KIGALI - For Africa to attract more business and move forward in its on-going transformation, the continent must embrace good governance that promotes accountabiltility, President Paul Kagame told a conference of Ombudsmen and anti-corruption officials yesterday.
The President said that graft “renders doing business very costly and leaves our continent globally uncompetitive.”
“The work of the office of the ombudsman and other anti-corruption institutions on our continent should make every effort to win the struggle against any behaviour and activity that undermines Africa’s efforts to escape the traps of poverty and aid dependency and the resulting indignity which, if we let it, will become irreversibly synonymous with our continent,” the President said.
The continental Ombusdsmen were joined by the Swedish Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, Mats Melin, in Kigali for a three-day meeting that coincides with the celebration of 200 years since the establishment of the first Office of Ombudsman in Sweden.
President Kagame reminded the anti-graft officials that though Africa still faces enormous challenges, there was no particular continent that was consigned to be stuck in poverty.
“Africa has come a long way, in recent decades and the story of Rwanda is not unlike that of other countries on our continent that are determined to move beyond conflict to meaningful progress that benefits our people.
“This meeting, in my view, is an occasion to reflect on what I consider the broader crucial roles of the Ombudsman; namely, strengthening society’s positive values; improving good governance; and creating a better environment for socio-economic transformation, regardless of its variation in different countries.”
He said that this combination is a pre-requisite for any country looking forward to successful nation-building, warning that where these ingredients are absent, the process may be undermined.
The President said that the challenge for Rwanda, just like it is for the rest of Africa, is how to simultaneously achieve good governance and rapid development starting from a very low base.
Kagame reminded those present that “accountability, good governance and development are not competing interests, but goals that hold the key to successful nation-building, and in turn maximise opportunities to defeat poverty.”
The conference, which has attracted participants from several African countries will be addressing issues related to how institutions will help promote human rights and fight corruption and other related vices to spur development.
Tito Ruteramara, Rwanda’s Ombudsman told the participants that corruption is a cancer that was increasingly becoming difficult to combat.
He, however, went on to say that Rwanda was making “impressive” strides largely due to the exisiting good political will.
“Corruption is a cancer that is notoriously recognised for dementing the rule of law,” Rutaremara said.
The Swedish Chief Ombudsman Mats Melin, said that he was impressed by Rwanda’s achievements in such a short period of time.
“This conference is proof that after only 15 years, Rwanda has made progress of such magnitude. This is our opportunity to exchange experiences and areas of fulfilling our duties,” he said.
Melin went on to point out that Sweden was struggling decades before the office of the Ombudsman was established, but things turned around after the office was set up. He described the achievements of the office as “immeasurable.”
Participants include the ombudsmen from Sweden, Namibia, Mauritius, Mali, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.