve, it is much simple to resolve than if we had done nothing and failed or done entirely a wrong thing together. That is for me the most important thing.
The second part is being relaxed, or I get a feeling that the country is actually relaxing. Over 30 years, it is moving to as almost the same pace as the progress being made on the ground. And therefore, it is more of these factors on the ground and actually, the people will give feedback, and you see it, you read it, unless you are careless, and do not see the things for what they are but I do not see how people might fail to see the interactions that have been taking place, and therefore the outcomes of that and be able to tell that things need to change this way or the other. It is not going to be dependent on just me, as a person, to say when do I say tweak this or tweak that, it is more or less something that is holistic, as I said earlier. The approach is looking at all dimensions of the problems of our society and, therefore, evolving realistically to a next phase or another phase if you will. So, I think we are moving, and I do not want again to single out one thing about the individual.
Secondly, about the opposition, it is the whole picture. I am talking about the whole picture that brings out into play what needs to play out in the society. What benefits the good health of that society.
It is not just one single thing, here, or one single thing there determining the process or the outcome. It is rather a holistic picture that we look at.
Moderator: We saw the movie hotel Rwanda and what it portrayed as an act of heroism and generosity during the atrocities of the Genocide, and Paul Rusesabagina has been arrested, tried, and convicted in Rwanda for terrorist activities and murder. And a lot of the world does not understand why, what happened. The rule of law in this case has been depicted as a battle between the two Pauls, Paul Kagame and Paul Rusesabagina. I am interested in what you think. Because we know the Hollywood story.
From your perceptive, what is the broader story? Is there any merit in the notion that he was picked up as they did on a flight that was not directed to Burundi but to Rwanda? Is there a merit that the rule of law was not followed in this case?
President Kagame: I will start by sympathizing with those people that do not understand this story, but I also know that there are many who do not want to understand the story, do not want to understand anything but want to say or determine so much about that story. That is the first point. And this story has two parts, if you will, and it tells you what happens in this world if we do not see what it is, but it happens anyway.
Two parts of the story. One is the Hollywood story, and there are facts to these things that I am talking about. There is everything you would want to rely on, as fact. This film was actually supposed to be a fictional film. Now, how this person turned into a celebrity today and actually becomes a hero of this story in the history of Rwanda — I will not take much time on it and will leave people to do their own homework and find out.
Now, there is another part of the story, which I think builds on the first one, because again the outside world, the Hollywood world having created this celebrity — the celebrity used this status whether by his own or by being manipulated by others and for some reason associated, created, led, became part of these rebel activities, armed activities in the region targeting Rwanda.
First, these groups kept changing names, splitting, but he was constant and supporting one group or the other and at one point becomes a leader of one of these groups, at one point or another.
And he used to travel throughout this region, this Great Lakes region. He would be in DRC, in Zambia, in different parts of the region. And he was residing in Belgium and the USA. He has Belgian citizenship and is a resident of the USA, so he got involved in this, and the armed groups he was leading and became part of kept invading our country, from mainly Burundi and sometimes DRC. And by the way, here he gives evidence that he was actually part of it. He is on record. And he cannot even deny it, given the record that he himself confirmed.
Now, on this one, and another part how we got him here. There are those people who support him, who complain about him, they have failed to get any illegal aspect of how we got him here. So that is not a problem really. The problem, really, is his activities with the armed groups in the region that has many victims in Rwanda and, together with him, there are close to 20 associates of his who are co-accused in the court of law here in Rwanda, and they were tried together, and they gave evidence against one another and almost all of them against him. Almost all of them.
Now, the issue here becomes from outside, from the celebrity status that was created for him. The same people, who created that celebrity status, have to work to have him freed and in fact, absolved of any responsibility irrespective of the victims, of his actions, or the co-accused who actually stood in this case with him.
Now, this is where the interesting part comes in, because now it becomes a case of where the powerful, in whatever sense you put that, will just determine, and say: “We are the ones who made him a celebrity, whatever he did is none of our business, he must be freed because he is a resident of the United States or a citizen of Belgium”.
And in fact, we had been sharing information with the two countries. The judicial systems of Belgium and the United States were privy to these activities. We shared with them everything for almost a decade, so they cannot even say they do not know. But it is like they are saying, “switch off everything, we want this man to be released”.
