Home NewsNational INTERVIEW: President Kagame on Rwanda’s 30-Year Journey, Situation In DRC & What The Future Holds For The Country

INTERVIEW: President Kagame on Rwanda’s 30-Year Journey, Situation In DRC & What The Future Holds For The Country

by Edmund Kagire
12:04 am

In Good Spirits: President Kagame speaks to journalists Oswald Mutuyeyezu and Aissa Cyiza on Monday. Photos/Urugwiro Village.

President Paul Kagame says Rwanda has made commendable progress over the past 30 years, much as there is a lot more work to be done, but the country is on the right track and has not become a failed state as some would have thought.

The Head of State made the observation on Monday during an interview which was hosted by Radio TV 10 and Royal FM Rwanda and was cross-broadcasted on different media outlets, including KT Radio, where he discussed a wide range of issues, including Rwanda’s 30-year journey, the situation in the Great Lakes Region and the role of the youth in consolidating gains.

During the interview that last over two hours, hosted by journalists Oswald Mutuyeyezu and Aissa Cyiza, President Kagame spoke at length on Rwanda’s recovery journey after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as well as the RPF-Inkotanyi Liberation struggle that stopped it amidst challenges.

Ahead of the upcoming 30th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, President Kagame said that the genocide in Rwanda started many years before and 1994 was just a climax, emphasizing that what happened then mirrors what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today.

The Head of State pointed out that Tutsis started being subjected to ethnic violence in the 1960s, and many who survived the killings fled abroad, including his own family, which he also dwelled on during the candid interview.

President Kagame said Rwanda is being used as a scapegoat in the DRC crisis.

“The Genocide against the Tutsi started many years ago, in the 1960s, which is how many of us fled. You might not know because you were young, but if you count from that time, every 30 years, there is a genocide happening,” he said in reference to the 1959 “revolution” in which Hutus started killing and persecuting Tutsis.

Counting from the first killings in 1960’s to 1994, 30 years had elapsed and again in 2024, 30-years from 1994, a similar genocide targeting Congolese Tutsi is happening, something President Kagame said has a collation.

“Today we are seeing the same scenario in the region. We have over 100, 000 refugees here who fled from their homes in DRC because they were being killed and persecuted because they are Tutsi,” President Kagame said, adding that as it was in Rwanda then, nobody is talking about this situation in DRC.

President Kagame said that what is even more worrisome is how the same people who committed genocide crimes in Rwanda [Interahamwe/FDLR) are part of the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Eastern DRC, which he compared to the genocide in Rwanda.

The Head of State said the same genocide ideology remains rampant especially in DRC, where the government of that country is backing FDLR, and has also drawn in Burundi, which has chosen to ally with the same ideology.

President Kagame said the DRC leadership bears the responsibility to address issues that cause armed conflicts.

On Rwanda’s part, he said the country has recovered well and has drawn lessons from its past, reconciled her people and focussed on rebuilding and stability but ‘primitive politics’ in the region show that the same ideology that led to the genocide in Rwanda remains.

He said that when RPF Inkotanyi liberated the country, the focus was on reconciling people, ensuring that justice is delivered and doing away with the same things that pitted people against each other.

It is a journey he said has taken years, where everyone had everything to offer, survivors and perpetrators coming together to put the past behind them and rebuild their country, against very many odds.

Thirty years later, President Kagame said Rwanda has become a country many thought it would not be, especially those who thought it would be a failed state given what it had gone through.

He said Rwandans picked up the pieces from the abyss and embarked on a journey of rebuilding, overcoming many huddles along the way.

The Head of State pointed out that everyone has played a role in rebuilding the country and the journey continues today, challenging young people especially to take up the mantle, not only to safeguard what has been achieved but to consolidate and sustain it.

The Head of State reiterated the role of young people in consolidating gains registered over the past three decades.

President Kagame urged the youth, particularly those who were born after the Genocide against the Tutsi, to go back in history and learn from those who did the most to ensure that the country is liberated from divisive politics for them to understand what they need to do to carry the country forward.

He said that responsibility starts by young people having a sense of identity and ownership of what has been built over the past years, value it and ensure that it is consolidated and sustained for many more years.

“To the young people who were yet to be born during the Genocide: you have to learn from those who came before you. The foundation for both young and old has to be the answer to the question: who do you want to be?”

“You have to decide if you want to be Rwandans. That means patriotism and being proud of who you are. And if you make the choice of building this nation that defines us, you have to play your part in building a country you and every Rwandan deserves.

“The question of our identity should not be a source of division. It should be the answer.” President Kagame, adding that the first step Rwandans took was to become one and do things their way to be where they are today.

President Kagame also dwelled on Rwandans who travel or live in other countries but want to import whatever values they carried from elsewhere to Rwanda, reminding them that identity and unity come first when it comes to Rwanda.

Situation in DRC

President Kagame took time to speak about the situation in the Great Lakes region, particularly the crisis in DRC, emphasizing that Rwanda will not accept to carry the burden of the country where everyone involved is pursuing their own interests.

The Head of State, reiterating what he said in his recent interview with Jeune Afrique, said that the problems of DRC are directly linked to the leadership of the country which has failed to address the issues that led to the conflict.

“The issues in DRC are a result of the leadership there. Today Rwanda is being made to carry the burden of the DRC. This burden should be on the leaders of DRC, not the leaders of Rwanda. Rwanda has been a scapegoat for many years,”

“It has taken far too long, for the past 30 years we’ve been carrying the burden of the DRC. It is not right,” he said, adding that everyone, including a number of countries he mentioned, is plying their interest in the conflict-ridden nation.

