President Paul Kagame yesterday reiterated his call to young Rwandans urging them to be more active in the country’s politics.
The President was speaking during an interview with the public broadcaster, Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) that was broadcast live on television and radio.
Kagame, who led the liberation struggle in his early 30s, emphasised that nothing should be taken for granted and the youth should seize the opportunity and be more active in politics.
He added that the consequences of being passive or having an I-do-not care attitude toward politics can be detrimental to nation building.
The interview also had a town-hall format with young Rwandans from various sectors and universities joining in.
“Youth should participate more and better. You have to challenge yourself and ask what is my role, how can I play my part?” Kagame tasked young Rwandans.
Youth constitute about 70 per cent of Rwanda’s population.
The statistics, Kagame said, is reason for youth to participate in leadership and forge a better future for Rwanda. He added that the role of the government is to empower young people to achieve their potential. But, having the skills and knowledge will only serve purpose when put to good use.
“Participating in politics is taking responsibility to contribute to nation building. That’s why young people should be supported to engage. But most importantly engage more and better,” the President said.
Kagame was 33 when he abandoned his military course in the US to lead a four-year liberation war that resulted in the liberation of Rwanda and the end of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
When asked what inspires him, Kagame said he is motivated by the problems and challenges that remind him that the only choice is to get involved.
“I have been very fortunate to be involved at the very young age...There were no alternatives. The problems were my motivation. When you feel a sense of responsibility and there are no alternatives, you have to play your part and you feel good about it,” Kagame said.
During the interview that lasted over two hours, President Kagame also spoke about various issues related to Rwanda, including development, security, freedoms and international relations.
Accepting to contest in election
President Kagame, who recently accepted the nomination for the Rwanda Patriotic Front candidate in the upcoming elections, said that the reasons given by Rwandans when asking him to continue as the President weighed more than any criticism.
The Head of State disclosed that he was determined to leave office at the end of this term, but the demand by the Rwandan people for continued transformation influenced his decision when compared to the arguments by those who were against.
“There were two parts, and each part was strong in its own sense— one decision concerned Rwandans and their wellbeing going forward and other concerned partners, our neighbours, because we are not an island,” Kagame said.
“I based my decision from the fact that I value most what Rwandans considered was the right choice for our future.”
Rwanda’s rise from the ashes
When asked how Rwanda managed to rebuild against all odds following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, that claimed over one million lives, the Head of State said, there was a lot of sacrifice involved.
“There were lots of sacrifices made and on top of that there was thinking beyond the ordinary,” he said.
The President gave an example of how the military opted to forego their pay for up to two years, a sacrifice motivated by the desire to rebuild Rwanda, whose coffers were left empty by the genocidal regime and its remnants.
Going forward, Kagame said, the state set up targets even without visible resources—which consequently guided the country to being one of the fastest growing economies, within 20 years of being internationally regarded as “a failed stated.”
“Having aspirations doesn’t necessarily mean you must readily have means of getting there. Better to aspire first,” Kagame said.
Asked about the global accolades Rwanda has received, the President said: “We are not doing anything to impress anyone. We do things to find solutions to our problems. What Rwanda has achieved that people thought was impossible shows what is possible when human beings work to find solutions.
“The main approach is not to say, what are people going to say about us, it is the other way around. We look for strength from within but also through collaboration with friends and partners.”
What more needs to get done?
President Kagame pointed out that there are some areas where we need to do more to achieve the country’s development ambitions, including service delivery.
He said that citizens ought to learn from countries who approach development with a sense of urgency.
“We need to learn the culture of excellence. For instance, Asians countries like Singapore and South Korea. If you read very well, you will understand that they have a unique way of doing things—yet in the 1960s they were not well-off but see where they are now. We should all ask ourselves why they have more than tripled their economies yet we are still behind,” Kagame said.
“The slow pace of progress in some areas and sense of entitlement of some leaders frustrates me. The repetitive nature of complacency needs to change.”
“If we are to judge from what other people say, we are doing well but we can certainly do better.
“There is a lot of catching up to do, which requires us to move faster. Where others can afford to walk, we must run. We cannot celebrate and be complacent because of our progress. Any minute we waste has consequences on where we want to be,” Kagame said, adding that the progress realised so far would not have been possible without the input of the Rwandan people.
The interview was conducted by two Rwanda TV journalists, Cleophas Barore and Novella Nikwigize.