It was an evening of celebration on many fronts as the winners of the 4th International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award were announced in Rwanda’s capital Kigali shortly after President Paul Kagame and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani unveiled the anti-corruption sculpture at Kigali Convention Centre (KCC).
Not even the evening drizzle could deter the hammer-wielding heads of state who were joined by their Namibian counterpart Hage Geingob, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and FIFA President Gianni Infantino as they symbolically demolished the corruption wall, leading up to the steel sculpture.
After crumbling the wall, President Kagame and his Qatari counterpart, who he described as a friend and young brother unveiled the plaque on the sculpture which was crafted by Doha-based Iraqi contemporary artist and sculptor Ahmed Albahrani.
Shortly after the unveiling of the imposing artwork, the heads of state commenced to the ceremony to award the best anti-corruption advocates in the 4th edition of the awards which are sponsored and hosted under the auspices of the Emir of Qatar.
President Kagame thanked the Emir for the ‘stunning sculpture’ which he said adds to the city’s beauty and will go a long way in reminding the society the responsibility to fight the corruption scourge.
“This symbolizes both the openness and the firm resolve needed to prevail in the fight against corruption,”
“We thank you for this iconic work of art which will have pride of place here in our capital city, and which will also go a long way to keep reminding us and encouraging us to always be present in this fight against corruption,” he said adding that the journey started and the event in Kigali is an encouragement to finish it.
President Kagame thanked the Emir and the Attorney General of Qatar, Dr. Ali Bin Mohsen Bin Fetais Al-Marri for being at the forefront of bringing the event to Rwanda –the first time an African country has hosted the ACE Awards.
Al-Marri who is also a Special Attorney for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the chairman of the ACE Awards said that Kigali was chosen to host the awards on the advice of the Emir himself.
“Some may ask, why Kigali, why Rwanda? It is a habit that before we choose the place to host the awards, we ask the Emir and UN in order to determine the country which will host the awards. When we inquired from the Emir, he said it must be held in Africa, particularly Rwanda,”
“We asked with great impulsiveness why Rwanda? He said go and read the history of Rwanda, go and read the history of President Kagame, if you are not convinced, come back and we will discuss this once again,”
“He said. We went and read, and discovered that Rwandans suffered more than any other people in world but they overcame,” he told them.
From the Emir’s advice, they went ahead and read about Rwanda and President Kagame’s story and everything they found out confirmed to them why Rwanda was the befitting host of the coveted anti-corruption awards.
With the country’s tragic history, Al-Marri said that Rwandans were able to overcome the worst pain any human race has gone through to turn a new page, putting behind the suffering, pain, hardships, famine and focused on developing the country, propelling it to the 8th fastest developing country in the world.
Moving onto President Kagame, the team discovered that he has been at the forefront of it all, easing the pain of his people and working tirelessly to put Rwanda where it is today –from a famine-affected country to a fast developing nation.
“You have created the Rwandan miracle Mr. President, you and your people,” the Qatari Attorney General said, thanking the Emir for choosing Rwanda.
On his part, President Hage Geingob said that Namibia and Rwanda share a lot in common, joking that unlike others he has read about President Kagame, exemplified by the fact that during his tenure as President, he has been to Rwanda four times.
President Geingob said that he was in Nairobi, Kenya for the 9th African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Group of States Heads of State & Government Summit, where he met President Kagame and he invited him for the event in Kigali and he had to make it a point to come.
The Namibian leader said that transparent, that is accountability, spells trust by the people, which he said has waned for African leaders and politicians generally globally and must be earned back.
“The only way is for us to be transparent and accountable so that our people can regain trust in us,” he said.
“Corruption is a curse. When I took office, as required by law, I declared all my assets, all my accounts,” he said, adding that his wife Monica, a businesswoman, who was present, also joined in and they made their affairs transparent before waging war on corruption.
He said that he also asked his Ministers and staff to declare their assets and soon started boasting that Namibia is not a systemically corrupt country.
“But just few weeks ago, during my election campaign, in the middle of that, Al Jazeera brought out what they called the fishrot documentary,” he said adding that the scandal which put several cabinet ministers at the centre of a corruption scheme to give fishing companies favours put a blemish on the country’s efforts to root out corruption.
“Today as we speak, five of them are in jail” he said, challenging the audience to find solutions to address the ‘disease’. He said corruption is not African in nature because most of it comes from outside Africa.
The AUC Chairperson said that corruption is a gangrene that eats into the socio-economic and indeed the political fabric of whatever country it attacks and needs to be dealt with effectively because it derails the continent’s development targets and ambitions.
He said the continent loses more than $50bn in illicit financial flows, a bigger percentage of that money being money stolen and pilfered from public coffers.
On his part, Mr Infantino reflected the corruption scandals that have rocked FIFA in recent years, pointing out that it took him years to get rid of the systemic corruption that had eaten into the world football body and today FIFA’s image has been restored and trust earned back.
During the event, the winners of the 4th ACE Awards were announced in announced in different categories including the Lifetime or Outstanding Achievement Category Award which was won by former Zambian President and founding father Dr Kenneth Kaunda.
The Academic Research and Education Category was taken by Dr. Maria Krambia-Kapardis, an anti-corruption activist and scholar from Cyprus, together with Dr. Alban Koçi, a Law Professor at the University of Tirana, Albania.
In the category of Youth Creativity and Engagement Category, Jeunesses Musicales International (JMI), the largest youth music NGO in the world, with members and partner organizations in over 40 countries emerged the winners alongside Congolese anti-corruption whistleblower Jean-Jacques Lumumba.
SEMA, an organization that gathers citizen voices to improve public services founded by Nathalie Djikman and Connor Sattely emerged winners for creating tools that enable citizens to give feedback on corruption emerged winners while Elnura Alkanova, an independent investigative journalist from Kyrgyzstan emerged among the seven winners.
President Kagame congratulated the winners, pointing out that they represent the very best of the fearless spirit and determination required to sustain zero tolerance against corruption. The occasion coincided with the International Anti-Corruption Day which is celebrated every 9th of December annually.