President Kagame once again denounced the outdated politics in DRC and Burundi which are fueling ethnic divisions and the genocide ideology in the region.

“We have our own problems which we have to deal with,” President Kagame said, alluding to the many interests many countries and continents have, pointing out that Rwanda is made a scapegoat while many countries are benefiting from DRC.

He said the leadership of the DRC has not helped itself, by failing to address the issues that led to armed conflicts and collaborating with the likes of FDLR and plays a role in propagating hate speech and ethnic divisions, the results of which are affecting the entire country, not just Congolese Tutsi.

He said that the issues in DRC cannot be solved by anyone else except the Congolese themselves. “Not even the United Nations can solve those problems” President Kagame said, emphasizing the responsibility of the Congolese government.

The Head of State said that rather than addressing the issues, President Félix Tshisekedi has allied with his Burundian counterpart Evariste Ndayishimiye to pursue a primitive line of politics that includes arming genocidal groups such as FDLR to kill Congolese Tutsi, creating a refugee problem for Rwanda and the region.

He emphasized that Rwanda cannot be derailed by such hate politics and will continue focusing on things that add value to the nation and the region, adding that the country will continue to move forward regardless of these challenges and obstacles.

Reflection on the Liberation struggle

President Kagame spent a bigger part of the interview talking about the RPF Inkotanyi Liberation struggle, which he said was born out of a similar situation in DRC, where the Tutsi who were persecuted out of Rwanda from 1959 rallied themselves to come back and liberate the country.

Referring to his personal situation, President Kagame said his family, like many others, fled the country when he was four years old, fleeing to Uganda where they lived in different refugee camps.

President Kagame reflected on his personal journey in exile and the liberation struggle.

At the age of 11, he asked his father why they were refugees and he narrated the whole story of what happened and the idea of his family and many others being forced out of their own country, without committing any crime, but simply because of who they were, is what triggered his desire and that of many others to fight for liberation.

In his youth, President Kagame said he returned to Rwanda several times on fact finding visits and the many things he saw and learned, including social injustices he was told about, is what compelled him and many other young Rwandans in exile to fight for a change of the political landscape in Rwanda.

“When I had this discussion with my father, it did not mean much at the time. As a young boy, I would listen and go on with my life, playing football outside, but the more I grew older, the more I reflected on what he had told me,” President Kagame said.

Coincidentally, the situation in Uganda was not any different, with the current President Yoweri Museveni and others picking up arms to fight the government which was misruling the country at the time.

A young Kagame, alongside the late Maj. Gen Fred Gisa Rwigema, joined the Ugandan liberation struggle in 1981, along with a couple of other Rwandan youth, who were among the 40 people who started the National Resistance Movement. Only 27 of them, including Kagame, were armed.

The success of the NRA struggle is what triggered the desire for Rwandans who had played a role in liberating Uganda, to liberate their own country -something he said was the main mission and leadership came as a result of that effort.

Taking back the hands of time, President Kagame talked about his childhood sojourns to Rwanda which formed part of his desire to be part of the struggle to liberate Rwanda from bad leadership at the time.

He said that what united Rwandans in exile at the time, young or old, was the desire to return home and it is what kept them together, even after the passing of Gen. Rwigema, who was leading the struggle, at the very beginning.

President Kagame said that when he took over the leadership of RPF Inkotanyi, his initial mission was not to become president if they liberated the country and it never crossed his mind that at one time he would be in that position.

“It didn’t even come to mind at the time. Instead, the question that always came to my mind was ‘what can one do to contribute to the cause?’” he said, adding that for many on the frontline, the mission was to liberate the country first.

However, as time went on, with the gap left by Gen. Rwigema, who he said was his senior in the army, there was a need for a leader to pick up the mantle, he said adding however that the success of the struggle and the achievements that followed were a result of an effort of many.

Referencing the current state of affairs, President Kagame said that even today Rwanda’s achievements are attributed to him but contrary to popular belief, they are a result of many people who work with him, as it was in the liberation struggle.

President Kagame emphasized that while he bears the responsibility of being at the helm, he does not work alone and cannot take credit for all the achievements Rwanda has registered under the leadership of RPF Inkotanyi.

The Head of State spoke at length about the liberation struggle and the challenges they overcame to advance to Kigali and go on to stop the genocide in all corners of the country, to embark on an ambitious journey of ‘rebuilding from hell’.

Aissa Cyiza of Royal FM Rwanda poses a question to President Kagame.

He said there were points the struggle would have been abandoned, especially at the time Uganda was put under serious pressure to stop backing the rebels, which curtailed supplies for fighters at the frontline.

Military uniforms, ammunition and other logistics destined for the frontline were seized and it took meticulous planning to operate within the limited resources available to continue the fight against a well-equipped government force.

He also spoke about the many decisions and compromises they had to make, including an opportunity to capture Kigali which they abandoned having reached as close as Shyorongi but they retreated to give peace negotiations in Arusha a chance.

By far, President Kagame said that it is the desire that drove them all the way, more than the firepower or anything else, considering how the entire world had ganged up against RPF Inkotanyi while President Juvenal Habyarimana’s government enjoyed all kinds of support.

President Kagame also spoke about Rwanda’s relations with other countries as well as the forthcoming Presidential elections, reiterating that the decision for him to continue leading the country is one that comes out of the desire of the party, based on prevailing circumstances, more than it is his personal choice.

He expressed his desire to see someone taking over from him to continue building on the legacy the RPF has established over the past three decades.

Radio TV 10’s Oswald Mutuyeyezu asks President Kagame.

President Kagame posed for a photo with journalists Aissa Cyiza and Oswald Mutuyeyezu and the camera crew (below).

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