Photo: H.E. Paul Kagame
Source: Shyaka Kanuma, http://focus.rw
Source: Shyaka Kanuma, http://focus.rw
Rwanda: My Proudest Achievement Will Be
to Hand Over Power, Kagame
In an exclusive interview with Focus
President Kagame reveals he already
is thinking of succession to his presidency
and he speaks out on a number of
other issues including his style of governance,
Congo issues and a few other problems
such as tycoon Tribert Rujugiro
and his business dealings.
The interview with the President was an
exclusive that went on for almost three hours.
The President's press secretary Yolanda Makolo
was the only other person present
in the ornately furnished boardroom
of the state house where we sat down
with Kagame for the interview.
One of the more remarkable things he said
was that his proudest achievement will be:
"when I hand over power to
some other Rwandan when my time
to go comes; my proudest achievement will be this,
plus seeing the continuity of my work in my successor."
It is a truly remarkable statement when
one puts it in the perspective of what
the man already has achieved.
Kagame is the individual who was at the head
of a movement that led a people back home
after three decades of exile-reversing
a colossal injustice and
stopping a genocide along the way.
This is the individual under whose leadership
a poorly equipped, undernourished and
at one point highly demoralized
(equipped with enough ideological clarity though)
could take the fight to Habyarimana
(with his French political and military support)
and claim an impossible historic victory.
It is difficult to imagine anyone saying
there is a prouder achievement than this.
Yet there the President was,
talking of the relatively easy business
of handing over power to a successor
as the moment he will be most proud of.
On the other hand what Kagame may
be weighing that future goal against
is the tendency of African leaders
to cling to power, and do so at all costs
even long after their sell-by date.
In the Sub-Saharan context it truly
is an achievement for a leader
to oversee a peaceful transfer of power
and having done that for him
to then retire from office.
The sad history of this continent
is that such leaders can be counted
on the fingers. Perhaps Kagame has
an eye on history,
wanting to join the pantheon of the likes
of Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere
(and his successors), Seretse Khama
and Quett Masire of Botswana and
a few others?
Time will tell.
Kagame's first term as the elected president
of this country ends in 2010.
He is eligible to stand for
another seven-year term.
He is emphatic he will leave at the end
of his constitutionally mandated time.
The President plays it close to his chest
however about whether he already
is grooming a successor and
who that might be or whether
he has multiple candidates in mind
and who those may be.
He didn't get into that during the interview.
We can devise the best government for us
President Kagame exercises close control
of his government.
Many, especially abroad, describe
his style of governance as authoritarian in nature.
But others look at it and see a
close resemblance to the Chinese model
whereby you have a strong central state
that at the same time grants citizens
many freedoms (in China's case
the Communist government retains
close control of political power
and may even regulate people's choices,
for example how many children
they may have;
but the regime maintains a laissez faire
attitude in other areas of life notably
in business and commercial life).
Kagame maintains the Western world
shouldn't be so negative about the Chinese.
"Even the Americans who are China's biggest
critics did not jump straight to where
they are today;
they underwent a lengthy process,"
says the President.
"The Chinese too are achieving
more individual freedoms;
as they many of them become wealthier
their money will give them leverage
to demand even more freedoms
for themselves but this will have been
a homegrown process,
not an order imposed from abroad."
The government of Kagame has little time
for pluralist politics.
The opposition in this country can hardly
be recognized as such though
it has representatives in parliament
who every now and then come down
hard on poorly performing government appointees.
Mostly the activities of our political parties
are regulated by the RPF
under the Forum of Political Parties.
The opposition works hand in hand with
the ruling party on most policy issues
and governance decisions.
Kagame sees no reason why
anyone should find this arrangement wrong.
"We will devise the best means
to govern ourselves;
I am not a believer in this notion propagated
for years that only ideas developed
says the President.
"All these people in Europe who preach
their brand of democracy to the world,
you will realize none of their systems are identical."
Kagame uses the metaphor of an item
of clothing to illustrate his point.
"It is as if the Europeans and Americans
have designed one suit for all Africans,
regardless of whether different people
have different heights and sizes and shapes,
and expect that one suit they have designed
to fit us all!
