President Paul Kagame has told leaders at the annual National Leadership Retreat, locally known as Umwiherero that Rwanda is not a nation that can be brought to its knees by anyone.
“I have learned lessons of our struggles and the hardships of our country. One of them is I am not in control of what somebody else thinks about me or plans to do against me. But I must be in control of something, and that is what happens here,” Kagame said.
“You can attempt to destabilize our country, you can do us harm, you can shoot me with a gun and kill me. But there is one thing that is impossible: No one can bring me to my knees. Men and women of my country, you should never accept to be brought to your knees. You are much better than that,” Kagame urged.
The President was addressing over 350 leaders from local and central government, parastatals and the private sector at the Rwanda Defence Forces Combat Training Centre Gabiro in Gatsibo District.
The President also reminded the leaders of the importance of the National Retreat in acknowledging personal responsibility in achieving the transformation of the country.
“Umwiherero is about reminding ourselves of our responsibilities, and to ask ourselves how far we have come in this journey towards reaching our goal. We all know the goal; it is transformation, education, health and profitable trade,” he remarked.
“If we are all part of the same journey, how fast we go and how far we reach depends on each and every one of us. Every individual has to be contributing something, if we can increase that contribution, so much the better,” he added.
The Head of State however highlighted that based on the evaluation, for the past 15 years, it is clear that there were existing weaknesses, which he said meant that there was a problem that is not being addressed.
Kagame cautioned the leaders that the country cannot accept to be taking one step forward and two steps backwards.
“We have to keep moving forward, even if it means moving slowly and taking half a step at a time. That is the mindset we should all have. We have to be asking ourselves whether our weaknesses were inevitable because we did not have the resources necessary. Self evaluation means that we have to do all we can to look for what was missing and rectify our failures,” he told leaders, before warning them against complacency and to not sit back to wait for others to do things on their behalf.
The leaders gathering for the 16th edition of Umwiherero in the Eastern Province will spend the next three days deliberating on how to achieve the much-needed socioeconomic development and transformation.
The President demanded unprecedented clarity from leaders on a number of frequently highlighted issues including healthcare, quality of education and agriculture, among others.
Kagame indicated that it would be wrong for leaders not to learn from the significant challenges the country has faced over the years.
“Challenges and adversity force people to think smarter, think harder so they survive and find solutions and sometimes even find an opportunity in that environment,” he said.
“In our environment, we have had enough challenges, to not learn lessons from that, to not be inspired by that, to not be pushed by that to the extreme, to not be doing as much as you can, sometimes even attempting to do what is seemingly impossible,” he added.
The Head of State said it was surprising that leaders are not pushed by the challenges the country has and still have, adding that to behave in an ordinary normal way defeats the logic that adversity should ordinarily push you to do the best to survive it.
To that, he added, the only person that would not be responding to challenges that way is a person who has lost hope, who has given up and who doesn’t even value their own life.
The President also warned officials against carelessness, a factor he said is among the reasons why things are not moving faster even when the reason to change them has been overly identified.
“I cannot understand it, even when we have made progress, you can afford to be so careless to let it go to waste. Why don’t we sustain it or make sure we are conscious about protecting what we have achieved?” he asked!
Kagame also cleared the air on the on-going situation between Rwanda and Uganda, saying that it all dates back to many years ago and that the government has been making efforts to come to an understanding but in vain.
He particularly blamed Ugandan leadership for supporting elements, including Rwanda National Congress (RNC), who want to destabilise the country.
The President highlighted that more Rwandans continue to be illegally jailed in Uganda’s prisons, including military prisons, an issue he has personally raised over and over and engaged his Ugandan counterpart on many occasions.
“Almost every week there are people who are brought and dumped across the border, and when you asked some of them, they say they have been in prison for 2 years,” he said.
He added: “When we ask our friends from across the border, they tell us they were illegal immigrants, but they were in prison for 2 years, with no charges, until they pack them in a truck and take them across the border”.