Govt retreat opens with call for better coordination

President Paul Kagame has called on public officials to perfect the art of coordination and communication among themselves as the country embarks on the implementation of a major five-year development agenda.
President Kagame and Prime Minister Habumuremyi during the National Leadership Retreat yesterday. (The New Times/Village Urugwiro)
President Kagame and Prime Minister Habumuremyi during the National Leadership Retreat yesterday. (The New Times/Village Urugwiro)

President Paul Kagame has called on public officials to perfect the art of coordination and communication among themselves as the country embarks on the implementation of a major five-year development agenda.

The President made the remarks while addressing 300 national and local leaders at the opening of the 10th National Leadership Retreat at Gabiro School of Infantry in Gatsibo District, Eastern Province.

He noted that without coordination and teamwork among government agencies and other actors, the country would not achieve the targeted 11.5 per cent annual growth rate as envisaged under the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) II.

“Without working together, we will not achieve our full potential and will not reach the targets we have set for ourselves. If you don’t let your strengths complement each other, we will only achieve a small percentage of our goals,” Kagame said.

“We must improve on working together...no one can achieve results without working as part of a team.”

The President added that while government officials have generally understood what they needed to do, they are at times unable to translate plans into actions.

“We must increase our ability to move from words to action, from plans to implementation and achieve results.”

Kagame emphasised that Rwanda is in position to deliver double digit annual growth rate considering that the country had maintained an average of eight per cent growth rate over the past few years, including last year when donors withheld or cut aid over allegations of Kigali’s support to a rebel group in the neighbouring DRC.

Leaders must believe

The President pointed out that this ambition (11.5 percent growth rate) was informed by the country’s unique context and experience, drawing parallels with countries which may be content with achieving as little as 1 per cent of growth rate.

Rwanda is bidding to become a middle income economy by 2020, and this will require the country’s GDP per capita to increase from the current $644 to $1,240.

The President urged the leaders to believe in achieving what the government has set its sights on.

“We can’t accept to be hostages of pity; you have to believe that we can aspire, that we can achieve; we can’t be leaders who don’t believe because that means the country won’t believe,” he said, adding that the retreat was an opportunity to “renew our resolve” to deliver the desired results.

“This is not just another holiday, its time and space to think and to believe.”

DRC crisis

The Head of State also talked of the injustices meted out on Rwanda with regard to the DRC crisis, particularly recalling a high-level UN meeting on the Congo crisis on September 27, last year, in New York, which he said had been called to “hang” Rwanda.

He called on Rwandans not to cower in the wake of the consequences of “other people’s actions”, saying that the people of Rwanda played no role in making Rwandophones the citizens of the Congo.

“The Rwandaphones living in the Congo, the question is who took them there?” he asked.

Kinyarwanda-speaking communities in the Congo have for decades been the centre of bloody tensions, with politicians in Kinshasa sometimes questioning the former’s legitimacy as Congolese citizens.

The colonial Berlin Conference of 1884 significantly reduced Rwanda’s territory, with several Rwandans effectively becoming citizens of neighbouring countries, including the Congo.

The alleged exclusion and persecution of Rwandophones in the Congo form part of the grievances of the M23 rebels, who took up arms against President Joseph Kabila’s government a year ago, after the former accused Kinshasa of reneging on a peace deal under which fighters in an earlier rebellion had been absorbed in the national army.

Kagame said: “Assuming Rwanda contributed to DRC’s problems, say 10 per cent of those problems, should we take responsibility for all their problems?...Why hang Rwanda? Why not hang the Congolese?”

He said Rwanda was being punished for standing up for its rights.

“Some look at Rwanda as a country that wants too much independence and stands in the way of certain interests. We cannot be people who accept to be submissive,” he said drawing loud applause from the audience.

“Without self reliance, some will feel they have the right to make you carry their burden and blame you for their failure,” the President said. “We are not different, we have the same aspirations (as other people).

Citing the current crises in Mali and the Central African Republic, President Kagame faulted some African leaders who accept to be used by the West, only to be eventually overthrown by “thugs”, who end up raping and killing people.

“Africans, you cannot accept this, you are worth more than that. Well, I can’t speak for others, but as Rwanda, we should not accept this...You want to decide for us and tell us how we should live our lives? Why? Who are you?”

Cost-effective venue

The three-day retreat, held under the theme, Working Together to Deliver EDPRS II, will focus on strategies to accelerate growth and achieve the targets set out in the country’s economic blueprint.

In his report to the retreat, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi said 11 per cent of the recommendations from last year’s Leadership Retreat was yet to be achieved, and specifically cited pending programmes under the ministries of Health, Infrastructure, Local Government, and Finance.

It is expected the energy shortage, as was the case last year, will be a major topic at this retreat, along with the acute need for skills development.

The Leadership Retreat is one of the home-grown solutions that Rwanda has adopted to accelerate the country’s development and generally improve the well being of the citizens.

In the past, the Abayobozi (leaders) used to go into seclusion to reflect and then return with solutions.

This is the second time the annual retreat, also known as Umwiherero, is taking place in a government facility, away from the flashy hotels which previously used to host these meetings at a huge financial cost.

Last year’s retreat was held at the Rwanda Military Academy – Gako in Bugesera District.

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