Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda

The Millennium Development Goals from Rwanda's Perspective

September 15, 2005 10:00 AM

Q & A

by Professor Josh Ruxin

President Paul Kagame: Well, on the first question for the developed countries
to provide the necessary resources to meet their commitments and what can be
done to help, well, partly it really is up to the developed countries, I think, to
decide whether they live up to their commitments and whether in the first place
they meant to do exactly what was intended in these commitments. Partly it is
the area for them to decide. But I think in deciding the countries have to
understand the linkage between and the consequences of having on one hand
immense wealth in the hands of some and immense deprivation on the part of a
huge population of this world.

And the fear is that it is also in the side of interest that they need to have made
these required resources to offset the imbalance that exists which in many ways,
as many people have put it, contributes to insecurity and instability globally.
Then, I think, perhaps these commitments could be met based on that
understanding. But what can be to help, I think, is to highlight the need, both in a
global sense but also in the sight of interest of the developed countries availing
these resources so that some of these negative outcomes can be avoided.

So you see, you had a broad question but I think it all depends on the
understanding and how the commitments made can be driven by this
understanding of the consequences interfere to help these huge cooperation of
the world come out of the situation of want they are in. As much as these
developing countries should really take full ownership and work together in
partnership to be able to move forward.

On the leadership question and how absolute power corrupts absolutely, while I
think this is something that people indeed need to think about and where there's
likely to be corruption, whether on the basis of power or politics or money, where
this corrupts exists I think it needs to be fought and can be fought through
creation of institutions.

In terms of governance, whether political, or economic, or otherwise, it's
important to realize the importance of institutions, putting place in institutions that
will create a sense of balance so that there are no extremes or extremes can be
avoided. Because this indeed would result in not achieving the government
goals we have and many other things. So leadership is very important and
exercising leadership or power, this has to be borne in mind, but there's not
much I can do. There will always be people who will want to do the right things
and there will always be people who will do the wrong things, even if they
understand that there are wrong things and right things to do.

But principally I think in the governance, in the leadership, we have indeed to
avoid such pitfalls that would result in some of the things that we would rather
have been avoided or that should be avoided, like you have seen in the many
parts of our continent. Well, and our advice for leaders is that they must put their
people above everything else. They must put the rule of law above everything
else. They must abide by the constitutional obligations, which already provide
framework for making these institutions effective.

Well, theoretically I think it is easy to understand by everyone but in fact it's, as I
say, you'll always find people who will not necessarily do the right thing even if
they understand or have what it takes to avoid doing the right thing. And they are
driven things including what constitutes corruption. But leadership is very
important where leadership is the word exercise, where power is balanced and
exercised properly. You'll always find progress is being made on tangible things
underground, a request for assistance and to meet the MDGs and the African
Diaspora and the associates in the hands of the people in Diaspora and the
mechanisms to tap into that.

I fully agree with the person who raised this issue and it is very true. Africa has a
lot of people outside the continent in different parts of the world in whose hands
the few of the sources that could be very useful in developing Africa. And in the
case of Rwanda, we've recognized this and we have tried to mechanisms in
place. In fact, we have tasked one of our ministries, one or two—the Minister of
Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Commerce and Industry.

They walk together to mobilize our people in Diaspora, to ask them what each
side can do with the other to ensure that we benefit from the resources that can
come from the Diaspora. In fact, following that I just inform you that, for example,
over the weekend I'll be still around in the United States and one of my tasks
while I'm here will be to meet the Rwandese Diaspora. I'm going to meet a
number of Rwandese living here in the United States and Canada and I'll be
meeting them in Boston.

Over a thousand of them have registered and have shown they'll be coming
along. And some of these are the issues that we intend to discuss. And when
we meet and we have met before on other occasions and some of the things we
discuss include the mechanisms we can put in place, the networks that can be
created, and how they can channel their associates to Rwanda. And I imaging
that can apply to the rest of our continent, or it is also being done by other
countries, as I am aware of.

So it's a very important thing to look at and in the hands of the people in
Diaspora, the citizens of our countries generally have huge resources and we
have skills which they can bring to bear on the development of our countries.
The other question of who the leaders are today that I look to as great leaders
and I admire, and leaders who—I think this is a very difficult question for me to
answer. I think that remains private to me. I don't want to talk about people I
don't admire or talk about people I admire.

