COTONOU - President Kagame, yesterday, delivered the keynote address to participants at the International Symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of independence of African countries held in Cotonou, Benin.
The symposium has been described as forum through which participants reflect on the achievements and failures of the African continent over the last 50 years in order to draw lessons going forward. The symposium will also seek to explore and share home grown solutions to address the notion of independence itself.
President Kagame who was invited to give the final remarks to the panel discussions on the theme “Daring, unique challenge for a new Africa” called upon Africans to take charge of their destiny, posing the question “How can Africa direct the next fifty years to shape a continent that is economically, politically and socially transformed, for the benefit of all our citizens”?
Kagame went on to stress that in order to do so, the continent must look to the past to better plan for the future;
“To take these efforts further and transform the Continent in a sustainable manner, we should now aim to do two key things: First, to clearly identify, then consolidate our gains and recover our losses.
Secondly, to apply the right attitudes of results-oriented actions that will ultimately bring the prosperity and dignity that Africans want and deserve – both now and for the future.”
The President went on to speak on the importance of good governance and the impact this has in building a nation;
“As we reflect together on our past and embrace the audacity to dream big for our future, there is one striking observation: where we have seen gains and where there have been losses, there is a common denominator – the quality and culture of governance and attitude at all levels. Leadership attitude makes or breaks a nation, and the same applies to our continent.”
Following his address, Kagame met with over 1200 youth from Benin mainly comprised of youth leaders and university students.
In his introduction of President Kagame, Benin’s Ombudsman, mediator and organizer of the meeting with the youth, described President Kagame as a charismatic leader whose vision could serve as a lesson to all youth.
Kagame called upon the youth of Benin and the continent to embrace the role of serving as today’s leaders with enthusiasm and courage.
“We look to you as the heirs to and custodians of our heritage, pillars of our present endeavours and drivers of our future aspirations. This is a huge responsibility, but one that comes with immense satisfaction when successfully discharged. This responsibility comes with certain values – love for your country, compassion for its people and a desire to see them lead better lives, a result-oriented attitude and the readiness to work hard.”
President Kagame went on to urge the youth of Benin and Africa to take up the challenge and duty to seek solutions for the numerous challenges faced on the African continent.
“I encourage you to take full ownership of the political and economic development process of your country by taking up a greater interest and role in decision-making processes. Finally, Africa has a rich and proud cultural heritage, but we are also increasingly exposed to cultures from elsewhere. While we cannot insulate ourselves from external cultural influences, and indeed we should pick and adopt what is useful, we must maintain our values and use them as a source for solutions to our development challenges “.
In conclusion of the ceremony, President Kagame was presented with a gift from the Youth in form of a symbolic cane usually presented to the royalty in Benin called ‘La Recade’.
The President of Benin, Dr Yayi Boni, ended the ceremony with remarks on his last visit to Rwanda in September this year, in which he described the people of Rwanda as an active, disciplined people behind a great leader. He described Rwanda as a very clean and forward moving city.
Speaking to the youth President Yayi Boni praised President Kagame and the people of Rwanda for the progress made over the last 16 years, urging the youth of Benin to learn from the story of Rwanda as an example and a lesson for a brighter future for themselves, the country and Africa.