President Paul Kagame, on Tuesday, said that whatever has been happening in Rwanda, over the last 16 years, has rotated around the interests, choices and the will of the Rwandan people themselves, not anyone else.
Appearing on the BBC talk show - Africa Have Your Say - President Kagame said that the way the country has been portrayed, including the purported lack of freedoms of press, expression and democracy do not represent the views of Rwandans but those of a few individuals and international organisations, with their own agendas.
“Those are not the people of Rwanda, the people of Rwanda can talk for themselves,” Kagame said
The Head of State said that this distorted view of the country misrepresents what the general picture on the ground is, citing last years Presidential election as one of the cases that were misrepresented, yet Rwandans had spoken out.
“That’s why there is stability, there is progress, the people of Rwanda are happy. Maybe you are talking about another country not Rwanda,” President Kagame said in reaction to a question from a listener.
“Other people think there is freedom and stability. It is only you who thinks that there is not,” the President said, responding to a caller who alleged that the country restricts freedoms of speech and expression.
The President dispelled claims that Rwanda has sacrificed freedoms of expression for economic development, noting that the two co-exist.
“We don’t prioritise one over the other, we, however, started on a very low base on both of them and we have been building together these two processes, the economic, social freedom and development as well as democracy and governance issues,” Kagame said.
“Whatever we are doing in Rwanda is work in progress and we are making good progress as we see it and as Rwanda feel and express it,” he added
The Head of State noted that journalists who fled or had their newspapers closed had committed crimes and were prosecuted as individuals but not because they were journalists.
President Kagame pointed out that since 1994, the country has built institutions through which the country is governed. He added that the institutions in place have guaranteed equal rights to all Rwandans and mechanisms are in place to ensure that what happened in 1994 doesn’t happen again.
President Kagame noted that, within the last 16 years, over 90% of Rwandan children are in school, and more than 93% of the Rwandan people have medical insurance, and all this was achieved indiscriminately.
President Paul Kagame spoke out on the situation in Libya and Ivory Coast saying that in both situations it is necessary for the United Nations to take action to save the lives of the civilians caught in the violence.
The Head of State said that the UN Security Council’s decision to intervene in Libya was right and timely, saying that in the same light, action needs to be taken in Ivory Coast before its too late.
“It was the right thing to do. I fully support that. The fact that mistakes were made elsewhere in other instances doesn't make it right not to act in this particular case.” Kagame said when asked about the intervention in Libya.
In reference to the Ivory Coast, President Kagame said that it is possible that the situation in the West African country could deteriorate into what happened in Rwanda in 1994, where more than one million Tutsi were killed in the Genocide.
“I don’t know to what extent it could go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were to be resemblances of the Ivory Coast situation and that of Rwanda in 1994,” Kagame said.
President Kagame said that through the African Union Peace and Security Council, to which Rwanda is a member, a report on the situation in Ivory Coast was discussed in March, during which measures guiding the way forward were taken and what remains is the implementation of the resolutions.
Among these, he said, was the need to respect and recognise the legitimate winner of the election, as well as treat the loser fairly to create harmony. The President pointed out that failure on the part of the losing party, to recognise the winner calls for action.
“You find people are in danger because either the government or different groups that have arms are using them against the people,” Kagame said
“There is violence that is normally used by the people in this kind of situation, force might be legitimately required to make sure that this force being used against the civilians is suppressed and a solution is imposed,” he added.
Asked about the “measure of force” required in Ivory Coast, President Kagame said that any measure of force that can deliver a solution is legitimate.
“Any force that would stop violence against civilians, bring stability and put in place at least the beginnings of the institutions that would deal with the future problems,” he said.
“You want to apply force that matches the need or the problems that have to be addressed,” he added.