PHOTOS & VIDEO: Rwandan culture is the glue that holds us together, says Kagame

President Paul Kagame has encouraged Rwandans at home and abroad to put Rwandan cultural values at the centre of their lives and live as winners in an increasingly changing world.
President Kagame addresses Rwandans and friends of Rwanda at the Rwanda Cultural Day in San Francisco, US, on Saturday, where he called for the Rwandan cultural values to be placed....
President Kagame addresses Rwandans and friends of Rwanda at the Rwanda Cultural Day in San Francisco, US, on Saturday, where he called for the Rwandan cultural values to be placed....

President Paul Kagame has encouraged Rwandans at home and abroad to put Rwandan cultural values at the centre of their lives and live as winners in an increasingly changing world.

The Head of State made the call on Saturday while addressing thousands of Rwandans and friends of Rwanda gathered in San Francisco, US, for a Rwanda Day event. 


The event was also attended by the First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame.



Organised by the Rwandan community in California and the Government of Rwanda, the event ran under the name of ‘Rwanda Cultural Day’ and served as an opportunity to celebrate the country’s unique culture and its role in its post-Genocide transformation.

Through various activities organised during the day, participants learned about the values that unite Rwandans and the home-grown solutions inspired by Rwanda’s culture that have become an integral part of solving the country’s post-Genocide challenges, ranging from justice and reconciliation, to poverty reduction and accountable governance.

Pastor Rick Warren, whose PEACE Mission is active in Rwanda, speaks at the Rwanda Cultural Day event in San Francisco, California on Saturday night.
Foreign affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo addresses participants at the event in California on Saturday.

Kagame told the audience that rebuilding Rwanda has been challenging but possible mainly given Rwandans’ culture of being there for one another and their innate desire to fight for their dignity.

“Culture is neutral. It is the common thread that runs through a society and brings people together. The moment we put our people first, culture becomes the glue that holds our people; we do not give up; we are never thrown off balance. We are held by this rich culture,” he said.

Rwanda’s ambassador to the US Mathilde Mukantabana speaks at the event.
Across-section of Rwandans at the Rwanda Cultural Day event in the US on Saturday.

Drawing the example of the lives of Rwandan refugees before the liberation of Rwanda to highlight the resilience of Rwandans, President Kagame said Rwandans living in refugee camps always worked hard for whatever they got and went ahead to fight for their country and dignity. 

“Life as refugees kept people together, they wanted to work for whatever they got and later fought for their country and dignity. The quest for dignity did not end with life as refugees; the struggle has to continue to change the life of everyone. The life of everyone was changed by their hard work toward being where they deserve to be.” 

Rwandan traditional attire, the Umushanana, was dominant at the event.
A delegate poses a question during an interactive session with President Kagame.
The event attracted participants from across the world.

Speaking about Rwanda’s critics and those who are fixated with giving lessons to others on how to live their lives, President Kagame said Rwandans were ready to stand together against any challenges as history has shown.

“People write a list of things you cannot do and do not expect you to express yourself as to the life you want to lead. Despite criticism, I feel fine. Because the people of Rwanda are there for each other. The harder you beat Rwanda, what comes out is people who really want to give it back to you, who want to push back. We will not just bow to you. It is not where we belong. We belong to a nation that can engage in a conversation.”

The Rwanda Cultural Day attracted Rwandans and friends of Rwanda from different parts of the world.
The Rwanda Cultural Day was an opportunity to showcase the country’s culture to the rest of the world.
A mother feeds her baby at the Rwandan cultural event.

President Kagame called on Africans to always strive for “modern Africanisation” and avoid adopting westernisation blindly. 

“What I am looking for is modern africanisation. I am an African that can relate well and meaningfully to the rest of the world. I am not an African lost in the jungle looking for magnanimous people to give me a sense of direction. I don’t mind if you hold me accountable for what I am doing, but you must be able to listen. There is no such power that people have that they should not be able to listen to others. We are expected to swallow what we are told without chewing. In our culture, we chew before swallowing.”

Rwandans travelled from different parts of the world to attend the event.
Rwanda’s cultural heritage was on show at the event.
The Intore dancers showcase the country’s popular traditional dance.

President Kagame challenged the youth of Rwanda and Africa to value and protect their identity wherever they may be.

“You must have an identity you call yours, you should be proud of, that will endure and stay with us for generations.”

Urging Rwandans to strive to transform their nation into one, Kagame told participants that Africa should no longer be left behind.

“You can choose to waste your time or live on borrowed time, but I want us to choose believing it is our time. There is no reason we cannot catch up to the rest of the world. We belong up there,” Kagame said, adding that achieving transformation can only result from the hard work of every Rwandan.

Cultural exhibition

At the event, different aspects of the Rwandan culture throughout the life cycle were explored through performances by members of Rwanda’s National Ballet (Urukerereza).

The country’s national ballet, Urukerereza, entertained delegates at the event.
The country’s culture was at the centre stage as Rwandans descended on California to celebrate their heritage.
Men showcase the country’s traditional brew that served to strength relations at the community level.
An Intore dancer entertains participants.

They include the naming of a baby child, exchanging gifts such as donating cows, getting married, helping each other in communities, and protecting the country.

Different speakers also talked about the uniqueness of Rwanda, with renowned American pastor, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, saying that he loves Rwanda for special things that include the resilience of Rwandans, their willingness to forgive, the integrity of the leadership in Rwanda, and the country’s sense of independence whereby it refuses to be told what to do by foreign leaders.

Michael Fairbanks, the co-founder of OTF Group and the SEVEN Fund, addresses the gathering, highlighting the important role that Rwanda’s culture continues to play in the country’s development efforts.
Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan media personality and friend of Rwanda, shares insights at the gathering.
Rwandan dancers entertain delegates at the Rwanda Cultural Day in San Francisco, California.

Another American, Michael Fairbanks, who is the co-founder of OTF Group and the SEVEN Fund that provide training and grants for enterprise solutions to poverty, said that he knows the secret behind Rwanda’s current success.

“Solving problems together is the secret of the Rwandan story,” he said, also describing Rwandans as people who embrace competition and trust for each other.

It was all smiles as Rwandans from different parts of the world touched base.
Rwandan youths showcase the country’s heritage through a play.
Thousands of Rwandans and friends of Rwanda were in attendance.
Finance and Economic Planning minister Claver Gatete (2nd right, front row) is one of the government officials that graced the ceremony.

Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that it’s a daily struggle to try and put one’s message across in a competitive world but emphasised the need to keep fighting for it.

The event attracted more than 2000 people, including those from Rwanda and other parts of Africa, those from Europe, Asia, as well as from many corners of the US and Canada.

Culture and Sports minister Juliene Uwacu (2nd right, front row) at the event.
Some of the senior government officials and friends of Rwanda, including Dr Hamadoun Touré, the executive director of the Kigali-based Smart Africa (centre, front row), at the event.
A cross-section of delegates at the ‘Rwanda Cultural Day’ event.
The venue was the place to be for members of the Rwandan Diaspora community in the US.
Some of the participants wave the national flag at the event.
For many participants, the event was also an opportunity to catch up and cultivate contacts.
Delegates pose for a picture.
Thrilled young Rwandans pose for a picture at the cultural event.
The Rwanda Cultural Day event attracted Rwandans from different parts of the world.
For many it was also an opportunity to meet and reconnect with friends and family.

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