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Kagame says ‘No to Nonsense of Lack of Freedoms and Political Space in Rwanda’

Paul Kagame afungura inama y'umushyikirano 2011

President Paul Kagame opening the ‘Umushyikirano 2011’

President Paul Kagame has said that only Rwandans can have the right to define who they want to be and work towards that and only them have that freedom to make such choices but not foreigners, intruders, the press or rights groups.

Speaking at the opening of the 9th National Dialogue (Umushyikirano) at the Parliamentary buildings today, President Kagame called on Rwandans to stand up and defend themselves against intruders who assume the responsibility of defining who they should be and what should define their country.

In a powerful speech, President Kagame came out strongly against the critics who usually say that despite economic progress, there are no rights and freedoms of expressions and democracy in Rwanda, observing that it is a responsibility of Rwandans to say whether such rights exist or not.

Addressing a full house of central government leaders, local government leaders, private sector and civil society representatives, religious leaders and diplomatic corps, President Kagame said that it is disturbing when foreigners, who sometimes don’t fulfill the lessons they teach others, ignore the progress made and instead start pointing accusing fingers, calling upon Rwandans to reject this patronizing attitude.

Amidst applause, the Head of State pointed out that Rwandans should find it offensive for such critics to undermine the home grown solutions such as the National Dialogue to instead accuse countries of stamping on freedoms.

He said that the objective of initiatives such as the Dialogue is to ensure that all Rwandans have a platform to participate and play a central role in the development and decision making processes of their country but such are never recognised.

“This meeting is a symbol of nation building through a process where all Rwandans have a right to contribute to the process and play an active role in deciding the path of their country,”

“They will talk about the many things Rwandans have achieved but then they say ’but’….why the but?They say Rwandans don’t have freedoms of expressions. I see three things involved, we are either dumb, even if we have what we want to say, we can’t because we are dumb. Secondly, maybe Rwandans can’t say anything because there is someone silencing them,”
“Thirdly, probably you might not be dumb or no one is silencing you but you have nothing to say. Today, I want us to find an answer to this question, to assess what other people think we are and then come up with a stand of who we want to be, regardless of what other people think of us. Whoever considers us to be whatever, that’s their burden,” President Kagame said.

The Head of State wondered why people talk of the economy growing but cannot put in perspective other aspects such as democratic processes, freedoms of speech and other rights which Rwandans have defined and put in place themselves along with the economic development that is visible but continue to complain about space.

“Which space is bigger than this one?” President Kagame said in reference to the dialogue itself.

“In fact the space that is lacking is that space which is constantly being occupied by those intruders. This nonsense from outsiders is the one occupying our freedom. These so called teachers of freedom, space, the same people getting stuck with genocidaires murderers and criminals,” he said, pointing out the case of Theoneste Bagosora, the genocide mastermind whose sentence was on Wednesday reduced from life to 35 years by the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR).

“It has taken them 17 years to try him and try him so badly and they are the same people coming here to give us press freedoms? You are a joker. Some of us you come to teach about freedoms have been freedom fighters for their and other peoples rights since childhood. We have interest in our own freedoms and rights than anyone else has. We have that responsibility more that anyone else,” President Kagame said.

President Kagame said such people can do it, just because they can but not becuase they are right.

“They can do it to Africans, they want to do it to Rwandans but I want to assure you that we are different people. You Rwandans sitting here should not accept this nonsense. Accepting it is unthinkable, but accepting it is worse off for you, stand up and defend that right, they should not speak for you,” he said.

The Head of State took a swipe at rights groups and the media, saying that the two should not be the ones to be seen to have the right to define or choose what Rwandans want and also make freedoms appear like a myth where only a few have the power and previlege to define them and know what suits others.

“My question is, who are you? Who are you speaking for? Are these millions of Rwandans here waiting for you to come and tell them what their interests should be and what their rights are?
You Rwandans should reject that. We cannot make this progress and then at the same time fail in other areas, it doesn’t just add up,” he said.

The Head of State said that he was recently reading a foreign newspaper where a certain person wrote that they cannot be governed by a minority several years after the country failed to form a government, observing that such a statement comes out wishful thinking because Rwanda is not governed by a minority but rather Rwandans.

“They wish to be governed like Rwanda, these are people who havent been governed for two years, they failed to put in place a government.
Who is minority? I am not from a minority, I am from these Rwandans you see here. We cannot be a minority in our own country. These are people who need lessons about Rwanda, lessons in freedoms, you cannot teach us about our own freedom,” he said

“The main problem is just one and thats what brings us here, they can afford to call us all sorts of names, they can do whatever they want— and they can do anything, ask where Mutara Rudahigwa went, they will do that because you depend on them, they give you remains, when you depend on them, anything will happen. Even passersby will poke at you, that’s the position we are in, that’s the position we want to live far behind us and that’s why we are here,” he added.

He called on Rwandans to be more determined than ever to be in the position they want to be and end being in the position of being beggars and that will be the only way Rwandans will be independent of such negative references.

Source: Rwandan governement website

December 15, 2011   4 Comments