These organizations and countries are powerful, but I think we need to take care of our own people’s security, and we will do that legally and very firmly, and they can keep talking about the Hollywood stories, but our lives are as precious to us as lives are precious to Belgium, the United States, and anyone else who might be interested.
So, it was an open case, it was tried in a court of law, it was public. The evidence was shared publicly. There is no doubt about the evidence, quality of the process, so we are having this issue to deal with.
Moderator: Thank you, I appreciate your willingness to talk to us about that, We do not have a lot of time. I wanted us touch on two issues. Recently in the United States, there was discussion about Africa broadly, and there was even a perspective about Africa, that Africa was the platform of the next great game between China and the United States. And I asked myself what about countries like Rwanda, which have showed a self-determination and a model that does not depend on the United States, China, or Europe. I would like to know from your perspective, what this community can hear from you.
President Kagame: While I do not know whether they would be interested in hearing from me or, have not heard from me in a long time. But the thinking goes on for some time, but I have to say here that first maybe, Africa and Africans, ourselves, do not do justice by really acting differently, acting for ourselves, and acting properly. So, we do not do much of that, and that is why we always find ourselves in that position, where people keep arguing for us, sympathizing with us and you know, looking for what they can do for us, not even with us, but for us.
Second is, whether it is China, the United States or anybody, I really do not think it should be the primary responsibility of these big powers to manage Africa, but they can support Africa and do partnerships with Africa over serious problems that affect Africa, but also affect other parts of the world. But all this thinking is where we come from in terms of saying no. We cannot be like this. And I am saying Rwanda and other African countries, which think like that. But we need to do better for ourselves, but of course, this should not excuse anything wrong that might be done by African countries, one or the other including, Rwanda.
Because we have discovered also that there is not a single country in the world that is immune to this. I think we find wrongs and rights in every country. We have our own share of the problem, but to begin with, Rwanda needs to be managed by Rwandans and Africa by Africans, and we have to strive to do the best job to move forward.
But China, the United States, Europe and others, we can be strong partners and we need to always resist being managed, our affairs being managed by them, even if sometimes they use excuses of wrong things happening in one country or another.
Still, we can insist on that country doing things right, but not to manage the affairs of another country and Africa being made to choose between Russia or America or China or, whomever, I think it is wrong. And we must be the first ones to realize that it is wrong. And there, we need to pull back a bit and address our own problems, and partner with whoever needs that partnership.
Moderator: Well, let me slip in a small question and big question. The small question is along those lines, in response to Covid, in line with vaccine development. My understanding is that if you push domestic bio-development, I would love to hear, the mentions of health and security play into the security question. We would love to hear from that.
President Kagame: Well, first of all, I am very happy with the friendship and partnership we have with the state of Qatar, and we think we can do big things together and grow together. And we definitely enjoy that, and for example, when we intervene in different parts, whether in the Central African Republic or Mozambique, there will be other cases coming up, here and there. So, on the basis of the two things, security and health, there is a lot we are doing and can do, not only for ourselves, but we can build on it, on what comes from effectively addressing such problems. That is why friends are there and partnerships are created.
On the side of health, that is why we have been working with these pharmaceuticals for example, or BioNTech. We have already made good progress in terms of looking at the manufacturing of medicines and other pharmaceutical products, especially using the new technology of MRNA that has been used for the Pfizer BioNTech, or the technology that is being used by Moderna, maybe other companies are coming up.
So, we are going to start producing vaccines here in Rwanda with the support of BioNTech and the European Union, and it is to answer to the inequality, where Africans are not manufacturing vaccines and these high-end technological bio-products, and that is why we find ourselves far behind the queue when it comes to vaccinations, we have already seen.
So, that is one way we have to do some of these things in our continent. So, there is no reason we cannot do this. So, the partnership therefore between us and Qatar, as you said, one of the best things that can come out is these partnerships that are effective and doing things with Africa, with Africans and Qatar, has a lot to offer and bring on board. We have a lot of the ground. The Africans have a lot to bring to the partnership as well.
So, I think the sky is the limit. There are many things that can be done. It depends on how people direct their efforts, and for us we want to be productive, build around stability and peace that can be found in our country and others. So, I think that can answer your question.