President Paul Kagame has described Rwanda’s history as a testament to both the worst and the best of humanity.
He was speaking on Monday at a reception hosted by Gen Next in Los Angeles, California.
“Twenty years ago, we lost one million people, ten thousand people were dying every day at the hands of Rwandans. The Genocide is an example of the worst human beings can do.
“Twenty years down the road, reconciliation is showing us the best human being can be as we work to leave this tragic past behind us,” Kagame said.
The President observed that Rwanda has since been transformed into a country of hope and dignity. “We worked together to bring the broken pieces of our country back together. It has taken hard work and our diversity has been harnessed for strength instead of weakness as was the case in our past. It is about bringing people back together and giving them hope that it is no longer a hopeless and helpless situation”.
Today, he added, Rwandans have hope, a sense of dignity and pride. “..they know what they can achieve, who they can be and how they can shape their future.”
On Rwanda’s view on aid, President Kagame said that to ensure aid serves as an enabler of self reliance, “we accept assistance, we need it but we will be in the driving seat of rebuilding our country.”
“We will think about what needs to be done and we will associate friends and partners. We want to be in charge of our own future.”
Responding to a question on Rwanda’s critics, Kagame challenged the factual basis for some of Rwanda’s criticism.
But he said: “If you don't want to be criticised, say nothing, do nothing and be nothing. I have no desire of doing nothing. People will talk but I have a job to do and that is to give Rwandans security, development, opportunity.
“Rwandans will judge me differently than journalists who have never visited Rwanda and only know about the country from surfing the Internet. “The question is are our children educated, do our people have health care, are they empowered and do they participate?”
The moderator, Amb. Pierre Prosper, former US Ambassador -at-Large for War Crimes, said President Kagame “is a hero for the way he has positioned his country for success for the future and for ending the Genocide.”
Former US Ambassador to the UN Robert O’Brien denounced the failure of the UN to prevent the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and described Rwanda’s growth in the years that followed the slaughters as remarkable. “Instead of ordering the UN troops to provide safe haven and stop the genocide, the UN reduced the peacekeepers. We could not get a resolution to pass, while this is happening, thousands were getting killed every day. This can never be allowed to happen again.”
Robert O’Brien added that the French intervention at the height of the Genocide allowed for the continuing of killings until early July, 1994.
In reference to President Kagame, he said: “In 1994, a historic man saved his people. Today, Rwanda has been transformed. It has come back from the bottom of the pit and has become an example of great leadership and democracy.