GASABO - President Paul Kagame was, yesterday, officially sworn-in for a second term, emphasising that the Rwandan people will determine their own destiny, and will not be distracted by what the country’s critics have to say.
Addressing a fully packed Amahoro National Stadium, shortly after taking oath and receiving the instruments of power, Kagame said that Rwanda has had a fair share of its troubles and will not be derailed by detractors.
In his speech, Kagame blasted the country’s critics who, before the elections, attempted to falsely portray a country on the verge of collapse.
“In the months and weeks preceding our elections, there was an onslaught of bad press reports from sections of the media and human rights organisations, that deliberately misrepresented the situation in Rwanda, and sought to give the impression that our country was, so to speak, falling apart.”
“This led some to expect an eruption of violence, in line with the prejudiced way in which African affairs are viewed. But Rwandans know what it means to sink to the lowest level possible, and we have learnt lessons the hard way,” Kagame said.
In the presence of 14 African heads of State and other high ranking officials, Kagame said that over time, Rwandans have redefined themselves and are determined to forge ahead, as demonstrated by the enthusiasm in the August 9 polls.
Drawing a deafening applause from the excited crowd and visiting delegations, Kagame accused western critics of ignoring the fact that the biggest problem Africans face is not the lack of democracy but rather poverty that comes with dependence and underdevelopment.
“It is this situation of dependence that allows some governments, and even NGOs – who are not accountable to anyone – to think they have a right to dictate the conduct of legitimate state actors. African governments are often accused of being corrupt and not responsive to the needs of our populations.
“But when we do what every government is expected to do – deliver services; instil accountability, transparency and efficiency; build social and economic infrastructure; and raise living standards – the goal posts change, and we are then accused of forcing progress on the people and of being repressive,” Kagame said.
The president accused external actors of turning around to promote adventurers who have no legitimacy, and who do not relate to the majority of the people, and deserve to be ignored.
“This duplicity cannot be construed as confusion or lack of understanding. Rather, it is evidence of hypocrisy and a patronising attitude towards our entire continent, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and underdevelopment, continues to deprive our people of their dignity, and which Africans must continue to stand up against.
“Habitual critics of Rwanda may say what they want, but they will neither dictate the direction we take as a nation, nor will they make a dent in our quest for self-determination,” Kagame said amidst sounds of approval from the crowd.
He added that what African needs are more tools and resources to implement ideas that are relevant to its circumstances, noting that it is partnership Africans want.
Embarking on 7 years
Observing that the last 16 years have been marked by tangible improvement in the lives of the Rwandan people, with increased access to education and health services for all, investment in ICT, decentralisation of governance among others, Kagame vowed to focus on consolidating and multiplying the achievements registered.
“For more than a decade and a half now, the people of this country have increasingly come together as one, to determine and shape their destiny. They demonstrated their willingness to put national interest above all else, through a clear vote for unity, reconciliation and socio-economic transformation,” the President continued to say.
“We are moving to the next stage of development and prosperity. If what we have achieved together so far is any indication, even better awaits us in the years to come”.
Kagame said that among other things, he will focus on ensuring that the country continues to be food secure, provide better education and health for all and promote trade and investment.
Building modern infrastructure that responds to the direct needs of the citizens, including access to clean water, and energy to power homes, schools, health centres and industry, will be among the priorities.
“We will also promote economic and political participation of all our citizens, as well as deepen empowerment of our women and girls; and ensure that our people have the skills necessary to succeed in a competitive world,” said the President, adding that deepening regional integration will also be key during the next seven years.