President Paul Kagame, yesterday, gave his first public reaction to last week’s judicial report on the April, 1994 downing of former Rwandan president’s Falcon 50 jet – a result a four-year inquiry commissioned by two French judges.
“While I am happy with the findings and everybody in this country seems to be very excited, I am not excited,” the President said.
“The reason is simple – have we been waiting to be cleared by a French judge? Were we, all along, waiting to be absolved (of any wrongdoing) by a foreign judge?”
President Kagame made the remarks in Kigali while speaking at the annual Thanksgiving Prayer Breakfast, organised by the Rwanda Leaders Fellowship (RLF). The event was attended by senior government officials and business as well as religious leaders.
The new French inquiry concluded that the missiles that brought down the plane, killing everyone onboard, including president Juvenal Habyarima, his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira, and a French crew, were fired from the Kanombe military barracks, then home to the country’s elite para-commando and anti-aircraft battalions.
The findings are consistent with Rwanda’s own inquiry, released in January, 2010, dubbed as the Mutsinzi Report.
Kagame wondered why people had taken it for granted that French judges Mark Trévidic and Nathalie Poux held the key to understanding what exactly happened in Rwanda, stating that it was ironical that the same nation that was involved in Rwanda’s tragic past was the one to deliver judgement on the country’s historical facts.
“On the one hand, these fellows are the perpetrators; on the other hand, they are the judges. I don’t accept it.”
The Head of Stated added: “I have an issue with accepting that Rwanda or Africa will always be defined and judged by the outside people, the same people who are so deeply involved in the problems Rwanda, our neighbours or Africa have had.”
“I don’t accept that the lives of Rwandans, my own life, should be defined and managed by others, other than ourselves; that is the starting point.”
“When do Africans, when do Rwandans, stand up to defend themselves?... to do the right thing because they want to do the right things, not because someone wants you to do the right thing?”
The President noted that all human beings are equal, with no one naturally superior to the other, questioning the common perception that Africa is a continent where all the negative things happen.
Kagame insisted that Africans cannot be seen negatively based on social ills such as corruption as if such ills were African only. The President urged Africans not to allow others to determine who they are, or what they should be.
“The problem first of all is the mentality; most of us have been made to swallow things just as we are told, sometimes we are even told to hate ourselves and we hate ourselves,” Kagame said, adding “sometimes we are told not to believe in ourselves and we actually start not believing in ourselves.”
The President noted that the major problem facing Africa is failure to translate theory into practice, challenging the country’s leaders to apply the knowledge they have accumulated, over the years, to effect a positive change in society.
He challenged the notion of ‘resource curse’ that has been associated with Africa, saying that having natural resources is not the problem, but rather the lack of leadership to generate wealth out of the resources.
Third term talk
Reacting to an earlier summon – under the theme ‘In Pursuit of Excellence in Leadership’ – by the RLF chairperson Pastor Antoine Rutayisire, who pointed out that, like the Biblical King Solomon, many Rwandan and African leaders had started off well but ended on a bad note, Kagame said: “I am not going to fall, and it is not because anybody is reminding me about it.”
“It is not because journalists keep asking me every other day, ‘when are you leaving office?’ If you think it is right not to overstay in power, why do you think I don’t think it is right? I am confident that I don’t need to get lessons from anyone,” he observed.
Kagame said that the same reasons that make people overstay in power are very ones that motivate him to relinquish it, noting that he would be a ‘bad leader’ if he did not play his part to ensure a smooth transition to a new leader.
The Head of State raised the issue of poor customer service saying enough was not being done to address it. He added that he has repeatedly received complaints from foreigners who visit the country and also through his Twitter account.
The President wondered why the country had made tremendous progress in other areas, yet customer service continues to lag behind. He pointed out that it is Rwandans who stand to lose if they don’t adjust.
At the event, which included praise and worship songs, leaders thanked God for the country’s accomplishments, prayed for the 2012 development agenda, and dedicated the nation to God.