President Paul Kagame, yesterday, said that any country emerging from conflict and embarking on a peace-building process, should not exclude its people, observing that it should always consider its own specific circumstances and context.
The Head of State made the remarks, last evening, while officially opening a high-level UN Post-Conflict Peace Building Conference that opened in Kigali.
The two-day meeting was also attended by President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Guillaume Soro, and the UN Assistant Secretary-General, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, among other dignitaries.
The meeting brought together nations that constitute the UN Peace Building Commission (PBC) as well as four countries emerging from conflict.
President Kagame said that one of the biggest lessons learnt is that there is no magic formula or one-size-fits-all solution in restoring peace and rebuilding a nation torn by conflict.
“Success will be determined by the country’s practical experience and solutions, based on the choices it makes, and, above all, the genuine aspirations of its people.
“In offering to share our experience, we are mindful that this is only a modest contribution to the collective search for what works for all of us. Indeed, our efforts are still a work in progress and we continue to learn from both our successes and mistakes, and those of others,” he said
At the meeting, which seeks to draw peace building lessons from Rwanda, Kagame said that post-conflict nation building is a complex and challenging task, underlining that Rwanda knew that building strong institutions and involving the citizens at all levels was the only way forward.
“In the early phases, we had to do this while dealing with cross border incursions and atrocities by the same forces who committed the Genocide,” he said.
He noted that, like in other countries recovering from conflict, Rwanda’s major problem at the time was that while everything was a priority, often the resources available were inadequate and the most important thing was to restore public order, security, and ensure political stability.
The President observed that the nation succeeded in ensuring that the majority of the refugees returned, recounting that the next step was to embark on dialogue, national unity and reconciliation, justice, and, where appropriate, drawing on the culture and traditions of the country.
The country then embarked on a nation-building process which involved drawing up a constitution and putting in place a new political dispensation in which every Rwandan had a voice, as well as power-sharing and consensus building arrangement that are now enshrined in the country’s constitution, Kagame said.
He added that Rwanda went on to revive the national infrastructure – schools, hospitals, water and electricity supply, and roads – repairing existing ones and building new ones, while at the same time empowering its human resources.
Among other things, the President said institutions that deter corruption and foster accountability at all levels of government are in place, which include the offices of the Auditor General and Ombudsman that have since produced the anticipated results.
The Head of State said that countries cannot talk about post-conflict peace-building without paying due attention to external support, adding that proper management of the process is key.
During the discussion, moderated by renowned BBC news anchor Zainab Badawi, President Kagame said that, like other countries including developed ones, Rwanda and its people face setbacks but they work very hard to overcome them, but in actual sense, all people are the same.
“I do not believe that there are people of one country who are better than people of another country. No. Each country and its people have the ability to do what is good for them and what fits in the universal values that we all respect,” Kagame said.
“Each country and each people of any country will always strive to do the right things and they are capable of doing that, but I will not agree with the fact that you have one state or people in one country being better than people in another county,” he added.
The Head of State also emphasised the issue of ownership, adding that this should be contextualised properly in line with the needs of the countries.
He said that it is not entirely a “chicken and egg issue” as countries have to start at some point since donors would be right to say that they cannot give out money blindly.
“That puts the onus on us to actually merit being given money and manage it which brings about the issue of ownership. Ownership comes along with showing, practically, that you have that responsibility, that, if you are given that money, you will not use it wrongly,” he said.
On his part, President Nkurunziza talked about Burundi’s journey, from a country ravaged by ethnic conflict until recently, to one that has since put its troubles and differences aside to concentrate on a more sustainable development path.
The Burundian Head of State noted that, in the years that were marked by violence and bloodshed, multitudes of Burundians were killed, properties ransacked, and agriculture, the environment, as well as infrastructure adversely affected.
Nkurunziza commended the regional Heads of State who played a role in returning peace to his country, including the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, as well as President Kagame and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.
The Ivorian Premier Guillaume Soro said that, as a country that has just recovered from post-election violence, Côte d’Ivoire was ready to draw lessons from Rwanda, emphasising that the two countries can share a lot given Rwanda’s remarkable story of post-conflict peace building.
He noted that in his recent meeting with President Kagame, President Alassane Ouattara paid tribute to Rwanda and promised to share experiences, adding that his country particularly attaches great importance to Rwanda’s leadership.
“We have made some progress so far...the country is now secure but we still have a long way to go. Economic activities are underway and the government has embarked on a programme to overhaul the country’s infrastructure as well as a sustainable reconciliation process,” he said.
Soro acknowledged that challenges remain, especially regarding restoring full peace and security, calling on the international community and countries that have gone through similar experiences to provide the West African country the support it needs.
The meeting continues today.