KIGALI - President Paul Kagame yesterday delivered the 2010 Oppenheimer Lecture at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in London.
Contents of the Lecture
Addressing over 200 participants, Kagame explained that for Rwanda to be where it is today, it has had to deal with parts of its history that led to the country being underdeveloped.
Speaking on the theme; “The Challenges of Nation Building in Africa – the Case of Rwanda”, President Kagame pointed out that the period between Rwanda’s independence in 1962 and 1994 was dominated by politics mainly based on ethnicity and exclusion, thereby destroying the identity and unity of the nation through conflict.
“The conditions of conflict and destruction were made possible by this type of leadership which championed divisionism and sectarianism,” he said.
“Because of this fundamental deficiency, when faced with the challenges of legitimacy, this leadership fell back on the ideology they were familiar with; the so-called ethnic identities, which effectively fragmented Rwanda”.
The President added that the politics of exclusion led to coercion and as a result, leaders diverted national resources, pouring them into their preferred regions, and leaving other areas in dire need.
Kagame explained to the audience that what followed was an impoverished disunited country with limited investments in technology, education and business that were required for socio-economic transformation.
“This state of affairs had two related consequences; first, the economy stagnated and levels of poverty remained high. Second, it led to heavy dependence on foreign aid that had devastating consequences on the development of the country,” he said.
The President added that donor funds remained in the hands of a few people and were used to entrench the leaders in power. He noted that before 1994, the country’s budget was entirely financed by external funding, yet today donors contribute less than 50% of the national budget.
Kagame pointed out that the new government that came into power after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi developed a new approach that put forward unity, reconciliation and development.
“We have adopted and implemented policies that foster national unity, promote reconciliation, peace, security and development. We have set out to build a nation of laws and institutions,” he said.
Noting that the country had learned from its difficult past, Kagame said that Rwanda today has adopted a model that builds on inclusive politics of power-sharing and consensus building.
Kagame also spoke about the role of the state in service delivery, decentralisation and the establishment of an inclusive decision making process. He noted that transparency and accountability continue to be important aspects of development.
The President highlighted the important role Gacaca Courts had played in delivering justice after the Genocide and how the country has embarked on a long journey to invest in ICT and trade.
Kagame highlighted how Rwandans have the resolve and determination to build their country, restore dignity and work hard towards making the country self-sustaining.
After his lecture, President Kagame responded to questions from the audience, mainly about Rwanda’s reconstruction process, from the devastating effects of the genocide to where it is today.
Previous high profile speakers at the IISS include President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President Ali Zardari of Pakistan, former President George W. Bush, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Gen. Stanley McChrystal from the United States.
The President’s lecture as well as the question-and-answer session was streamed live on the IISS website, www.iiss.org.