Speech by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda At the 16th Commemoration of The Rwandan Genocide
Official and cleaned version, as published by PaulKagame.com
If you want to listen to the full speech and catch the differences with the original, mainly what he says in Kinyarwanda, then listen to
President Paul Kagame’s Full Speech at the 16th Commemoration of the genocide on 07 April 2010
Address by His Excellency Paul Kagame
President of the Republic of Rwanda
16th Commemoration of the Genocide of the Tutsi – Kigali,7 April 2010
I would like to thank all our guests who came from different corners of the world and also thank their countries for sending them here. Let me also thank other countries that were not mentioned earlier. I begin with the countries in our region – the East African Community, those in Southern Africa, West Africa, America and Asia, that have joined us to commemorate this day, both here and in respective home countries.
I would like to begin by talking about what has made us gather here today. We are here to remember – remembering is a must and an obligation. In remembering we must also forgive – it is a duty – to forgive those who sincerely seek to be forgiven.
Why must we always remember? We must do so because that which caused us the pain is bad politics, bad politicians and bad leaders. Bad politics that killed people – we don’t even need to waste our time on numbers, whether it is 500,000 or one million, those who play with numbers should know that the pain of 500,000 people is not negligible and there is no difference between the politics that caused 500,000 deaths and that which caused one million deaths – both are bad politics.
I should however say that bad politics was not just internal – the bad politics which led to the loss of 1 million people, loss of values and culture is not just Rwandan. The convergence of bad national politics with bad international politics resulted in what we commemorate today – the tragic situation of 1994.
As Rwandans – we have no power to change bad international politics, but we have the power to change bad politics of our country and that is where we should concentrate our efforts. However, even though we don’t have the power to change international politics, international politics has not stopped interfering with our internal politics. This means that we have to deal with two issues. But then, once you are able to manage what you have the power to deal with – which is internal politics, then you will be able to also resist external forces in order to avert negative consequences. When bad internal politics converge to a great scale with bad international politics like it was the case here in Rwanda, the result is always catastrophe.
What exactly do we have power to deal with and how can we go about it? As we remember, honour our people and bow in prayer for them – as we remember the pain and grief, we should with the same spirit stand strong and confidently declare that this will not happen again. We should convert our grief into strength and determination to build a better future that we deserve. We have the capability in us to do this – we should make this a culture.
It indeed hurts, you can all hear the cries of grief here in this stadium, this is testimony of the extent of our country’s problem and people’s suffering. There is no other remedy but to work together to fight what caused this what might cause the same problem in future. In grief we must find strength and pride to build our self respect – and defy those who sought to devalue us. We must fight and show that we are better people, people who can raise themselves, and build a better life and a better future.
That is why I say that in our grief and tears, let’s be happy, laugh and clap for ourselves. Joy and remembrance should go hand in hand – one does not erase the other. Let remembering not deny us pride and happiness at who we are and our willingness to build ourselves.
Building our future must come from us. External support will only come to complement our efforts, no one will do it for us except ourselves, This includes the youth and the children who earlier delivered those uplifting words. They should receive good upbringing, good teaching, good politics as well as strength and pride of who they are. We are Rwandans, we are Africans; we should be happy to be who we are.
We should never try to be someone else. Instead, we should endeavour to be the best of who we are. We should fight to be the best we can be, there is a lot in us we can build on to shape the future that every Rwandan deserves. We should understand that we owe it to ourselves. We can seek partnerships and friendship – this is important and adds value to our resolve. But we should remain at the frontline to build and shape the future of this nation.
For those who extend friendship and partnership, we should reciprocate in similar or even larger measure. For those who bring to us a fight, we should be able to give a fight they will never forget. A fight in defence of our freedom, of our rights and of our dignity. There should be no apologies to anyone if we have to fight back when it is time to fight. When it is time to make peace, we should be at our best. But when it is time to fight, for your country, your sovereignty, your dignity, Rwandans – you should not be found wanting – you should never be apologetic about this.
Concerning rights, who has the right to lecture us on rights after what we went through? All of us Rwandans – now around 11 million – who can tell us what is good for us and what is bad for us? – We know it already. How can you give lessons to someone who has walked in the dark and met the worst of darkness? We have met with the worst, we have been there – we know it well.
When people expend time and energy inventing – saying that no one talks in Rwanda, that there is no political space, press freedom, – who are they giving lessons to? Who are they? Are these Rwandans complaining? Have they sent you to speak on their behalf? These Rwandans are as free and as happy as they have never been in their life. Freedom of expression? Freedom of Press? There are those who insult people every day! They insult me every day! I don’t give a damn. They draw cartoons, call me Hitler – I ignore them, I am not bothered at all. I just hold them in contempt. That’s all. But how can you do that and at the same time turn around and complain that you done have Press freedom! You even have the freedom to abuse people; you have no respect of anything, what more do you want to express about yourself or about others?
Democracy – we don’t need any lessons in this. We know the value of freedom, democracy, justice, social and economic transformation – we know this from the life we have lead. Some people want to encourage political hooligans. People come from nowhere, useless people – I have seen photos, some lady with a deputy who is a genocide criminal – saying that there is ‘one genocide but then there is another”, and the world starts saying that she is an ‘opposition leader’.
Well, I know those who say and support this but they know it is wrong. It is an expression of contempt these people have for Rwandans and Africans. They think Africans deserve to be led by these hooligans – and to this we say no –a big no. And if anybody wants a fight there, we will give them a fight. We can smile, we can debate, we can discuss or postpone it for another day, but when it is our decision, we make it. And when we make it, it is in relation to our dignity, our values, our pride.
This is a message to everyone that we want to be as free, as happy, as democratic as you are. Some of these who give us lessons have been on a journey of thousands of years to democracy and they want to wake up one morning and distort our situation, tell lies, yet they are responsible for many of the things that have us here to commemorate this genocide. And as they talk about freedom of expression, they don’t want you to express yourself about their responsibility in this genocide. What freedoms are you teaching me? If you can’t take full responsibility for what you did, for the politics that killed one million people of Rwanda, why do you teach me freedom yet in that freedom you don’t want me to put the blame on you, and rightly so?
It is a struggle, it will take time, resolve, energy, a fight, but we should be able to do that. We should be able to define ourselves and what we want for our country and some of us are very happy to make it a lifelong commitment.
Let me go back to the problems of genocide survivors and problems they face. I would like to say that the commitment and will to find solutions to their problems will never diminish, on the contrary, this keeps increasing. We always look to find solutions to these problems. However, people tend to exacerbate the problems. You find that resources are sourced and found, but things don’t get implemented the way they should be because of poor performance. This is the bad politics that I was talking about – where people are not held accountable. That is what we have been fighting lately, in the process of building good politics.
Most of the leaders who complain – those who run away, do so because they are evading accountability. A country that cannot hold leaders accountable for what they are in charge of will always face problems, therefore holding leaders to account for their responsibilities will continue. Problems that don’t get solved have dire consequences to homeless, destitute survivors. However, I assure you that there is continued progress and we will see to it that the situation is corrected and further developed. I call upon you to make it a culture to help each other and especially support those with trauma so that everyone of us can have a role in nation building so we can reach the development that we long for.
Thank you and may God’s peace be with you.