But based on certain principles you make a judgment and people you
appreciate—they are there, certainly, only that I don't want to categorize them
the way I've been asked, for obvious reasons. If you bear with me, I won't have
to do that. But they are there. They are there, those that I would admit I admire.
They are there, those that I admire but don't approve of them. I can't say it here.
Geographical constraints, what measures we take. Yes, this is a problem.
Certainly geographical constraints and particularly in the case of Rwanda as a
landlocked country like some other countries, we do not have access to the ports
and this has its own problems.

But we try to deal with that in different ways. That's why, in our case, it is
perhaps more important for us than for any other country, that in whatever we are
doing, whatever we try to do, we put central the issue of adding value to the
maximum to what we are doing. So that if it is trade we trade in high value
goods. As this becomes easier when it comes to the constraints, the
geographical constraints and you want to overcome them. But of course it is
understandable if we have to continue like in the past, our country and others
have been doing.

If we continue, for example, if we are talking about coffee, if you continue to trade
in coffee and you have to transport tons and tons of coffee beans from *Mokigari
to Mombassa or to El-Salaam, then when you find that what you get out of that is
less than what you have spent in producing coffee, I think one doesn't get
surprised. But if you can add value and transport things that have high value
then I think it is the care that it deals with such a problem.

So it is high value good that you have to deal in. It is developing skills. We have
to invest in our people so that they have skills and have high quality services.
This because easier. These ones are not very easily affected by geographical
constraints. And that should be the area of focus. Otherwise, the other
measures we take is to work in an original context to develop infrastructure that
will service on the basis of reduced cost of transportation.

So investing in a quality infrastructure, investing in skills, leading in high value
goods and adding value to what we are doing, is central in dealing with this
problem of geographical constraints, to do with the ports and others. Then the
last one in this first part—the intervention language that was used and what I
think about that. Well, it's all about consensus. It's all about wanting to go along
with everybody. But when it comes that may be some language that may sound
very vague and ambivalent and so I think it is an outcome of very broad
discussion and having people with all sorts of different views.

But if you ask my views, yes, the intervention language was certainly watered
down. Yet the many areas where such intervention is in the future, or like has
been the case in the past, will be required, given the example of Rwanda and
how the intervention was brought and carried out, you have the situation you
know in the Sudan to do with the food. You have other areas maybe that will
come tomorrow. I think people tended to mix up two issues.

Some people argued that like in the case where the argument was about a
responsibility to protect, I think there should be the responsibility to protect by
nations, first of all, of their own citizens. And if nations fail to do that, the
international system to provide such recourse where intervention through a
multilateral effort can be required. I think that is, no matter what the case was.
But there are others who are arguing and saying, 'No, providing for that, for such
intervention, opening up that will mean abuse.' Some people, yes, intervene
within matters of sovereign states and so on and so forth.

But I think here they are confusing two issues because by not taking all the
responsibility to protect, you are not necessarily stopping those who want to
interfere in other people's countries to do so because they have done so in the
past anyway and they will do it maybe in the future. So refusing the responsibility
to protect the citizens, that does not mean there are not going to be such
interventions. Because if people want to intervene in the internal affairs of other
countries, they have done it in the past so they'll do it in the future. But what was
required here was to say there is a responsibility to protect and the international
system would provide for such a mechanism of intervention when that is required
and when countries have failed to protect their own citizens. And provide
structures and firm work through which that can be achieved.

And safety to go through that process, of course bearing in mind that in terms of
intervention, time is of essence. So that whatever mechanism you put in place,
whatever structure that is to be carried out, however it is provided has to bear in
mind need for quick intervention when that is required. So time being of
essence. So I think people shouldn't have been unduly worried about that notion
of responsibility to protect. Because after all, it is started with the nations
themselves individually and if not filled then it would be taken on by an
international system through its mechanisms. And that's what they should have
looked at and fine-tuned it to deal with such worries that people might have had
in their minds.

So but there will always be need, in my view, there will always be need and the
case of Rwanda has proven that. Even though it wasn't done, the need for
intervention and the need for intervention timely. And it's when governments turn
against their own people and you wouldn't just leave that to governments
because of a claim for sovereignty and other issues that become an impediment
for intervention from outside. So maybe you can have more questions.

Josh Ruxin: We'll take a couple more questions.

President Paul Kagame: If there's no need, then…

Josh Ruxin: Some students have to get to class.

Unknown: Okay.

Josh Ruxin: Okay. Let's just take two more questions then.

