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Stop being dependent! - Kagame

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In the opening session of a Security Threat Assessment Seminar i Kigali on Aug. 8th

Major General Paul Kagame
kagameinterviewbbc.jpg
President of the Republic (2000 - )

'Stop being dependent' Kagame urges Rwandans

President of the Republic of Rwanda, H.E. Paul Kagame has urged the people of Rwanda to stop being dependent on foreigners and work hard to develop independence as the basis for long-term security. President Kagame was speaking at the opening session of the National Security workshop in Kigali on Thursday.

President Kagame said that long-term security could only be realised once the country becomes independent. "Rwandans must stop being dependent. That is the best form of security. Get up, tighten your belts, work hard and stop being treated like people who have no value," President Kagame said in an address to workshop participants comprising Government officials, Parliamentarians, Army and Police Commanders, civil society representatives and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Kagame said that Rwandans should understand that "there is no free lunch" and nobody outside Rwanda would provide for the country what it's people do not work and sweat for themselves. He said that Rwanda's security lies, "in your integrity, in understanding your problems and standing up to deal with them, irrespective of whatever forces you have to deal with and confront in trying to build your Nation."

Kagame condemned sections of the International Community who criticised Rwanda for its defence spending without first assessing the security threat the country faces. "What is too much for defence? I think this threat assessment will be useful in understanding what the threat is and how much we should spend on dealing with that threat," he said.

On the International Community's reluctance to resolve the DRC conflict while also trying preventing Rwanda from providing for its own security, Kagame said "they are not ready to deal with the (security) problem because they cannot send their troops to the DRC or even provide the money for troops from other countries to be sent there. They then turn around and expect us not to do anything about it. This simply does not work," he said.

President Kagame also criticised some board members of the IMF for putting pressure on the organisation to withhold support for the country because Rwandan troops are in the DRC. "But these are issues we discussed and resolved to the satisfaction of the IMF itself. I believe that there may be abuse of power by some board members of these institutions," he said.

Categorising attitudes towards Rwanda by some sections of the International Community as being a result of indifference, ignorance or outright malice, Kagame said they should realise that "sometimes the interests of a country like Rwanda cannot be separated from the interests of the International Community."

Kagame renewed Rwanda's commitment to playing its part in the peace process in the DRC, adding that peace would permit Rwanda to concentrate on long-term social and economic development.

 

Paul Kagame (Photo BBC)
kagamebbc1.jpg
Président de la République

Verbatim

 

Kigali 8th August 2002

Professor Michael Clarke, Director of the International Policy Institute, King's College, London; Professor John Garnett, Dr. Randolf Kent, Colonel (Rtd.) Philip Wilkinson,
Hon. Speaker of the National Assembly, Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Hon. Chief Justice,
Ministers, Members of the National Assembly, Army and Police Commanders,
Members of the Civil Society, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

I wish to firstly thank Professor Michael Clarke and the Centre for Defence Studies Team for having undertaken this Comprehensive Threat Assessment for Rwanda, and for their continued support as resource persons for this workshop.

I would also like to thank the organisers and all the others who have contributed in various ways to make this exercise possible.

Just over two years ago, the Government of Rwanda, in consultation with Ms Claire Short, the UK Government's Secretary of State for International Development, commissioned the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College,
London, to conduct an assessment of security threats to our country.

I felt that their involvement would be useful in developing an objective and independent overview of our own security concerns.

In undertaking this task, the Centre for Defence Studies was instructed not to focus exclusively on the conventional external threats, but also to broaden their approach to include internal issues like:

Genocidal forces that are in the DRC and in other areas in the region, the Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR, who mainly continue to use DRC to launch attacks on Rwanda;

Justice and reconciliation;

HIV/AIDS;

Poverty and ignorance;

The international community's attitude, which is a compounding factor in most of these problems. I will return to this point in a short while.

Such broadened definition and assessment would permit us to address security in the context of our national development priorities.

