President Paul Kagame, yesterday, said that Rwandans have all it takes to define their own destiny and to choose what is right for them without the influence of intruders.
Officiating at the opening of the 9th National Dialogue (Umushyikirano) at the Parliament Buildings, Kimihurura, Kagame emphasised that no one has the authority to determine what is right or wrong for Rwandans, other than the Rwandan people themselves.
The President pointed out that most of the critics, who usually argue that despite the economic progress, Rwandans lack freedoms of expression and political space, are from countries that don’t actually meet the same standards they want to impose on Rwandans.
Addressing hundreds of delegates from the country and abroad, President Kagame called on Rwandans to reject whoever wants to undermine their dignity.
He observed that the same critics ignore home-grown initiatives such as the Umushyikirano and instead advance baseless allegations, adding that such an attitude was not only insulting, but also undermining the integrity and achievements of Rwandans over the last 17 years.
Kagame pointed out that the aim of the annual National Dialogue was to ensure a participatory role of all Rwandans in the governance of their own country.
“They say there is no political space, which space is bigger than this?” the Head of State wondered, in reference to the Umushyikirano forum, adding that the space that is perhaps lacking is the one constantly occupied by the ‘intruders’ themselves.
“These so called teachers of political space, press freedom – the very teachers of freedoms, are the ones who give freedom to murderers of our own people – Genocidiares...the same people who get stuck with cases of murderers,” the President added.
Theoneste Bagosora, the mastermind of the Genocide, was earlier sentenced to life, however, on Wednesday, the sentence was reduced to 35 years by an appeals chamber at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR), in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Head of State noted that it has taken the ICTR 15 years to try Bagosora and the outcome is disappointing, while many of the people who worked with him to carry out the Genocide have remained scot-free.
President Kagame noted that it was ironical that people accused of stifling freedoms, including himself, are the same people who, from their childhood, have fought for the same freedoms, and, hence, need no lessons in that area.
“We have fought for our freedom and other people’s freedom for so many years from our childhood. We have interest in our own rights and freedom than anyone else. There are no lessons about freedoms to be learnt from these same people with double-standards,” he noted.
“They can do it just because they can, not because they are right. They can do it to Africans and they want to do it to Rwandans – but I want to assure you that we are different people. Rwandans should not accept this because accepting it is unthinkable. If you accept it, it can never get worse for you – you are better off standing up and challenging it.”
The President went on to call on the Rwandan people not to let other people speak for them.
“These journalists, human rights activists and masqueraders… - My question is, who are you? Who are you speaking for? Are these millions of Rwandans here waiting for you to come and tell them what is in their interest? What is good for them? What are their freedoms?
“It is an insult to you (Rwandans); you should take it as an insult. I reject the whole idea,” he said.
Reacting to continuous debate in the media about whether he will stay in office after his term in office expires, come 2017, Kagame said that despite having answered the question several times, it keeps coming back and that his responses are always twisted by the media.
“They (media) are not patient enough for me to serve my term, they actually want me to leave now...but Rwandans have entrusted me with the responsibility to serve them until 2017 when I can serve them in other capacities because I have served them in other capacities before.
I can serve Rwandans after this office, and, therefore, I don’t see why people are developing a headache for nothing. After all, it doesn’t matter what I say; if I say yes, they will say I said no, if I say no, they will say I said yes.
After that, I can serve Rwandans in any other capacity other than this office (presidency) because I have served them before when I was not in this office. Why can’t I do the same thereafter?” he posed.
Kagame wondered why he has lately been taken to task over an ‘offense’ the Minister of Internal Security, Musa Fazil Harelimana, committed, by starting the third term talk.
“They have been accusing me of what Minister Sheikh Fazil said. I think he talked to the media and told them what his thoughts about term limits in Rwanda, but, after that, they turned this on me.
I think Fazil should carry his own cross. We are, thus, misunderstood and we need to stand up to these. They say when I was asked about my retirement I was vague – I have never been vague in my life, what you see is what you get from me”.
On day 1 of the Umushyikirano, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi presented a report on the implementation of the resolutions from the previous National Dialogue, highlighting a 90 percent progress in all the areas of the economy and governance.
The Minister of Finance, John Rwangombwa, presented the current progress in the implementation of EDPRS Phase I and the strategies for the EDPRS Phase II that will propel the country to Vision 2020.
A report on the progress brought about by the country’s home-grown solutions was also presented.