Yet for themselves, they wear suits tailored
to their different needs."
He argues that you cannot expect
to build a country by giving poor people
such as Rwanda's every imaginable
freedom straight away.
"In no time at all they will be abusing
all these freedoms,"
"Even the Americans, if you look
at their history when they were starting out,
the ordinary people-the majority
of whom could not read or write
or did not own property-were
not allowed to vote.
"What they were doing was
they were strengthening the center first,
making it abuse proof,
while at the same time
the ordinary people's lives were
Only then could you have responsible
It really beats me why anyone
would expect the majority of
our African people to take a path
different from this."
Our history since independence
from Belgian colonialism
in the early 60s amply buttresses
Multi party politics have taken on
a tribal us-against-them identity
whereby most poor, illiterate citizens
have been led by demagogic politicians
to internalize the thinking that
to gain political power is
a zero sum game during which
all members of the other ethnic group
have to be massacred.
"You can see what past politicians
have done to this country,"
Kagame says, slowly shaking his head
at the thought.
"Since 94 we have been picking up
the pieces and trying to put everything
back together and it is not by
swallowing foreign ideas wholesale
that we shall find a lasting solution to our problems."
This President clearly won't be
deterred from pursuing the objective
of finding homegrown solutions
to homegrown problems and
having a forum of political parties
where the opposition works
with the ruling party for the greater good
of all Rwandans
clearly is part of the experiment.
Closer cooperation with other Africans
If President Kagame had it his way,
African countries would be doing
much more to forge stronger political
and economic regional blocs
that speak with one voice
than currently is the case.
The obvious advantage he sees in this
is that we simultaneously reduce
our dependence on aid from rich countries
and we do something about changing
our situation from being perpetual supplicants
to better respected partners in world affairs.
"It is hard for people who always go
to Western capitals to beg for aid
to shake off the indignities heaped
on them daily," remarks the President.
He adds: "but if we have big regional blocs
then you will have a situation where
more businesses from rich countries
come looking for opportunities,
which direct investment means
less reason to go looking for foreign aid.
"This is why for instance
we have to do more to strengthen
our East African Community-it would
be hard for anyone, either from the West
or elsewhere to ignore this market and
Kagame clearly is irked that,
decades after independence,
much of our relationship with the West
still is a master/servant one.
The President said: "don't be mistaken
for even a moment,
these rich countries still exercise control over us.
Slave trade and Colonialism may be long gone.
But all these human rights and
media rights organizations and so on,
their sole objective is to impose
Western ideas and values on everyone
and anyone who refuses to go along
is blacklisted or something like that.
If you reject even some of
their suggestions or recommendations
you pay for it.
It doesn't matter either whether
the suggestions aren't practical
for us or can't fit our situation.
"All this strengthens the case for closer
cooperation between our countries."
One issue Kagame was alluding to
is the quarrel Rwanda currently
is embroiled in with two European countries,
France and Germany.
Last month German police arrested
Rose Kabuye the President's chief of protocol
in Frankfurt on the strength of
a warrant issued by a French judge,
Jean Louis Bruguiere whose acts,
Kigali contends, are purely politically motivated.
The story has been making headlines
and what has emerged is that
Judge Bruguiere appears to have
no case since his accusations against
Kabuye (and President Kagame
and seven other Rwanda government officials)
that they planned the assassination of
former president Juvenal Habyarimana
aren't backed with any credible evidence.
A man the French judge described as
his principle witness,
Abdul Ruzibiza, has even emerged
to recant every allegation he ever made
about Kagame's ordering the assassination.
"You see, this kind of situation where
Europeans give themselves the powers
to arrest us and lock us up can only
be sustained as long as this master/servant
relationship is what defines our
dealings with them,"
says Kagame clasping and unclasping his hands.
"Today it is us.
Tomorrow it will be another African
in fact that already is the case
as we speak now,"
The Rwandan president agrees
that indeed some Africans commit
crimes against humanity,
but then asks,
"Is it only the African involved
in criminal activity?"
"We have to fight this tendency
for Europeans to always cast themselves
in the role of judge and the African always
as the guilty party.
We have to fight it on all fronts."
