The First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, has said Rwanda believes in building bridges with all peoples and cultures, despite, or perhaps because of a past marked by exclusion for many Rwandans.
“Today, Africans who come to Rwanda receive visas upon arrival, while non-Africans are issued visas with ease, through online services, and based on reciprocal agreements with their respective countries. As a rule, we believe in building bridges with all peoples and cultures, despite, or perhaps because of, a past marked by exclusion for many of us, who grew up in Rwanda or in exile,” she said.
The First Lady made the remarks yesterday while delivering her speech on unity and reconciliation, under the theme: “Opportunities in the age of uncertainty,” at Global Citizen Forum in Montenegro.
The forum, which is attended by various global leaders, visionaries and entrepreneurs, is a platform for exchange, to educate, develop and promote Global Citizenship as a way of life.
The First Lady said there is more to be gained at a human and economic level by opening up to others, noting it is the reason Rwanda made a conscious decision to allow dual citizenship, and to advocate for a no-visa policy within Africa.
She also explained why government worked toward repatriation of Rwandan refugees, by establishing socio-economic programmes facilitating their return, ahead of the cessation clause of Rwandan refugee status, set for the end of December 2017.
The First Lady said, after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandans embraced a new mindset, which empowered them with the ability to shape their future.
“We viewed education as a powerful tool, able to drive the advancement of entire communities, so we also focused on increasing the number of primary, secondary, and tertiary education institutions to help realise the economic and social transformation, envisioned in our national development plans,” said Mrs Kagame.
“Whereas in the pre-1994 era, Rwanda only saw about 2,500 university graduates through the years; the post-1994 era saw increased concerted efforts between government and civil society, to put in place 46 public and private tertiary education institutions, allowing close to 100,000 students to become university graduates.”
In this new era, she said, the nation also privileged a mindset framed in the country’s broader transformation into an open society, where unnecessary boundaries were dissolved.
This, she said, also took the form of a ‘rapprochement’ with the country’s larger African family and the rest of the world, by making it easier to travel to, and do business in Rwanda.
Protecting the populace
The First Lady noted that Rwanda’s terrible past shaped the attitude towards other global conflicts, playing its part in the protection of other threatened populations.
“We have, for instance, welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees and provided them with access to the same education and health services that our citizens benefit from, as we believe that refugees or not, they are human beings, who deserve nothing less than to be treated with dignity.”
Rwanda is also one of the leading troop contributors to the UN and African Union peacekeeping missions, ranking as the fifth largest contributor at the global level, and second in Africa.
“Ownership, responsibility and connectedness are as many values that make us good citizens, as they qualify us as good global citizens. In Rwanda, cultural values and tenets underpin the principles of political and economic governance, and guide the formulation of key policies and programmes,” added Mrs Kagame.
She stressed the need to continue to push the boundaries of division, advocate for empathy and inclusion, require leaders to be accountable to the level of responsibility attached to their office, and ultimately, act upon the certainty that ‘It’s never too late to be what you should have been.’