The Eastern Province is one of the areas in Rwanda, which has undergone tremendous fundamental changes after its Liberation 15 years ago.
The New Times’ Stephen Rwembeho interviewed the Governor, Dr Ephraim Kabayija over a wide range of issues facing this region.Below are the excerpts:
TNT: Who is Ephraim Kabayisha?
Governor: I am a trained professional in agriculture and farming. I obtained a PhD in Veterinary Medicine in 1985. I later worked in different capacities; in Nigeria as a research scientist, worked for International Livestock Centre for Africa in Addis Ababa, taught in Bolton University, etc.
In Rwanda I worked as a Director of Planning for Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), later I was appointed Presidential Advisor on planning, and in 1999, I was appointed the Minister of Agriculture. Today, of course I am the governor of Eastern Province. Those are the brief facts about me.
TNT: There have been several cases of corruption, and mismanagement of public funds in your province. People have resigned leaving some sort of a power vacuum. This adversely affects the everyday Rwandan. There are consequent counter blames that sometimes use you as scapegoat. What do you have to say about this anomaly
Governor: Oh great (he sighs), people are roundly corrupt. They are busy embezzling public funds, but I cannot tolerate. That is why I don’t mind when they call me-‘bad man’.
I do not want to be a ‘good man’ in the sense they want me to be-lenient to the corrupt.
I don’t believe in people swindling public funds in any way.
Let me make it clear that I have evidence on my finger tips (shows documented evidence), of all officials who have been sacked or detained for corruption in my province.
It is a sad reality that our people are corrupt-most of them driven by selfishness and greed.
We therefore, need a mechanism to fight this evil in the society.
A policeman sometimes may be as good as the society he/she is serving. A judge’s mind is part of the society he/she serves. No wonder we find such institutions they serve brought to surface as corrupt.
The administrator is as good as the people he/she tries to lead. If the society’s mind is blinded to fight this evil, then we are doomed.
For there to be transparency and accountability, Rwandans must be transparent themselves, on individual levels. If each individual doesn’t see himself as a warrior against this vice, and waits for another person like the President or another, we are going to fail. So my position is clear zero tolerance to corruption.
TNT: Predict, if you can, the future of Rwanda.
Governor: The future is bright if we remain focused. Our people must be the masters of their own destiny-we come far down the ladder, yet we have to level the rest of the world.
Build industries, offer good services, and be competitive. We thus need to see beyond the reach of our nose.
TNT: What does Liberation Day mean to you?
Governor: It takes me back to July 1994, this is when I was born again after 40 years of existence. I was in exile for 30 years. This is a day of happiness to me.
There is nothing I added to myself in terms of wealth and qualifications. I had a far better land and farm than I do today in Rwanda. The house I have today is a smaller than the one I had in exile. My salary was not less than what I get today.
But the difference is the feeling I got in 1970s when I went to secondary school.
My status was a refugee.
But the liberation changed my status-which is very important to me.
TNT: How did you join politics?
Governor: I have never entered this field-decisively and whole heartedly, I just found myself in political engagements. I ended up a political activist.
I have never admitted that I am a politician. I am a political activists motivated by political injustices. We were constantly subjected to humiliations during Obote (for Ugandan President) regime.
We could be forced to roll on ground, beaten whenever we encountered a road-block. Just because of our appearance!
So when the liberation was in high gear, I joined. I actually wanted to be in the army, but unfortunately I was recruited in the RPF political wing. But on average, my work within the political establishment has been of a technical aspect or orientation.
TNT: Can you tell us your best and worst moment as a political activist?
Governor: In a struggle there are many challenges.
The worst experience however, is the element of betrayal from colleagues.
It is a loss of strength that depresses me sometimes.
The best thing that I can never forget is that my children like yours, today, have a vision of tomorrow.
I was part of the brain behind the draft of Vision 2020. I worked closely with people like Donald Kaberuka.
Probably bigger brains came in after, but the fact that I have the crude version pleases me. Having this important document in my house library humbles me so much.