Today any judge in France or Spain
or elsewhere in Europe can induct anyone,
using the doctrine of
universal jurisdiction-a controversial
international law principle
whereby states may claim criminal jurisdiction
over people whose alleged crimes
were committed outside the territory
of the prosecuting state.
This is regardless of whatever nationality
the alleged perpetrator is from.
So far Africans appear to have borne
the brunt of the principle than any other people.
Nkunda and the Congo
Kagame also has strong views
about the views most espoused
in the West on the conflict in
the neighbouring DR Congo.
"Now Rwanda is being accused
of assisting Laurent Nkunda
(leader of the CNDP rebel group);
now they are saying Nkunda is a Tutsi
and so Kagame must be helping him,
as if that is the entire logic of it!"
Of all the subjects that exercise
Kagame's capability to keep his emotions
the subject of the Congo
without a doubt tops the list.
The president will talk vehemently
about it and his voice will tend
to rise as he discusses the reasons,
the historical factors and
the human drama that always cause
wars in the country.
"Does it make Nkunda any less
a Congolese because he is a Tutsi?"
Kagame asks tightly clasping his hands
together and staring at a point in front of him. "
And in what way does it become
our responsibility if the Congolese government
cannot protect its people and you have
a situation where groups who
committed genocide here are busy
committing atrocities over there,
which makes Nkunda and others like him
take up arms to defend themselves?
In what way does that make Nkunda
The fact that Tutsis in Rwanda
suffered genocide makes it look logical
that Kigali indeed backs Nkunda and
his fellow Congolese Tutsis.
Nkunda and his forces assert daily
that their people have increasingly
become victims of massacres and
other human rights abuses at
the hands of the FDLR-the umbrella group
of Interahamwe Hutu extremist militias
and the former Rwanda armed forces
(FAR) who fled to the DRC after
massacring up to a million people in 1994.
Congolese Tutsi refugees who
have fled their country and now live
in refugee camps in Rwanda
say they have been targeted by
Hutu extremist for no offence other than
that they are Tutsis.
But Kigali repeatedly denies
being in any way involved in
the current spate of conflicts in the Congo,
maintaining that Nkunda is
an internal Congolese problem
that Congo should be "making
a better effort to resolve."
"By the way it always amazes me
when all these international groups
accuse us of causing trouble
in the Congo but never come up
with a single analysis of
what happens when you have
a government that isn't up
to the responsibilities
of ensuring law and order,
and personal safety for its people,"
says President Kagame.
He gestures around the room and
continues: "you have all
these people (local and
international diplomats and
statesmen and women) coming here and
telling me to rein in Nkunda,
as if I can do any such thing!
Now, if I may ask,
in that case who will rein in
(Congolese President Joseph) Kabila,
since the problem really is one
to do with his government?
I am waiting for someone to see
issues that way but in vain.
Our interview touches a number of
notably that of Tribert Rujugiro,
the Rwandan tycoon who is under arrest
in London on charges of evasion
of taxes in South Africa.
Rujugiro has also been cited by
a highly tendentious UN report on
the conflict in the DRC that he is one
of the financiers of Laurent Nkunda.
"Really this is a difficult world,"
says the President shaking his head.
"Now if Rujugiro happens to be a Rwandan
who has relatives in the Congo,
that becomes an offence
that reflects on the Rwandan leadership!
'there you go, Rujugiro who is one
of Kagame's advisers is
giving Nkunda money and so Kigali
must be backing the CNDP';
how simplistic can you get!
Rujugiro is one of my many advisers;
his single role in this government
is to advise in ways how
to develop the private sector
of the country.
Rujugiro doesn't advise me how
to run government or how
to conduct politics and what he does
with his time only he knows.
"On the one hand you have this
outside world preaching to us that
we should grant citizens more freedoms-so
are they now suggesting we turn into
a police state monitoring each and
every citizen's private financial transactions?"
The interesting thing about Rujugiro's activities
is that the tycoon has businesses
and financial transactions even in Kinshasa.
But, says Kagame, "No one
is accusing Kabila of wrong doings because of that."
Source: Shyaka Kanuma, http://focus.rw
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