The Kagame, Bush say their parties will win elections

Following are excerpts of the joint press conference by President Paul Kagame and his US counterpart, George W. Bush, at Village Urugwiro when the latter visited Rwanda on Tuesday, February 19, 2008.
Presidents Kagame and Bush with their wives, Jeannette and Laura, during a chat at Village Urugwiro on Tuesday. (Courtesy photo)
Presidents Kagame and Bush with their wives, Jeannette and Laura, during a chat at Village Urugwiro on Tuesday. (Courtesy photo)

Q: My question goes to both of you, Presidents. 2008 is a critical year, especially politically, because here in Rwanda we are going to be having parliament elections in September, and in the U.S. it’s going to be presidential elections. Presidents, what do you see – how good are your chances to your respective parties? And if you wish, your answers can include what you think are going to be the challenges.

BUSH: Yes, thanks. The American press has been trying to get me to comment on this for, like, a couple of months. Why don’t we start – Republicans will win. Whoever is the President must understand that this mission on the continent of Africa is in our nation’s interests. But I think my party’s nominee will win. Don’t be listening to all these pundits here – you know, half of them sitting right here. You know, they – the issues in America are, who is going to fight terror and protect their homeland, and who is going to keep people’s taxes low to make sure that the economy grows. And so there’s a lot of noise, a lot of movement, but things change rapidly in American politics. It will eventually get down to two people, and then the choice will become very clear. And we’ll win.

KAGAME: My party will, I think, win these elections, on the basis of how this government and central to it, has performed well; has uplifted the living standards of our people. They have given protection and security and brought in stability to this country, and restored the rights of every individual citizen of this country, and economic progress is being registered. I think the people of this country will be wanting more of what we are doing.

My prediction is that it will be fine for my party, and we’ll do our best to continue the agenda of development in this country. And I think that citizens of this country are willing to give us the chance to continue solving them the way we have been (doing). And the challenges are normally just in terms of organisation, and it takes time, takes money, but those are easy to overcome.

Q: Mr. President, can you tell us what it means for the US policy that Castro has said he’s going to step down? And how is that is going to change things for the US?

BUSH: Yes, thanks. I heard the reports, several ways – one, reporters yelling it at me, and then of course I was briefed. Not saying you were yelling it at me; of course not, you were very polite. More important – you know, the question really should be, what does this mean for the people in Cuba? They’re the ones who suffered under Fidel Castro. They’re the ones who were put in prison because of their beliefs. They’re the ones who have been denied their right to live in a free society. So I view this as a period of transition; that – and it should be the beginning of the democratic transition for the people in Cuba.

There will be an interesting debate that will arise eventually. There will be some who say, let’s promote stability. Of course, in the meantime, political prisoners will rot in prison, and the human condition will remain pathetic in many cases.

I believe that the change from Fidel Castro ought to begin a period of democratic transition. First step, of course, will be for people put in these prisons to be let out. I’ve met with many of the – or some of the families of prisoners. It just breaks your heart to realize that people have been thrown in prison because they dared speak out.

The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for democracy. And eventually, this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections – and I mean free and I mean fair, not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as being true democracy.

And we’re going to help – the United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty. And so those are my initial thoughts.

Q: Mr. President, you made what I would describe as an emotional talk, or speech, on the genocide of Rwanda, especially when you were visiting the memorial. But unfortunately, the perpetrators of the killings are still holed up in several parts of the world, especially the Congo. And you just mentioned that we need to see results being seen. Mr. President, what is the US going to do about these perpetrators that remain at large, and are walking freely?

And then my other brief question for President Kagame is, can you give us some details about the investment treaty you’ve just signed with President Bush?

BUSH: Just couple of reactions. Thank you very much for that. To specifically answer your question, we support UN Security Council resolutions targeting those who perpetuated the violence, and have made our position publicly known, and we’ll continue to support.

Secondly, the museum had a profound effect on me. You can’t help but walk in there and recognize that evil does exist and, in this case, in such brutal form that babies had their skulls smashed. And so the question is, what does the world do to prevent these kinds of incidences? And I came away with two lessons – I’m sure there’s many more. One was, we’ve got to work to prevent it from happening in the first place; when we see issues, that people need to pay attention to the warning signs, and prevent crises like this from happening.

We’re obviously trying to prevent such a crisis from happening in Kenya. Condi Rice briefed the President and me on her meetings yesterday, and we strongly support Kofi Annan’s efforts there. Now I’m not suggesting that anything close to what happened here is going to Kenya. But I am suggesting there are some warning signs that the international community needs to pay attention to, and we’re paying attention to it, as is Kofi Annan; and I know the AU will, as well.

And secondly, that when the people decide to respond, that you go in with enough force that has the proper mandate. In a situation such as that, you don’t want to send people in who are observers. You need to send people in who will help deal with the situation. That’s why the mandate in Darfur is very important, and we’re pleased with the mandate in Darfur. Now we just got to get people in place to be able to save lives.

But those are the lessons I left with. The other thing I came away from, just so you know, is how amazing your country has performed, given the horror of the Genocide. I mean, I just can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a citizen who witnessed such horrors, and then had to try to gather themselves up and live a hopeful life.

