President elect, Paul Kagame, on Tuesday evening, appeared on Contact FM’s radio talk show- Rwanda Decides, hosted by, Andrew Mwenda. He spoke on wide range of issues including: RPF’s huge victory, democracy, succession, the need for public debate, Rwanda-South Africa relations. The Newtimes’ Ignatius Ssuuna recorded the interview. Excerpts:
You have won the election by 93 % and that is an unprecedented figure Mr. President. People who have been following elections, your critics will say look, such percentage can only be achieved in countries like Egypt or Iraq. That Kagame can arrange election and win by that percentage means that it was stage-managed and not genuine.
It happens here and to me it has to do with our context. One has to look where we are coming from. Sixteen years ago, nothing existed and there were no institutions to talk about. There was nothing absolutely. We had to build everything from scratch. Not only building from the scratch but also to ensure that people have security, peace. People were in despair. We have brought value to the people and they identify with us.
But there has been a serious concern within the International Media, especially ahead of election. The media says, Kagame created an atmosphere of fear in the country. A leading politician was killed, journalist murdered and some opposition leaders were blocked from registration and those allowed to compete were your allies.
It‘s not easy to do that and still get huge support. These are stories people create-that there are no democracy in Rwanda. For example, the killers of the journalist admitted the crime, their gun was found. Police arrested the suspects; the killers even give reasons why they killed the journalist. It was revenge.
The story is out there but reporters, mainly those with issues with Kagame, Rwanda, they ignore the fact that police arrested the suspects. They only want to create the stories they want.
Let us come to the politician who was killed. The Green Party politician. The International media has said this was a powerful politician. First the government refused to register his party because you feared him.
I didn’t know this man until he was killed. He was not known at all. He was not even known in his town of Butare. But the media will always want to say what they want, that this was a powerful politician and obviously Kagame feared him.
Have you arrested the killers of this politician?
Yes, police have arrested some suspects
Why did you refuse to register Green Party?
There is a process to register parties. You need 200 supporters who form a General Assembly, then present their documents to the notary office. And after this, you go to Ministry of Local Government who brings the matter to the Cabinet. After this, then registration follows.
The Green party didn’t do this. They kept fighting themselves. At one point, they went to Kampala and while there, one talked bad things about Rwanda. Later, some members didn’t agree with him because of what said in Kampala. It’s not true that we refused to register Green Party; actually, the Ministry of Local Government tried to help.
So you don’t fear Green Party?
They would not challenge anybody at all. None at all.
I followed the campaigns and I was amazed to see the huge turn up of the supporters everywhere you went. Let me ask you Mr President, were these people attending willingly or they were coerced to attend your rallies?
I have no doubt absolutely that these people attended willingly. Our people are honest, genuine and I want to say that those who think otherwise are mistaken.
Mr. President, would you say that in 2010, things have changed, that people have forgotten about the past, that people no longer look at themselves in terms of ethnicity. And that Kagame is a good leader and we identify with him and love him.
One would be making a serious mistake to ignore the amount of political maturity now. You know political leadership is very important. Leaders killed our people in the past and caused the genocide.
And the leadership that values people creates a new nation of Rwanda. We stopped the genocide. People will support you. You cannot bring people at gun point to attend your rally and go back singing, wake up early in the morning and attend to their work
Do you consider yourself as an achiever?
I should not be over praised because I would not have achieved these things without the massive support of Rwandans. You cannot do things alone; you need people to be behind your back. You can be a good General but when you don’t have supporters of soldiers, you cannot do much. We have been able to achieve a lot because of the support of Rwandans.
Mr President, one of the many questions that keep coming is about when the teachers will have salary increment. When will this be?
We want everybody to access education and we want quality education. In order to achieve this, we need to invest in education. And to get good results, you need good teachers to provide quality education. You need to train them and after this, obviously, we shall remunerate them well. The thing is that if they are not remunerated well, they cannot do well and this is one of the many things we are going to do.
You can only do what you can basing on the resources you have. So, we shall look at our capacity, because we try to avoid a situation where you promise yet you don’t have enough resources, otherwise, other people will rise, you know doctors will say we also save lives of people.
We appreciate so much the work of teachers, there is no doubt about this. We have been able to put money in the banks and teachers can now get loans. Here teachers will come, get loans and be able to do some investments.
South Africa recently recalled its ambassador. What have you done to them now and are you not worried that you are losing a very strategic partner?
We have had excellent relationship with South Africa and we want to keep it. The issue causing this problem is about the two dissidents Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegeya. I am told they are seeking refugee status there.
We have raised the issue with South Africa that we want to try these people. And our country wants to hold them accountable. We have given SA all information about their cases here. Even the information of what they have been involved in after they left. But to them the issue is about the shooting of General Nyamwasa in SA recently. But for us we think the issue is much of bigger.
When the President of SA went to Uganda, a journalist asked him the possibility the dissidents’ extradition and the President said SA will respect International laws or obligation.
Even after they left Rwanda, they have been involved in activities aimed at creating security problems here.
They should not continue to use this status to attack us. They were linked with groups throwing grenades.
We have evidence against them. If they want to give them refugee status, they should not use this to attack us.
What would you consider as the role of the media in this political dispensation. Do you for example agree with the liberal view that the media should act as a market place, where ideas are debated Or you consider the media basically to be an institution just to promote government programs and ideas with limited questions?
I think I take the liberal view where the media is allowed to operate freely. And do what they can do freely but also be mindful about what they are doing and not to harm the society. They should not be harmed by those are not happy with what they are doing. They should be allowed to criticize but the criticism should be constructive for our development and not harm any member of the society.
The contentious one is about succession. The constitution allows you only two terms and this is your last term. In Africa, we have known presidents that when the last term is about to end, their minds start changing. Even if you don’t want, what if RPF says we want you to stay. Are we going to see you amending the constitution?
Personally, I don’t want to get involved in the change of the Constitution and stay into power. I don’t intend to do that. When we took power in 1994, they wanted me to become the president and I was almost the automatic candidate but I refused and somebody else become President for six years. They had no quarrel with that.
I am saying this clearly and for me, one of the things I am looking at is that a debate should come up about this so that I can state my position. It does not mean that it has to be initiated by RPF, it can come from other people. I cannot amend the Constitution for the support of staying into power. For me to stay into power for two terms and fail to raise somebody who can take over, may be I can share that blame.