KIGALI - President Paul Kagame, yesterday, took a swipe at Rwanda’s foreign critics for trying to define what Rwandans want, assuring them that Rwandans have learnt from the past and they know what they want more than anyone else.
Addressing tens of thousands of people, including foreign dignitaries and diplomatic corps who gathered at Amahoro National Stadium, to commemorate for the 16th time, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, President Kagame, said that Rwanda’s progress will not be deterred by patronising foreign critics who want to impose their will on the Rwandan people.
In a 50 - minute speech that drew massive applause from the crowd, Kagame, said that what happened in 1994 was a result of bad national and international politics. And, it will not happen again because Rwanda has learnt from its past.
“The convergence of bad national politics and bad international politics resulted into what we commemorate today,” Kagame said. “We have no power to change bad international politics, but, we as Rwandans have the power to change bad politics of our country and that is where we should concentrate.”
“As we pray and as we express our sorrow and sadness, we also have to come out with our heads high and raised, and with absolute commitment that we can shape our future - a better future that our people deserve and it is within us to achieve,” Kagame said.
The President dismissed claims by foreign critics, who argue that there is no political space and freedom of expression.
He accused foreigners, who, under the pretext of human rights and freedoms, meddle into Rwanda’s politics by propagating claims of abuse of rights, lack of political space among other blatant lies about the government.
Kagame drew applause from the crowd when he scoffed at the criticism about lack of freedom of expression.
“These fellows abuse people, they abuse me. They draw cartoons, they call me Hitler. I’m not bothered at all. I just hold them in contempt, that is all,” he said.
“You are even free to abuse people, and you turn around to complain that you have no freedom to express yourself?”
Kagame went on to say that Rwanda does not need lessons in democracy, justice, social and economic transformation, because there is no better teacher than the experience Rwandans have gone through.
The President, further accused foreign critics of trying to impose “political hooliganism” on Rwandans by bringing people who lack values and culture and placing them in positions where they seek to portray them as opposition leaders. He emphasised that for such people to impose hooligans, it is an insult to the dignity, values and integrity of the Rwandan people.
“It is an expression of contempt that these people have for Rwandans and Africans. They think Rwandans can be governed by hooligans. To that we say a big no,” Kagame said.
The President accused some Western countries of preferring to criticize his government over supposed lack of freedoms, while ignoring their own responsibility for their role in the Genocide.
“What freedoms are you teaching me if you can’t take responsibility for the politics that killed one million people in Rwanda,” Kagame observed.
President Kagame called upon the Rwandans to fight to be the best they can be, with the understanding that they owe it to themselves. He went on to remind that while Rwandans build friendships and partnerships, they are the ones on the frontline to build and shape the future of the country.
Kagame added that for those who extend a hand of partnership, the Rwandan people shall respond in the same measure or more. But, for those who extend a fight, they should be prepared for a fight they will never forget.
The president urged Rwandans to not only commemorate the genocide but also draw strength from the pain and devastation they went through, to develop themselves and their country.
President Kagame reiterated the Government’s continued support to the Genocide survivors and called upon Rwandans to help those dealing with trauma and other effects of the Genocide, saying that those who committed the Genocide should not be allowed the satisfaction to see those who survived helpless and desperate.