It is in this context that we seek partnership with civil society. I think the civil society has been well described by the previous speakers. I think we have in our case two major tasks relating to civil society. The first major task is to create a civil society. The second is to make it effective and independent. Civil Society should be independent, not just from the State of Rwanda, but it must also be independent from other States.

I say this because sometimes the focus is about making it independent of the State of Rwanda, but it becomes dependent on other States. And that is a major challenge, I think, for
Rwanda. I think we truly have to create a civil society that is Rwandan and that is independent from the State, but is complementary to the State in building our Nation.

Civil society, therefore, ought to be critical but constructive in line with national goals.

With regard to external threats, I take this opportunity to comment on the recent peace agreement between the Governments of Rwanda and DRC, which was facilitated by the President of South Africa and the Chairman of African Union, Thabo Mbeki, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Koffi Annan. The agreement addresses two core issues, namely:

The dismantling and repatriation of the Interahamwe/Ex-FAR;

Withdrawal of Rwandan Forces from the DRC.

The Agreement is a good beginning in tackling the challenges in DRC and the region, but this alone cannot deliver the peace and security we all require and deserve. For this to happen, the African Union and the International Community in particular, have to use their considerable diplomatic weight and financial resources to facilitate not only the implementation of the agreement, but also to address other core issues that stand in the way of sustainable peace and security in the DRC and the region as a whole.

Now, on this particular problem that relates us to what is happening in the
Congo, I want to take a moment and say a few things. I think, as it was very well put, 'there is no free lunch', and that is very well understood by the people of Rwanda. I think that we have had more than our share of lessons that inform us that 'there is no free lunch.'

Regarding the agreement, some people came to me earlier, the UN people and people from other countries, and were trying to convince us that if I met President Kabila, that would be the solution to the problems.

I told them that I didn't think so. I said that I only thought that it was a good contributing factor, but it wasn't going to provide the whole solution without dealing with many other issues.

Now recently I met with President Kabila. As you know, not only did we meet, we also signed an agreement. The same people who were urging us to meet as the key to the solution are now going around expressing scepticism about the value of my meeting with the President of the DRC. They are also talking about how the agreement is very ambitious and how it is not going to work.

It has now become a problem that we met. Well, I followed their advice, with all good intentions, and not only did we meet, we also signed an agreement. Perhaps that was the wrong thing we did, in their eyes at least.

Clearly, sometimes we fail to understand what goes on in this world.
That is why I believe that
Rwanda has got more than its share of dealing with this world, where some people take you around and around in circles, until either they are tired of you or you are tired of them, but still you don't separate. You keep together moving in that motion.

I also raise that in relation to the attitude I talked about earlier on, which is a compounding factor when you are making a threat assessment.

The situation in DRC originated from the history and the events of the 1994 Genocide in
Rwanda. After the Genocide the forces responsible for the killings fled to the Congo and other countries in the region, from where they continued to attack Rwanda. We had to act
against them and stabilise the country.

All along, the International Community, on the one hand, claimed that it had responsibility to deal with this problem. On the other hand, the International Community has been largely seen to be running away from the problem. The problem has been left largely to us Rwandans and a few other Africans, to deal with. The International Community gets involved when they want to, and they run away from the problems
when they feel that it is not in their interests to get involved.
There is no consideration for what is in other people's interests.

Of course the International Community should be reminded that what  works in the interest of others is ultimately in their interest also.
Sometimes the interests of a country like
Rwanda cannot be separated from the interests of the International Community.

The attitudes that compound these problems can be categorised into three main groups: first the attitude that comes from indifference; second the attitude that comes from ignorance; and the third is the attitude that comes from outright malice. The attitudes by the International Community that compound our problems emerge from indifference, ignorance and malice. It is either one of these, or in some cases a combination of all of them.

