• Elections, governance issues, Darfur, expounded on
KICUKIRO - President Paul Kagame has suggested that the office of the Ombudsman should be empowered so that it shifts away from its current role that does not give it any prosecutorial powers.
The President said this Sunday afternoon while appearing on “Crossfire”, a popular weekly talk show hosted on Contact FM, one of the major private radio stations.
Kagame endured a marathon live four-hour show which had many people calling in, E-mailing or simply sending SMS messages.
“They should be very active. No more diplomacy!” Kagame said referring to the Ombudsman’s office.
The Office was set up in 2003 to act as a link between the population and both the public and private institutions in the fight against corruption and other injustices.
The president also responded to issues ranging from the upcoming parliamentary elections, governance, Darfur, Rwanda’s poor fairing in the just concluded Olympics and his personal wealth, among others.
Kagame said that Rwandans’ lives in General had improved in the last five years. He noted that a number of initiatives in line with helping Rwandans have a good life, acquire education, and increase their incomes had been successful.
“If you look at, say on a social part, the provisions that have been in the area of education, in the area of health, and all that we are trying to do…. it shows that there is a lot to do, but it also shows that a lot is being done or has been done,” he said.
He highlighted the provision of mosquito nets to stop the spread of malaria and introduction of a health insurance scheme, “Mutuelle de Santé”, as some of the clear examples of how the government cares for its people.
Kagame pointed out that coffee farmers were earning higher than they used to, saying it was a clear sign of efforts to improve the financial status of the poor rural people of the country.
The President responded to several questions and observations from journalists and the general public about cross cutting issues.
Tasked to explain the recent constitutional amendment that gave former Heads of State immunity from judicial proceedings, Kagame said it was meant to empower institutions to hold presidents accountable while still in office.
He said that the former presidents should not be seen to be hounded simply because they had left office, otherwise they might be tempted to cling to power for fear of being targets of persecution.
“If you create an impression that a president can only be pursued when out of office, it might mean the President will stay.”
He said the outgoing parliamentarians did what they could in line with their work despite the fact that it remains a common saying that their capacity is still low, most of them having been picked from the ordinary general population of Rwanda.
He reiterated his approval for the out-going legislators’ work, stating that the last parliament has done a commendable job despite many challenges.
“They enacted very many laws in line with the country’s development goals,” Kagame said.
He quickly stressed that all that was in the broad interest of the country as the MPs were very cooperative like many other institutions and acknowledged that the next legislators had “areas for improvements” to contend with.
The president also restated that it was not unheard of to have coalitions, as has been the case of six small parties who have allied themselves with the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF)which has Kagame as its Chairman.
“Our politics encourage consensus building and power sharing. Encouraging even the weak, even the losers,” he said, insisting on doing away with the history of political division that “shattered the country.”
He dismissed allegations that the young generation had no room in his party – RPF, pointing out that more than 50% in its National Executive Council are young people.
“Look at the recent RPF elections. Old names have been left out. It’s a very democratic process,” he challenged.
On the broad topic of governance, Kagame admitted that there are big challenges and stressed the need to have a clear vision “as we are rebuilding.”
“The point has to be that we need to work together,” he urged.
“Perhaps, I am expecting too much in a short time,” he said emphasizing that it was not only structures that should change, but also peoples’ mindsets.
He stressed that “leaders who keep frustrating” the governement’s efforts don’t always go scot-free, pointing out that even though action is taken, some level of patience is necessary.
The talk-show did not end without coming back to the Darfur issue and the French and Spanish judges’ indictments aginst senior Rwandan and civilian officials.
“Rwanda has done outstandingly well despite the circumstances,” he said, and reiterated that the “attack” on Karenzi Karake, the deputy commander of the hybrid UN African Union peace keeping force in Darfur, was in a wider context an attack on Rwanda.
This, he said, was linked to the judges’ indictments.
“We are there (Darfur) knowing that some of the things are on the basis of sacrifice but it has a limit.”
Asked on how relations with the French stand after the release of the Mucyo report, he maintained that the status quo won’t change if France doesn’t come clean out its role in the Genocide.
“Relations to me are not the real issue. The issue is justice for the people,” he argued.
The radio show lasted more than four hours. It is the third time the president was hosted at Contact FM’s studios. Another session is planned mid September.