KAGAME: For your question you asked about the treaty we’ve just signed. I think central to that treaty, and very importantly, is the fact that it’s an invitation to the investors, and information that when they come here, their investments will be protected, will be in good hands. And when they are in Rwanda, they should be able to reap their returns. Of course that means that Rwandans will benefit from the capital flows that will be there. They will benefit from technologies that come with such investments. It benefits our laws of employment of a citizen of this country, and the skills that will be applied also, along with that.
And it’s also a commitment by the President and his administration to seeing investors from United States come to Rwanda, and it’s also an assurance to them that they will be standing with them, as they come to make investments here, invest adequately. The most important thing to talk about will be this bilateral treaty.

Q: Thank you. Mr. President, Bill Clinton came here and said he regretted that he wasn’t able to do more to stop the Genocide. You have seen the memorial here today, and I’m wondering, what would you tell your successor about America’s obligations and also its ability to stop genocide?

And to you, Mr. President, did you raise the issue of Darfur with President Bush? Did you ask him for any further commitment by the United States? And if so, what was it?

BUSH: I would say it’s like – as I explained to this fellow here – that one of the lessons of the Genocide in Rwanda was to take some of the early warning signs seriously.

Secondly, a clear lesson I learned in the museum was that outside forces that tend to divide people up inside their country are unbelievably counterproductive. In other words, people came from other countries – I guess you’d call them colonialists – and they pitted one group of people against another. And an early warning sign was – and it’s hard to have seen it, I readily admit, but I’m talking earlier than 1994, and earlier than the ‘90s – was the fact that it become a habit to divide people based upon – you know, in this case, whether they were Tutsi or Hutu, which eventually led to exploitation.

Secondly, I would tell my successor that the United States can play a very constructive role. I would urge the President not to feel like US solutions should be imposed upon African leaders. I would urge the President to treat the leaders in Africa as partners. In other words, don’t come to the continent feeling guilty about anything. Come to the continent feeling confident that with some help, people can solve their problems.
You know, as I told you yesterday (February 18), I made a decision not to unilaterally send troops into the Sudan. And I still believe it was the right decision, but having done that, if you’re a problem solver, you put yourself at the mercy of the decisions of others, in this case, the United Nations. And I’m well known to have spoken out by the slowness of the United Nations. It seems very bureaucratic to me, particularly with people suffering. And one reason I’m so proud to be standing here with this President is that he didn’t wait. He said, we want to help. And so we’re trying to get forces in, and we’ll help.

The third thing is, is that the US will provide, can provide money and help and training; and we have helped train their forces. They’re good forces to begin with, and they just need a little added value, and we helped.

So I guess the answer to your question – it’s kind of a long-winded approach to take problems seriously before they become acute, and then recognize that there’s going to be slowness in the response if you rely upon international organizations.

Q: Are you worried that you might have regrets?

BUSH: No, I made a decision to stand by. I’m now worried that the rest of the world needs to move as – expeditiously, quickly. Therefore we’re, as I’ve told you in this little address here, we’ve got $100 million to help move people into Darfur. And nor am I regretful of the fact that we put serious sanctions on leaders in Sudan and companies owned by certain actors in Sudan. It was the right thing to do.

I am trying to get other people to join. As you know, getting a universal sanction (against a) regime can be difficult. People sometimes have got different interests, different commercial interests. Our position is that human suffering ought to preempt commercial interests. And so I’m comfortable with the decision I made. I’m not comfortable with how quickly the response has been.

And nevertheless, we’ll continue dealing with the issue. Every stop I made, I’ve talked about Darfur, and the President talked about it, too.

KAGAME: Certainly, we discussed Darfur as we discussed other problem areas, especially on our continent. And I do want to agree with the President: problems are there. But I think the best approach is indeed to have Africans develop their capacity to deal with these problems. And more importantly, as the President said, we probably also have to invest our time and even resources in the monitoring and also preventing problems coming up, as they keep coming up in different places.
But it is important to understand that indeed, today we’ll have Darfur; maybe tomorrow there will be another problem area, God forbid. But it’s important that these problems are not to be seen as if they have to be attended to by the United States. They must be attended to by the international community. They must also be attended to by the people, if it is in Africa, by Africans. Primarily they must develop this capacity, and they should be supported to develop this capacity so that we can prevent and we are prepared to prevent and you should be able to cope with these challenges, resolving the problems.
So I think the approach taken by President Bush was realistic, in the sense that you do not want to see every problem, the United States being called upon to be the answer to that problem – and of course – the backlash, in the sense that – at the same time, they also start blaming the United States, that they are rushing everywhere, solving problems and, of course, reading through that, to mean they have other interests and so on and so forth.

So I think that way of helping the people to solve their own problems, but, of course, with the support of the United States, with its huge capabilities in different areas. And walking together with the rest of the international community is perhaps more important than just blaming the United States, saying, “Why didn’t you go in and solve the problem?” The problems and the solutions for those problems should not be taken away from – for their responsibilities over their action –places where they’re taking place and the people in those places.

I think that is the best way I could – but we did talk about that, and we did talk about our own contribution, and how that can be enhanced. And the President is willing to support us – support has always been coming, so that we continue to move forward with this.

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