Unknown: Having spent all my life in Africa, I am aware of the fact that some of
this aid that come from Western countries or even generated locally, actually do
not get down to the masses who need it. They are--some of them are
mismanaged by the members of the government or even by people who are in
charge of these projects. So I'm wondering what of this exists in Rwanda and if it
does, what are your efforts at checking them and how do you intend to make
sure that whatever aids available to your government are actually implemented at
the grassroots level where they are needed? Thank you.

Josh Ruxin: Okay. A question from over here.

Unknown: Morning. I work for Never Again, an international youth network. A
year ago I arranged for some of Rwandan colleagues to meet my Prime Minister
Tony Blair and they asked him what his government was doing to ensure Never
Again in the world. And now I have an opportunity to ask you a question. I
would like to ask you the same thing. What are you doing to ensure Never Again
in Rwanda, but particularly in your region and in the world more generally?
Thank you.

Unknown: President Kagame, your image of the children going to sleep hungry
brought to mind an image that haunts me, related to Never Again. Of the
children who go to sleep not only hungry but with horrible memories and horrible
images. And I'm wondering how this—what is being done for the 600,000
orphans of Rwanda? In terms of healing, in terms of incorporating them in a
solid way to the future of the country.

Josh Ruxin: Okay, we're going to stop there. Sorry.

President Paul Kagame: We should deal with aid and how it doesn't get down
to the masses and so on. Yes, in Rwanda we have, mainly in the past,
experience with this like I'm sure any other developing country in our region or
beyond. And we have always grappled with that problem and have tried to
manage it. I think that issue exists and absolutely, I agree with you. You're
correct on this. What we have tried to do in Rwanda is—and at the risk, in many
cases of being misunderstood and even misrepresented, when actually in
insisting that this aid that comes first of all we should decide with our partners
where this aid should go as a matter of our priority.

We have insisted on ownership of our programs. We don't stipulate as making
contribution to that but we have insisted that we should be at the forefront in
deciding our priorities. And this sometimes, to show you how the point you've
raised in important and how it actually works in real life and exists in Rwanda, of
course some of the people who give us this aid have not liked it that we should
have ownership of determining where aid should go as a priority. And it's that
describing the government or the people in Rwanda as being difficult and so on
and so forth and precisely because they want to be the ones to decide where this
aid goes and how it works and in most cases part of the resources behind, or a
lot of it, behind this aid passes through Rwanda and goes back where it comes

And this has been an argument for a long time. So the best way is for us, the
governments of developing countries and the people of those countries, to really
insist on taking full ownership of their programs and well as working partnerships
with those who provide such aid. Second is to have mechanisms in place like we
alluded to earlier on that fight corruption so that indeed those involved in different
projects don't end up spending the biggest percentage of resources to be used in
the project on themselves, because they are likely to do that whether they're
nationals of these countries that are recipients of this aid or whether it is the
people that are providing the money in the form of aid or when they are providing
resources behind these projects.

So either way you find these problems. You can corruption by people who are
providing resources. You also find corruption by the recipients. So you have to
keep fighting that as a matter of process and you do it by strengthening
institutions and mechanisms to oversee that. And also insist on ownership.
Ownership must be insisted on. But the problem exists in real life and there are
few people ready to admit that, but there are more that actually are involved in
that happening. So that is one way to deal with it. And the answer is it also
happened in Rwanda. Aid, on one hand seeming resolves problems, on the
other, it creates other problems.

Especially the problems of dependence and that is a way to avoid it. Never
Again, well, Never Again really should be the concern of all of us, or everyone.
In our case, in Rwanda, we are a bad example of Never Again because in
Rwanda we had the genocide, we had the people, over a million people, who
were killed and killed at the hands of their fellow countrymen and women. But
worse still, when the whole world was watching it happened. When they had
resources on the ground that would have been put to use to actually prevent or
after failing to prevent, to stop what was going on.

And in fact, the failure did not stop there. Even after it had happened, they failed
to help the victims in a way that the resources available in the hands of so many
countries or the international system would have dealt with. So in our case,
Never Again is an issue of saying well, it has happened to us, what do we need
to do so it doesn't happen again or maybe it doesn't happen anywhere else. The
second one, the last one, it doesn't happen anywhere else, for us it is very
difficult to decide or to make much contribution to in a tangible way.

But if this Never Again in our illustration in much easier to achieve and we do that
by correcting the mistakes of the past in terms of politics, in terms of governance,
in terms of ensuring that we do not make the mistakes or repeat the mistakes of
the past by creating the sense of justice and fairness in the way of running our
own affairs. And also strengthening our own institutions to be able to deal with
such an eventuality even if it was ever to want to surface again. So it is easy for
us to say we are working towards Never Again within our own situation through
correcting mistakes of the past, political and other mistakes.