The International Community sometimes says that
Rwanda is spending too much money on its defence. What is too much for defence? I think this threat assessment will be useful in understanding what the threat is and how much we should spend on dealing with that threat.
But to simply say that our spending on security and defence is too high without first assessing the magnitude of the threat, and understanding it properly, is sheer indifference, ignorance or outright malice.

I do not believe we have any lessons to learn about the good in spending more resources on health, education and other social programmes. This is obvious, and there is no lesson in this for us to learn from the International Community. But the threat to our National security in the DRC cannot be solved by increasing spending on education and health. It will simply not address the existing problem.

Resolutions are made at the UN and everybody is agreed that the Interhamwe and ex-FAR are in the DRC and their leaders are in
Kinshasa and their presence there is a threat to us. But, they are not ready to deal with the problem because they cannot send their
troops to the DRC or even provide the money for troops from other countries to be sent there. They then turn around and expect us not to do anything about it. This simply does not work.

They say, 'we are not going to address your problems in
Congo', 'Get out of Congo' and 'No spending on defence', what kind of world do we live in that operates like that?

Rwanda has programmes with the IMF and the World Bank. We have done our best to satisfy them on our deserving case to be assisted on the basis of merit. At the last minute, however, when we were going to have the extension of the programme tabled and endorsed, some 'blessed' people came up to say, 'don't help Rwanda, because they have troops in the DRC and are overspending on defence.' But these are issues we discussed and resolved to the satisfaction of the IMF itself. I believe that there may be abuse of power by some board members of these institutions.

Rwanda has really had more than its fair share of injustices perpetuated by some of the big powers, which should otherwise be helping deal with these problems. I therefore believe that it is important that we make a proper threat assessment. The threats are
real, and they cannot deny it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sure that with the help of civil society and others of goodwill in the International Community, we can overcome some of these problems. But Rwandans should understand that nobody owes them a free lunch. There is no free lunch for you.
Whether you are from civil society, member of Government, you must work and sweat for it.

Rwandans must stop being dependent. That is the best form of security. Get up, tighten your belts, work hard and stop being treated like people who have no value. You must give yourselves value by how you meet and stand up to these challenges. If you want to be dependent and live from handouts, it is your choice. The civil society should make the choice whether it is going to work in partnership with Government and other institutions to stand up to these challenges. If you want to be beggars perpetually, to run after people  with money who have no interest in you, and are even ignorant about your problems, that is your choice.

This is where security lies. It lies in your integrity, in understanding your problems and standing up to deal with them, irrespective of whatever forces you have to deal with and confront in trying to build your Nation.

I wish nonetheless to reiterate
Rwanda's commitment to playing its part in the peace process.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

With a multiplicity of challenges confronting us and with limited resources available, it is essential that our national responses to security threats are co-ordinated, coherent and cost-effective.

Several initiatives have been undertaken in this regard. These include the creation of a National Police Force to replace the Gendermerie and to transfer the national policing responsibility from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Interior. This, among
other things, has improved governance and accountability of policing, in addition to bringing the newly created National Police Force closer to the population.

Establishing an effective National Police Force remains a challenge, both in terms of quality and in numbers. To date we have nearly 4,000 policemen and women trained in various fields. We thank our development partners who continue to assist in training and capacity building of the police force.

Likewise, various training programmes aimed at modernising our Armed Forces continue.

While it would be imprudent at this early stage in the peace process in the DRC to commence a new and major demobilisation programme for our soldiers, such a development would enable us to review what our armed forces might look like in the future if peace is sustained.

Further, peace would mean a changing strategic environment, by creating a window of opportunity, while permitting us to concentrate on long-term social and economic development.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have initiated today an important process, namely, that of redefining security, and involving civil society in the national debate on security. This should facilitate a new thinking in terms of addressing our security concerns in which civil society has a stake
and plays an appropriate role.

I ask the participants to approach this exercise with an open mind.
We look forward to concrete proposals that will permit formulation of appropriate defence and security policies.

I would therefore like to wish you a productive exercise. It is now my great pleasure to declare this workshop open.

I thank you.