President Paul Kagame says if God created people in his own image, all people are equal before him and nobody should pretend to be more superior than the other or dictate how the other person should lead their lives.
The Head of State made the observation on Sunday at the 29th National Prayer Breakfast at Kigali Convention (KCC), organised by Rwanda Leaders Fellowship (RFL), bringing together hundreds of leaders and invited guests from different countries from across the continent and the globe.
In his address, President Kagame recalled a story from around 1995 when a certain Pastor insisted on seeing him because he had a very important message to deliver to him in person, and when they met, he said he was sent by God.
“When we met, I asked him who sent him and the message he was bringing and he said he was sent by God. I told him he is lucky to have met God. He mentioned a number of things I needed to do as leaders, but I told him what he was telling me is exactly what I was doing,”
President Kagame said that he told the evangelist that if what he was doing is exactly what God wanted him to do, He would reach out to him directly and that if God sends people to deliver messages, he [President Kagame] should be among those he sends since he was already serving in a position he believes is sanctioned by God.
“What I am saying, politics and faith, religion, whatever you may call it, have a point where they converge, because the whole purpose is to serve people, to build nations, but for all that to go well, people need to understand their responsibility and connect the two,” he said.
President Kagame connected all that to Rwanda’s past, where both politics and religion played a role in the dark past of the country, pointing out that whatever choices you make with those two aspects can determine what your future would look like.
“In making choices, I will start with our country, Africa and the world but before I go there, one thing that should be clear to us is that people are all the same. We are the same before God,” President Kagame said.
He said that where Rwanda is today, is a result of the choices the country has had to make over the past three decades or so, and a combination of the aforementioned factors, including faith and belief.
“When you look back at where Rwanda has come from and what we went through, where it is today and where it wants to go, no one, anywhere in the world, can be the one to decide the direction of this country. No one, except Rwandans themselves,” President Kagame said.
President Kagame said that Rwanda is happy to deal with others and listen but it would never cede its right to make its own decisions to others.
President Kagame pointed out that currently the world seems to be divided into two parts, the global north and global south but the global south, which has more resources, is poorer than the north.
“One would ask, why are we poorer than the global yet we have more resources? I don’t think this is a problem we can put to God. It is us. God, on his part, gave us resources and we put them to waste,” President Kagame said.
He also pointed out that Africans misunderstood faith, where people feel like even what they have is worthless and can give it away, which is how the global north took advantage and claimed the resources that belong to the south.
“This is the choice I was talking about. You have to decide whether you want to live like a slave or as a worthless person, or not. But how about the belief that we should have, that we are equal in front of God?” he said, urging the congregation to reject the notion that some people are superior than others.
“At a personal level, sometimes I have to behave for some reason, but I learnt this lesson long ago, I rejected this long ago, I have almost by nature become rebellious. I tell anybody who thinks you can tell me what to do, how this country should be. I tell them to go to hell,” President Kagame said.
The Head of State said that if you have a good opinion that differs from his, he can listen to and have a conversation but he cannot accept anybody’s dictate from the basis that they think they are superior and have the right to dominate others.
“I reject it. I don’t accept it at my small level,” he said, emphasizing that this is the mindset everybody should have, without disregarding good advice.
President Kagame said that at the same time, the same ‘powerful people’ who claim to love God or believe in him are the same people behind all kinds of injustices across the world,” pointing out that Rwanda experienced that firsthand.
“The other day when this nation was on fire, it was left alone to burn to the end. Even later on, it was like they were not sure what happened. Who killed who or was it this savagery of Africans that was playing out?”
“I don’t mind that people can decide to not be with us or help out, but if you lift me alone on this one, you should leave me alone on my decisions of how to live my life. We can work together, you can give me your opinion, I give you mine, but ultimately what should take place is what is decided by Rwandans,”
President Kagame said however that he is not naïve to global politics, including the understanding and acceptability that the most powerful will always dictate the course of things and sometimes there is little you can do about it.
“The best way is always to narrow things to your own space and then be more mindful of what belongs to you within that space and then see how to relate it to the bigger thing that tends to dictate to everyone as to what they do,”
“Faith, in my view, beliefs people have of different kinds, should also serve to strengthen ourselves. They should strengthen us in determining, in choosing, in deciding what is best for us. And just refuse that people have the right to come and decide for you, and decide even what happens to you. Just refuse,” President Kagame said.
The Head of State said that Rwandans know that peace is the most important thing because there was a period they didn’t have peace at all and lost many of their loved ones under those circumstances.
As such, peace is a must and it must be defended at all costs, work hard to sustain and also co-exist with others and also refuse to be manipulated.
“Our choice is to co-exist and mutually respect each other. I am saying this because we have young people here. When you will take over from us soon, learn from our history and pass on those lessons those to come after you,”
“We cannot afford to lead a life without a purpose, where people exist without an objective and accept that some people are more equal than others. I know even God doesn’t want that. God created us in the same image and wants us to be equal. We should reject the notion that some people are more superior than others,” President Kagame said.
In his sermon of the day, Dr. Goodwill Shana, the Founder and Senior Pastor of Word of Life International Ministries, from Zimbabwe, highlighted some of the achievements Rwanda has been able to register over the years, including unity and reconciliation, something he said is a testimony for other countries to learn from.
Pastor Shana reflected on Rwanda’s journey after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, using biblical verses to explain how leadership is a God-given attribute aimed at guiding God’s people, citing names such as King David and other great leaders God gave a task to lead.
“Leadership is not just a facilitation of service and effective public delivery, but the accountability, stewardship over people, over possessions,” he said, citing an example of the diversity Rwanda went through but good leadership made the difference.
“Today in Africa we are seeing many convoluted and confused models and values of leadership. We are seeing the demonstration of what we call the unholy trinity; ‘Me myself and I’, instead of serving us,”
“We’re seeing honesty, decency, dignity and discipline being auctioned and traded for short term and not long-term lasting change,” he said, adding that today the world is facing serious social economic governance challenges, including climate change, global migration, spiritual emptiness, wars, hunger and poverty.
“Africa is not exempt from these challenges and yet Africa has so much potential. Africa has some of the greatest potential of any continent in the world,” he said, adding that the continent lacks nothing but what people need is to start working together.
According to Moses Ndahiro, chairperson, Rwanda Leaders Fellowship, this year’s National Prayer Breakfast was attended by participants from Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, USA, and Zimbabwe.
RLF organises monthly prayer breakfasts bringing together leaders from different sectors of the economy, with the aim of instilling Godly values in leadership. This year’s national breakfast was themed “Serving God’s people for lasting change.”
“As Rwandans, we thank God because we know where we are coming from and where we are going,” Ndahiro said, pointing out that the year 2023 was characterised by many milestones worth celebrating.