Change is based on our own choices, not external pressure – Kagame

President Paul Kagame yesterday challenged those who attribute the recent release of prisoners to external pressure.

“In Rwanda, things will change based on our own choices not on external pressure and being told by others what to choose. Our past and where we come from has taught us that we cannot be forced into submission,” he said.

The Head of State was speaking while officiating at the swearing-in of legislators in the Lower House – the fourth Chamber of Deputies since the country’s first multiparty elections in 2003.

“Lessons from all over the world show us that cooperation based on mutual benefit is the only way.

“Imposing your way because you believe you are superior no longer works. Especially for us. We have swallowed too much, dictates no longer work on us. Those who want to work with us as partners are welcome,” Kagame added.

Kagame also urged incoming Members of Parliament to do more to hold government officials accountable, explaining that citizens expect their elected legislators to help fast-track national development.

The MPs were elected in the recently concluded parliamentary elections, which were held from September 2-4.

“We expect you to hold government (officials) accountable for doing their job of serving citizens and delivering development,” Kagame told the incoming MPs.  

Emphasising that Rwandans expect the legislators to work for them and represent them well, Kagame urged the MPs to remain closer to the people, listen to and understand their challenges in order to ensure that leaders who don’t adequately perform their duties to improve citizen livelihoods are held accountable.

“Many of you are new to the House, the ideas, strengths and work attitude that you bring here should raise this parliament to a new level in line with our aim of building our country,” he told the MPs.

The President added: “This is not just a ceremony. It is about starting a new mandate and committing to working hard. Rwandans have placed their trust in you to serve them and work towards transforming this country into what Rwandans want and deserve.”  

While sending a warning to corrupt officials, Kagame said that those officials who can only account for 25 per cent of the public resources they are responsible for will be asked about the other 75 per cent and will be held to account.

He requested the incoming MPs to be good allies in holding leaders to account, explaining that the country sees the role of legislators as very crucial for delivering it to self-reliance.

“I want us to increase the momentum in following up on those tasked with duties and activities aimed at developing our country. Those who don’t fulfill their responsibilities in developing our country should be held accountable,” he told the legislators. 

The lower chamber of parliament is made up of 80 MPs, including 53 fronted by political parties (who were elected through universal suffrage), 24 women representatives, two representatives of the youth, and one MP who represents people with disabilities. Of the 80 Members of Parliament, 49 are women, translating to 61 per cent of female representation.

The governing RPF-Inkotanyi, along with its six allied political parties, won 40 seats after garnering 74 per cent of the votes from 6.6 million Rwandans who took part in the September direct vote.

The Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Liberal Party (PL) obtained five seats and four seats, respectively.

Newcomers Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and PS-Imberakuri secured two seats each after they each garnered the minimum threshold of 5 per cent of the votes.

Kagame urged all the MPs in the Lower House, that include new members and new parties, to cooperate in their work, explaining that cooperation is crucial if their work is to transform the country.