Par Erasme Rugemintwaza
On monday 22 November,2021, hosted by journalist Ali Al-Aldafiri in “Talk to Al Jazeera”, Paul Kagame spoke about the legacy of the country, the criticism evolvinng around the “opposition”, the current diplomacy moslty the relation with his ancient ally Uganda, and the military deployments in Mozambique and Centrafrica. What did he really reveal?
Rwandan legacy:From the ashes to strong Nation
To make the atmosphere of the interview amiable, Ali Al-Aldafiri, gives to the President Paul Kagame the time no narrate how Rwanda has achieved such amazing transformation and change, as there is remarkable renaissance. “What have you done, what is the password that you use to achieve this great transformation and success in your country?”, Ali Al- Aldafiri asked.
“Well, truly we have come from far, almost to non-existence to where we are now. The country is stable, is peaceful, we’re making progress, there’s growth, there’s development, people are coming back together, the country was so divided in the past, now there is unity in the country.” Kagame said.
Kagame explained that there is no secret to have such achievements that talk themselves but only people, leaders, in one word every single citizen has to be involved and understand well where the country wants to be.
“So, I think progress is on, there is still a lot of work to do, we have a long journey to travel to be where we want to be, so there is not a secret I think, it’s just people understanding the need to address the challenges we face and we try to do that the best way we can and involve everybody. After Genocide, energy has been put in policies to guide everybody in good direction. Citizens have been involved, leaders focused and also doing things in a way that they earn the trust of Rwandans”. To know that if there is any guarantee that Rwanda will not return to these very difficult days of the recent past, Kagame said: ” Well, because we are not working towards that! We are working towards something else. We do it in a sustainable manner, and it is sustainable because of, one, the people themselves that get involved and understand the need for doing what they are doing, two, it brings stability and we continue to build on that. So we concentrated on building a foundation, we built institutions; also we tried to create a mindset change, generally for our people.”
Governance: Longterm presidency and democracy
About the question of his longterm presidency from 2000 and which doesn’t give any sign to end soon becauce the future projects he has for Rwanda, Paul Kagame replied: “Well, I don’t have to be in power to see the benefits of what I’m talking about. Some of the good things have already happened anyway and I am seeing them. There are many other things we expect to happen that are good for us, that are good for the country, maybe some of those will come when I’m not there, but certainly Rwandans will see that or will be contributing to that happening, and so on and so forth.”
The opposition: is it allowed to work in Rwanda?
In Rwanda, beyond the new vision of Paul Kagame always pretending that in Africa there are values different from Western’s ones so that also the democracy and other Western values have to be adopted to African context, there is what is called “Consensual multipartism”. This leads to what is also called “peaceful opposition”. All these concepts or maneuvers of most African leaders narrow the pilitical space to the opposition. Kagame has become an ‘African flair” against Western models, and this is an alibi to set down dictatorship. To the question “Is the political peaceful opposition allowed to work here in Rwanda and to face the president, to disagree with the president and to seek power by competing with him through the ballot boxes?” Kagame turns around, developping theories which lead to the development of dictatorship in Africa. He is raised against Western’s values or models to escape criticism. A lof of African leaders have this biased vision to justify the abuses of their regimes against the opposition. Kagame allegedly said that political parties in the past participated, in instability and genocide.
“I don’t think there would be anyone called ‘opposition’, and that is understood as being opposed to the established arrangement, thinking that, ‘no, I want to remove these ones and bring instability to the country […] So I’m trying to bring to your attention the fact that each country has its own context and circumstances in which it operates. Therefore, you don’t want to establish just a template and say every country must follow this way of doing things. I don’t think even these champions of democracy actually do that.”
As an “African flair” that rejects Western standards in matters like democracy and human rights Kagame Kagame always says “we have African values, we have culture, we are the ones who decide how and in what way we must live”, he declared on western models “People come forth and they want to pretend like the problems are just starting today or that they don’t actually involve these same people we are being told to emulate, to admire, to… No, they are part of my problem. We have to take the blame for our own wrongdoing, Africa. There’s no question about it, we can’t escape it, we shouldn’t escape. But should we also keep quiet about the wrongs done by others to Africa in the past? By the way, even in the present. So how then do I even as a person accept that those dictates prevail, that i should keep quiet about certain wrongs that have been done to me, against me, and just follow the dictates of others to me even when they make similar or worse mistakes in their own situation?”
Rwanda-Uganda’s diplomacy: It takes two to tango”, said Kagame
Talking about diplomatic relations of two countries Paul Kagame said that the two countries have had opportunities in the past to discuss some of the problems openly, including the border closure, which some people have made the main issue, but for Rwanda the main issue is what led to the closure of the border.
“We have had opportunities to discuss some of these problems openly, for example I just state two key facts: a big part of the border is closed and some people will say just open the border and do trade and…which everyone wants and in the whole region. Now, for us the problem is what actually led to the closure of the border that needs to be answered before the border as such is open. We have had a situation where Rwandans suffer or are not allowed to go to Uganda to do their business normally, the establishment in Uganda simply hands down Rwandans wherever they find them, they have all kinds of pretexts they put forth talking about insecurity that is caused by Rwandans, and we have raised issues around that which really amount to persecution rather than anything originating from Rwandans that go to Uganda. But when Ugandans come to Rwanda, they have not experienced the same hardships as Rwandans do when they go to Uganda, and the question here is if you are talking about border closure, a border is for people, the people who cross back and forth.”
And to show that Rwanda is somehow alone in the search of the resolution Kagame and that it is not possible without the willingly contribution of Uganda, he said “it takes two to tango”.
A Manu militari diplomacy
To the question: “Mr. President, what is the Rwandan army doing in Mozambique, in Centrafrica, how long will the army stay outside the country?” Paul Kagame said that: “[…] when Mozambique had a problem and wanted us to work with them to address whatever problem there was, they went to other countries it’s not just Rwanda, and for us we responded the way we could and we have worked with the Mozambicans to address the problems that, and the way we had to, I think much success has been achieved. So, again it’s between us and Mozambicans and whoever else they asked to help to decide the way forward, and the way forward would be dictated by the conditions on the ground and the work that has to be done, eh… in view of that. So I really don’t see that as a problem.” And Kagame underlined that only the situation will dictate what to do and when. But Kagame always emphasizes that Africa has to come together to better tackle the main challenges it faces from both inside and outside. That is the inner spirit of the African Union: cooperation in different domains, trade but also security.
Before the closure of the interview, Journalist Ali Al-Aldafiri asked Paul Kagame this question: “What is the worst picture in President Paul Kagame’s memory in the years of asylum that is still stuck in your mind?”.
Kagame answered: “Well, I say it’s an image of poverty, it’s an image of deprivation, it’s an image of instability because even when I was a kid, four years old, when we, my family was fleeing the country and going to the neighboring country Uganda, I still, even as a young kid I remember the chaos that I could see, the way we are being rushed here and there, so as I kept growing, these memories also kept in my mind up to now.
We hope that this memory of Kagame will inspire him to solve the problem of numberlous Rwandans fleeing his regime, mostly his comrades of the liberation struggle. Because he knows well what to be a refugee is. Time will tell us!