On oil in Rwanda, I am more positive than my president

My president Paul Kagame doubles as my role model as well. He inspires me tremendously with his management style. I admire his open approach to issues many other leaders might have considered classified, or at best treated with ambiguity.

My president Paul Kagame doubles as my role model as well. He inspires me tremendously with his management style. I admire his open approach to issues many other leaders might have considered classified, or at best treated with ambiguity.

Openness is an invaluable virtue of leadership since it greatly enhances ownership of goals and methods to achieve them by other team players.

In modern leadership where participation is a huge motivator, openness easily draws people on board.
Yet this very open Kagame is ironically also a master of reserve.

Perhaps his background as an intelligence gatherer and custodian, for ten years, stretching from 1980 to 1990 helped shape his B side.

In this profession, the less you reveal (to those you do not report) out of the much you know, the better for everyone.

Since November 1991 up to today, a period of exactly 17 years, Kagame has been undergoing a steady career change.

He is now the kind of statesman you would safely refer to as a finished article.

From keeping most of the information in his custody, to sharing rich knowledge and experiences, both nationally and internationally, he has successfully employed two extremely divergent tactics – quietness and outspokenness. 

Now when a given person is your role model, you become a proud student of their behaviour. You want to do things their way because you rate them highly as worthy examples.

However, like a student of mathematics who goes for a simpler formula and is then left behind by a teacher who treads the most reliable route, I have to confess I am going to part ways with my inspirer on a crucial issue – Oil prospects in Rwanda. Below are my reasons:

“I wish I had the oil; I would probably put it to better use.” The President made this telling statement at a United Nations conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, October 26, 2007. 

Speaking at this Seventh Africa Governance Forum whose theme was “Building a Capable State in Africa”, Kagame commented about how resources available to the continent are still largely misappropriated by governments.

Said the President in the western Africa state: “States are not allowing citizens the fruits of their own labour. Part of our challenge lies in understanding for whom and for what the state exists.”

On this issue of likely oil here, earlier this year in a meeting with the press, President Kagame was tickled into making assurances that if discovered, it would not turn out to be a ‘curse’, like it has seemed to be the case with some other, otherwise lucky African nations.  

The Rwandan economy has been growing at an impressive average rate of 6% per annum since 2003. Here agriculture will as usual feature among the first suspects in as far as finding the basis for this growth is concerned. 

There is no doubt also of the contribution from Industry, particularly Construction, to this growth that is fast becoming sustainable.

Then probably most significant, and this is where Kagame’s Rwanda loves to put emphasis, is the role of the Service Sector. Highly impressive strides have been made in the Financial, Tourism, Trade and Communications sub-sectors. 

So, President Kagame looks at the socio-economic progress so far made and gets very happy. You may accurately want to assume the confidence and hope he derives from seeing what intelligent choices, sheer hard work, resilience and discipline has brought to a nation dead and nearly buried just over 13 years ago, can only add steel to his personality.

Now men and women of steel are rarely going to be caught in the act of wishful thinking because they are strong realists. When they reveal to you their wish or dream, you can be sure of how well they will have done their homework on what chances of realization are. Most times their so-called dreams turn out to be true.

It is my opinion, subject to debate like any other. But let me confess the temptation is high to believe for the Kagame I know to wish he had oil, most likely it is more than a wish.

Most likely, he is privy to some information the ordinary you and I cannot access yet.

Knowing the difference oil would make in terms of greatly supplementing the meagre development resources in place now, is not the type of stuff to excite your president. 

For starters, geologists have declared their high suspicions as big as 11% of Rwanda’s land mass could be pretty seated top of considerable amounts of oil deposits.

Canadian firm Vangold Resources Ltd is already deeply engaged into exploratory activities regarding this prospective oil in the north western part of the country.

Only one and a half years from now, this country will know whether, and how high, it will have leapt to greater heights in terms of additional natural wealth. 

I can well understand reasons responsible for the reluctance shown by government in not coming out more openly on the issue. Speculation beyond what is currently in the air is not in any body’s interest.

But because when the head of Rwanda Geological and Mining Authority Dr Michael Biryabarema said oil prospects are not confirmed yet his tone bore clear traces of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ it will be confirmed, may I ask for understanding in case mine has added to this speculation?

May I also state these are the reasons I have for differing with my role model by being a little bit more open where he has preferred to hold it for a little longer.  


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