Rwanda – A Belligerent Speech by Kagame During His Election Campaign

President Paul Kagame warns those he calls neighbors seeking to attack Rwanda that the country will not ask for permission to ensure its security.

President Kagame made this statement in Nyamasheke, western Rwanda, at Kagano on the shores of Lake Kivu, which Rwanda shares with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this Saturday, June 29, 2024, during his election campaign as the candidate of the ruling party, the FPR – Inkotanyi.

The Rwandan head of state warned that those who seek to attack the country would be met with these wars wherever they are.

In his speech to a crowd of thousands of citizens gathered at the Kagano football field in Nyamasheke district, President Kagame thanked the residents of this district for their behavior during the 2019 security operations.

He indicated that those who attacked Rwanda were misled into believing that the residents of Nyamasheke were tired of the government and would help them, but they were mistaken.

He stated: “They were told lies that in Nyamasheke, there were many people in disagreement with the FPR and the current government, wanting to change things. They crossed over to collaborate with them, support their fight to take power. They were lied to that they were supported by foreigners, as it is still said today, but I will not repeat what you already know, how it happened. Few of them will tell the story because they realized they were wrong. They found that the people of Nyamasheke were Rwandans like any other Rwandans, engaged in building Rwanda.”

President Kagame was referring to the attacks by FLN rebels in districts adjacent to the Nyungwe forest since 2018, including Nyamasheke.

The FLN rebel attacks between 2018 and 2021 primarily targeted sectors near the Nyungwe forest in the districts of Nyamasheke and Rusizi in the west, as well as those in the districts of Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe in the south.

However, to date, more than three years have passed without new attacks from these rebels. Over 20 people accused of being leaders and fighters of this group were arrested and tried by the Rwandan justice system, later released on presidential pardon by Kagame.

However, President Kagame, here in Nyamasheke, stated that the problems are not over, and neighboring countries still plan to overthrow his government through their allies.

Although President Kagame did not explicitly name a country in his speech, his hints and indications pointed towards neighboring countries of Burundi and the DRC, currently in conflict with Rwanda.

President Kagame said: “They say they will change things from their homes, that they have equipment they can send… These people forget quickly. They have tried many times but even forget what we tell them every day. I do not want to say the Rwandan proverb ‘Rwanda attacks but is not attacked’. I told them often that our Rwanda is small, but we will not let our attackers find us here. That would mean fighting at home and destroying our country, ‘No’. We will find them where the country is big, and they are not blessed to have a big country, we will protect our small country by going to the big countries and settling it there.”

He continued: “I told others, if they understand, that we do not need anyone’s permission to protect Rwanda. We do not ask anyone’s permission to protect ourselves. Those who seek to attack Rwanda or have done so, I remind them to calm down so that we can coexist, trade together and prosper. If they do not want to, ‘It is not my problem’.”

President Kagame made this statement amid increasing tension and verbal exchanges between Rwandan and Congolese authorities. They are disputing over the M23 group’s conflicts that continue to take control of many areas in the North Kivu province in eastern DRC.

The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting these rebels by providing them with weapons and other equipment, as well as sending its soldiers to fight alongside them. Rwanda denies these accusations, instead accusing the DRC of supporting FDLR rebels who fight against Rwanda.

Meanwhile, Burundi also accuses Rwanda of supporting the RED-TABARA rebel group that fights against it, which led to the closure of borders between the two countries earlier this year.

After ensuring the country’s security, Paul Kagame stated that the next challenge is to build the economy, and Rwandans must do it together.

He asserted: “What we prioritize, no one is prevented from having this or that religion, no one is prevented from identifying with this or that ethnic group, but what we prioritize is being Rwandan.

Everything else you want to be, you have the right to be as long as it does not compromise the security of others. We use all this to build the Rwandan identity. After being Rwandan, what is your heritage? That is where we start to build the economy.”

After Kagame’s speech in Nyamasheke and several other statements by other Rwandan leaders, some analysts believe it is only a matter of time before Rwanda acknowledges the presence of its troops in eastern DRC.

Some human rights defenders fear false flag attacks by Kigali forces on Tutsi populations or Rwandan territory to justify Kigali’s official entry into war, as has happened in the past.