President Paul Kagame said that regardless of the economic status or size of countries, mutual respect and understanding each other remain key factor for progress, as opposed to patronising approaches used by some countries which assume the role of ‘teachers’.
The Head of State made the remarks at the annual dinner with diplomatic corps, which he attended with the First Lady, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, at the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC), on Tuesday evening. The dinner with the diplomatic corps had not happened in a while due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Kagame thanked the countries for supporting Rwanda to overcome the pandemic, adding that the country has made decent progress, recovery from Covid-19 which impacted many nations.
He said that though Covid-19 hasn’t fully gone away, the progress is promising. He also thanked countries and international organisations that have supported Rwanda in its recovery journey since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“We could not have made recovery and progress over the last 28 years without you, the resilient people Rhonda and equal so, the many friends and partners we have had accompanying us along the way,”
“I wanted to take this moment to say thank you, and we want to continue on the same path, working together as always,” he said, adding that Rwanda will continue to play her part.
The head of state also took time to call out other people who make a mistake of thinking that they can undermine Rwanda, or any other African countries for that matter, as though they have no values, since they are poor and face many other challenges.
He said that while African countries need to learn values from others, it is absolutely wrong to think that they don’t have any values of their own.
“I think, and I will speak for, first my country which I know better, but I think it’s the same with other African countries. Where we’ve come from, we have our problems, but when it comes to values, we have values,” President Kagame said, adding that these values are cherished regardless of other challenges.
The Head of State said that it is important to note that Africans need to own up to their problems but when it comes to being accountable, it should be a two-way approach where countries hold each other accountable, not just one side.
He said that there is no question that being held accountable by others is helpful and makes things better in many ways. He said Rwanda has benefited from that over the past 28 years.
“For the past 28 years, things got better for the country and we want things to continue getting better for us. That is all about the Investments we make every day, including the investments that come from those friends and partners I talked about, so that we can keep getting better,” President Kagame said.
He pointed out that Rwanda is not so not offended when it is told to do what it needs to do to get better.
“That’s true. We want to be better, so we don’t take offense when people keep pointing fingers,” he said, adding that there are people who do it respectfully.
“Even if we may have differences for one reason or another, we maintain being respectful. In some way, of course we expect that back to us but again, even if you didn’t respect us. We have no quarrel about that because we concentrate on what we think we should do for ourselves,” he told the diplomats.
He said that despite the tragic history of the country, Rwanda has chosen not to keep blaming others for what happened because Rwandans had a hand in whatever happened and because apportioning blame doesn’t make sense.
“It doesn’t make us better, doesn’t make us stronger. It just takes away a lot of effort, trying to throw around the blame to other people when you could be doing a lot for ourselves,” President Kagame said.
He however said that over the years, Rwanda has encountered partners and friends who want to assume the position of ‘Teachers’ with a mission of tearing down whatever has been achieved.
The Head of State said that Rwanda has no problem being patronised by the ‘teachers’ because from them the country learns a thing or two.
“We still have no quarrel with that. Maybe we can also learn one thing or two from that and continue moving ahead,”
“I’m going back to who we are and I just want to say this directly with you because you represent your countries and organization,” he said, taking them back into the history of the country, which he said many might struggle to understand.
A case in point, he cited the period of commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in April every year, where some people struggle to interpret what happened in Rwanda and finding a name for it.
He said that it is problematic for people to try and interpret the history of Rwandans, which they lived, as though they have a right to do so, more than the Rwandans themselves who went through the tragic past.
“That’s where the problem comes in – everybody and anybody trying to interpret our history for us and then their line of interpretation becomes the one we must follow,”
“This is not correct and we have a problem with that. Absolutely! But again, even when we have a problem with that, we always respond respectfully,” he said, adding that some people want to tell Rwandans who they are or what they should be.
Without mentioning the name, President Kagame cited an example of an individual structured as a hero or celebrity, whose character was built through a movie, based on the country’s history, to the extent that people think he is above the laws of the land.
President Kagame said that it is absolutely surprising that some people think that they can reduce the country’s history to one individual, who happened to be brought to the country to answer for his actions.
He said that with that position, they are not just getting it wrong, but it is also equivalent to looking down upon Rwandans and disrespecting them. He said that as the President, his job is to reject such notions.
He reiterated his earlier message at the 28th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi, that what happened in Rwanda does not qualify anybody to be called heroes considering the number of people lost.
President Kagame said that not only the story of the said individual is a distorted one but also many Rwandans lost their loved ones at the hands of the armed groups led by that individual and they are demanding justice.
He said that despite the overwhelming evidence against him presented in court as well as evidence of him talking about his actions, some people continue to argue that he is innocent, even when 20 of his co-accused pinned him in broad daylight.
He said that as a result, the individual has not only been imposed on Rwandans but the country’s history has also been re-written based on the movie narrative but no amount of intimidation or pressure can change the facts or court decisions.
President Kagame also used the opportunity to address the UK-Rwanda Migration partnership, which he said continues to cause confusion and debates mainly because people misunderstood it.
“I have seen some people say, you know, the United Kingdom gave us [Rwanda] money and then they want to dump people here. No, we don’t do that kind of thing. We don’t buy and sell people.
“We can’t do that again because of our core values, but I will tell you what happened so that everyone is clear in their minds,” he said, taking the diplomats back in time, in 2018 when he was the chair of the African Union, in regard to what informed the decision.
He said there many stories of young Africans dying in big numbers, in the Mediterranean, being taken through Libya and different parts of Europe.
“I remember reading a story about a Ghanaian young man, an engineer who happened to be following this path and they are people [smugglers] who have networks to take people from Africa through different paths and some will go into Europe,” he said.
He added that at the time they were using Libya because of the security situation there because there was no state in control. Hundreds of thousands of youths looking to go to Europe were trapped in Libya.
President Kagame led the conversation at the continental level, which led to the establishment of the Emergency Transit Mechanism, which would see the trapped youth transferred to a safe country as a permanent solution is sought.
Fast-forward, the African refugees were transferred to Rwanda under the arrangement and resettle in the ETM camp in Gashora, from where they are processed and given an option to either return home or be taken by a third country.
With the global immigration crisis unfolding where hundreds of thousands of people try to cross to Europe, President Kagame said the UK and Rwanda reviewed the model applied by Rwanda, AU and UNHCR and came to the conclusion that a similar approach can be used.