And that sense of justice as I said, and so on. But for the rest of the world, we
can only join them in saying Never Again and when we are asked to make a
contribution or whether we can identify we can make a contribution we will be
ready to do that and we will do that. But in the global context, our, Rwanda's
contribution to decide that Never Again means Never Again will not be so
significant, given the different factors globally. If the whole world decides to
ignore a situation—and you see, it's a problem because like in Rwanda, very
obvious case, the world concentrated, while genocide was taking place, the world
concentrated on saying, 'What do we call it?'

Instead of saying, 'What do we do to stop this?' they debated how to call it.
They are looking for a name instead of the action that should be put on the
ground immediately to deal with the problem. And ten or so years later we are
surprised, again, the issue, we have horrible situation in Darfur or in the Sudan,
this again was 'What is the name of what is happening in Darfur? It wasn't—and
they would even, even for us who are still under the auspices of the African
Union who are involved in Darfur people come to us and ask 'You know, what is
it? Is it a genocide, is it--?' Call it what you want.

But what is very obvious and everybody agrees with whether it was the
government of Sudan or all of us on the Continent, well, what you agreed on was
that people on the ground are suffering. Period. You have hundreds of
thousands of refugees, if not millions of people, displaced, hungry. Rebel groups
or other groups, militias fighting and killing. Now does the importance lie in the
good name you call this or does it lie in saying what do we need to do to stop the
suffering of these people, irrespective of the name? And really, people came to
us and said, 'What is it? Because you are there—is it genocide?' And we told
them, 'No, for us, genocide, or not genocide, we are called upon by the African
Union to go to Sudan because they are suffering. To go and help and we are

And when we were called to serve, we sent our troops there on the ground in the
shortest time possible. But for them to be there there must be a framework that
provides for that. And provides for that, and of course the other thing that
happened was that when our people were being asked to go there and you are
asking what our people are willing to do, you are saying you are going to protect
observers. And we said, 'But are the observers the one in danger?' We thought
they are people in the danger and there are people on the ground who are being
killed every day, and irrespective of what is happening, I mean, who are
responsible for killing them. Again, the debate was, no, no, you go, provide
security for observers. And really, at first we had a serious problem.

Because we thought that by going on the ground and protecting observers and
then you have continued killings by whichever groups on the ground it's like you
are just there to also observe the killings going on. And we had a very serious
problem with that. But that is one would have thought that maybe lessons were
learned in Rwanda. But by that they so the issue of intervention by these
international institutions is still a problem in my view. But there is little I can do
about it. I can only speak against it. I can raise these issues. If they ask
Rwanda, say, 'Do you have forces to send there?' We'll say, 'We have them.'
But finally they are the ones who decide how to use them on the ground.

And they may decide to use them to protect ten people while millions are in
danger. So that's the problem. Now, the image of children who go hungry and
so on. Yes, in Rwanda we have hard cases and we still have cases of orphans
who are in dire need for, well, generally even those who are not orphans, who
have parents, are suffering. Like we say, some of them go hungry and we are
trying to deal with that. Through that, I will spell out in my remarks later on. And
looking at tea to grow. But there are those who have more suffering, like the
orphans. It one of the things, you suffer when you have a family but when you
don't have a family then it is even worse.

And there have been people who have been very helpful in supporting or
mobilizing support to look after these orphans. We have tried to ask Rwandan
families that are capable of taking on this responsibility to bring up these
orphans, these orphaned children, and help. And a lot of families have helped.
That's why, in the so many hundreds of thousands of orphans we had in
Rwanda, we have actually managed to close most of the orphanages that
existed, except a few that still exist. But most children have been taken on by
foster families. And the program has been addressed in that way. But it hasn't
really solved every problem about it, far from what is required.

The orphans still exist. These are children who need to not only feed but to go to
school. They need health care and other things. So we try to deal with it in a
number of different ways. And I know the person who asked the question, I've
seen her in Rwanda and she's been helping in dealing with it. I think you are a
psychologist or something? She has been dealing with it from her counseling. I
met her once when I was seeing her asking the question, the picture came back
to my mind. And so you do your part. The counseling is also important. But
after counseling somebody needs food, needs to go school, and so on and so
forth. So, well, thank you very much for being patient with all of this.

Back to Top