KIGALI - President Paul Kagame was on Saturday the first recipient of Unity Club’s inaugural “Unity Award” for his contribution in promoting unity among Rwandans. He received the award during a ceremony organized by Unity Club to celebrate the RPF’s recent presidential victory.
Unity Club was set up in 1996 as a forum for women leaders who identified a need to contribute to unity and reconciliation. The Club has since evolved to include former and current leaders and their spouses, to further strengthen the noble cause of promoting national unity.
The award, which will be given out annually, is aimed at recognizing the efforts of individuals who have excelled in and supported efforts in promoting unity within the country.
In a citation to accompany the award, Jolly Mazimpaka said President Kagame had made history reuniting Rwandan people and remains an icon of unity, peace and social cohesion.
“You are a resolute freedom fighter. Your life has been dedicated to the pursuit of liberty and justice. You have made a mark on Rwanda’s history,” Mazimpaka said, adding that Kagame remains an inspiration to many young Rwandans and other people around the world.
“You committed to foster unity where there was discord, justice where there was impunity and family values where little value was accorded to life itself,” Mazimpaka said.
In his acceptance speech, Kagame thanked Unity Club for living up to its original goal of fostering unity and that there is reason to celebrate since the club has lived up to its values.
In a night of memories, Kagame told his story of growing up in refugee camps in Uganda and how his parents raised him under a strict code of discipline where injustice and dishonesty were not tolerated, adding that he is still driven by the same values.
Kagame called on leaders, whether serving or retired, to put forward the values and dignity of Rwandans.
The President went on to end speculation on whether he would be interested in another term in office after his current mandate ends in 2017. He pointed out that he was not interested in another term in office and that time should not be wasted debating the issue.
Kagame said his problem is not the third term, but why he would seek for one; adding that the same reasons for which people think he should seek it are the same reasons for which he would not.
The President noted that the debate on the third term has no value because it would be a failure on his part if an appropriate successor could not be found by the time his mandate ended.
“It would be my failure after all these years serving as your leader, to have failed to look among you for the person who would succeed. I would be a bad leader then. It would be a failure on my side and a failure on your side too,” Kagame told the gathering of current and former ministers and their spouses who form the Unity Club.
Kagame emphasized continuity, saying that what is most important is for the country to keep progressing, pointing out that the progress should not be attributed to “Kagame alone” but to all Rwandans.
He went on to say that it is important that his successor upholds the dignity of the Rwandan people, meets the standards and demands of the people, and is able to reinforce the country’s progress.
The President took a swipe at some foreigners and journalists who continue to ask whether he has intentions of running again for the presidency, saying that the issue should not be their concern because it is an issue that concerns Rwandans alone.
He noted that the questioning, by western journalists, of possible intentions to stay in power is a result of generalization of African leaders, some of whom have lost self-respect by clinging onto power.
“I don’t need another term, what I and you need is continuity of progress. We cannot have after me, after this progress we have made, someone who will come and reverse the progress. It would be the worst blunder Rwandans would make,” he said.
The President went on to criticize the United Nations Human Rights Mapping Report, saying that some international groups have taken it upon themselves to monitor and assess Rwanda, coming up with biased reports and criticizing the country’s governance.
“Who are you to asses us? Teach us Governance? We can teach you good governance, we know it. This Mo Ibrahim Index, they even put a fund to bribe leaders to leave power. Is this how bad we are?” Kagame said.
He added that the reason why such things happen is because people undermine Africa and Rwanda. The idea that people need a bribe in order to get certain things done is one of the highest levels of arrogance which must be fought.
Testimonies from various Unity club members were heard, including former presidential candidate, Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, who congratulated Kagame upon the recent victory, Zainabu Kayitesi and Senator Joseph Karemera who gave a moving testimony about President Kagame.
Karemera described Kagame as a person who hated “ .. corruption, injustice and observed high levels of hygiene”. Karemera also spoke about the leadership qualities of President Kagame during the Liberation struggle.
Senator Odette Nyiramirimo, former Ministers Pio Mugabo and Sam Nkusi also gave testimonies.