President Paul Kagame said Africa and other developing parts of the world can play a significant role in the preservation of peace, security and prosperity if Western countries avoid moral superiority approach and rather seek to partner with them.
Kagame was Tuesday delivering a public lecture at the Coca-Cola World Fund Lecture at Yale University in the United States, where he is attending the ongoing 71st United Nations General Assembly.
His lecture focused on the importance of value -based solidarity for the pursuit of international peace, security and prosperity.
Viewing and involving Africa and developing countries as equal partners in the strive for peace, security and prosperity would give rise to dependable and effective international cooperation, Kagame said.
This, however, requires an adjustment of attitudes and perceptions about Africa by Western powers to end the persisting ideological confusion and instabilities within nations and in the mechanisms of international cooperation.
The President added that with the shift in the world order, the developing countries were gaining more confidence to pursue goals and ambitions in their own ways and no longer require external validation.
“Because of the levelling effects of globalisation, accelerated by the spread of technology and information, as well as the greater range of experiences and approaches that have been tested, we in the developing world have greater confidence to pursue the same ends in our own ways,” he said.
“We increasingly base our legitimacy on results achieved and on the views of our citizens, rather than on external validation,”
The shift in the world order, Kagame noted, was being viewed by some participants in the international system as a challenge causing them to continue imposing outcomes without consultation with those concerned.
“To justify that exceptionalism, action has to be seen in terms of moral responsibilities rather than narrow interests. Some countries simply expect to be trusted to work in the best interest of humanity as a whole,” he said.
The President pointed out that all this continue to contribute to instability and uncertainty the world faces as it undermines values-based solidarity, upon which the effectiveness of international cooperation has always depended.
“What is at risk is the sense of a global community based on shared values, which the US, Rwanda, and many others, are equally committed to. By asserting the right to define legitimacy for everyone else, trust between countries is lost, instability increases, and countries are even pushed to make bad decisions,” he told the students.
Kagame also spoke out against the manner in which some international decisions were arrived at without the engagement and consultation of the concerned stakeholders.
“The manner in which decisions of war are arrived at is truly chilling at times, as if real people don’t live in those places. It is better to work patiently to facilitate change in society and build new consensus, while containing negative effects, rather than engage in slash-and-burn democratisation,” he said.
“We can’t pour gasoline on volatile situations, light a match, and hope that the fire will cleanse and renew. Countries are not national parks and people are not trees.”
The President noted that the partnership can be extended to other areas such as trade for mutual benefit as developing countries pursue their interests.
Giving an example of the recent move by East African Community members to gradually phase out the importation of used clothes, the President said the objective is to build the region’s manufacturing base and to erase the mindset among citizens of being contented with second-hand things.
The move has not been very popular with some Western countries, warning that it could have negative trade consequences on trade relations between them and some EAC partner countries.
However, Kagame said that considering warm trade ties between EAC member countries and countries such as the United States, the best way forward would be to find ways to work together for mutual benefits.
Path to recovery
The responsibility to change status quo for the better, the President said, partly lies on the young people who ought to resist easy superficiality.
This is possible by getting to know the world directly to have a better understanding and remaining open to views and the aspirations of others and their contribution to peace efforts, Kagame noted.
He urged the students to rise above the erroneous perceptions and misconceptions about Africa and developing countries by learning about them.
“Get to know the world directly. Don’t just read an op-ed or sign an online petition and assume that that is the end of the story. To lead the world and make it better, you first have to understand it. Be as humble, as you are curious. Be contrarian where needed, and ready, where necessary, to fight for what is right,” the Head of State advised the students.
The lecture attracted over 400 students.
Coca-Cola World Fund Lecture was established in 1992 by former Coca-Cola chief executive Roberto Goizeuta to support endeavours among specialists in international relations, international law and the management of international enterprises and organisations.
Previous editions of the Lecture have featured international figures such as Prince Moulay Hichem Ben Abdallah of Morocco, President Mary Robinson of Ireland, Raghuram Rajan, Governor of the Reserve bank of India and Mo Ibrahim.