Kagame to Rwandese: time has come to start thinking beyond me

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On the evening of Friday August 4, when the results of Rwanda presidential election will be released in Kigali, commentators are unlikely to be surprised. Unless there is an unexpected occurrence. Their only job will be to compare the percentage with which Paul Kagame will have been re-elected, with previous elections.
Kagame polled 95% in 2003, 93% in 2010 and a few points granted to a few competitors. There were two other candidates in the first election, three in the second, and so far, three candidates have declared their intent to run in the upcoming elections.
Frank Habineza, leader of the Green Democratic Party (the only opposition party authorized in the last four years) is the only one who can hope to reach 5 per cent of the votes.



Returning to Rwanda in early February, from a long exile in Central Africa followed by Paris, Philippe Mpayimana is a former journalist and who is unknown to the public. He has become the subject of mockery since he showed up for his news conference on a motorcycle due to lack of financial means.
As for Diane Rwigara, her private life was scandalously exposed on social networks, after her candidacy announcement – which, in such a conservative country is equivalent to a fatal blow.
The New Times (NT), a leading Daily in Rwanda had an interview with president Kagame. The president talked about a number of issues.



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Excerpts below
NT: On August 4, Rwandans will go to the polls to elect their president. There will be other candidates. Are you worried about them?
We have had to face challenges that are far more serious and painful than this one. Why would you want an election to be a problem for us? That is the lighter of the problems we have to deal with.
Election periods are conducive to promises. What do you promise to Rwandans so that they vote for you?
I am known for not giving people false promises. I am not the type to give Rwandans illusions and false promises. I’m a realist, not a populist. We know where we have come from, what we have achieved, what we can and still must do, but also what our limits are. I do not promise anything that I cannot fulfil.



Do not expect anything from me except repeating to Rwandans that they must work together for a better future. I will add one essential point: this election is our business and ours alone. If I claimed to give lessons to the world, then the world would be right to judge me. But this is all about Rwanda and Rwandans. The outside world has no lessons to give us.
Will this seven-year term be your last, even though the Constitution allows you one more?
I think so, yes. And it is likely that I will clarify this point when we begin the electoral campaign. There is a sort of contract between me, on one hand, the RPF party and the Rwandan people, on the other. They wanted, through the constitutional referendum of December 2015, that I continue my work, which I accepted. But the time has come to tell them that they must start thinking, beyond me.



the whole Rwandan political system rests on you. You hold the keys. Even your supporters say that if you disappear, the result would be unknown, and everything will have to start all over again. Are you conscious of that?
Things do not work that way. What is important is what we have built is irreversible and will last, with or without Kagame. The new generations of Rwandans have internalised many elements, brought different ideas and learned many lessons.
The fear you express would be justified if the Rwandan society was static, frozen. But it’s just the opposite. Similar to our economy, our institutions and our abilities, our society is moving forward on a dynamic path. Even though the Rwandan people want me to continue leading for some time, this dynamism will not stop with my departure. You can be sure of this.



The fear you express would be justified if the Rwandan society was static, frozen. But it’s just the opposite. Similar to our economy, our institutions and our abilities, our society is moving forward on a dynamic path. Even though the Rwandan people want me to continue leading for some time, this dynamism will not stop with my departure. You can be sure of this.
How do you justify the fact that there is only one authorised opposition party in Rwanda, the Democratic Green Party?
Rwanda is a nation of rule of law. My job is not to create opposition parties, but to foster an environment in which different ideas and opinions can be expressed. The rest is a matter of law. Do not generalise your own definition of opposition. Too many givers of lessons, too many arrogant Westerners drunk on their own values claim to define on our behalf what freedom means to us.



They consistently label us as “not free”. Not because Rwandans have told them so, but because they decided it based on their own criteria – which form the basis of their opinion polls. And when Rwandans tell them that they are free, the reaction is categorical: “You think you are free, but you are not”. Their contempt is only matched by their arrogance. Fortunately, here in Rwanda, their impact is non existent.
Sometimes you are criticised for lack of transparency. Latest example: the unexpected dismissal of the CEO of the national carrier RwandAir, despite its good performance. Without any explanation.
Explain what? To whom?
Your decision. To the public. RwandAir is an important company in Rwanda and seems to be in good standing. Is it really so?
And is that factual? This is where the problem lies. Let me be clear: Rwandans have given me the mandate to manage the country in their best interest. If I believe that a CEO appointed by the Cabinet is failing to achieve results I expect from him within an agreed upon timeframe and that the return on investment is not at the right level, then I have the right and the duty to replace him. We have neither the time nor the desire to open a public debate on this subject. Rwandans trust me.



Are you accurately informed of the situation in your country? Are you sure that your collaborators, for fear or for the sake of pleasing you, do not hide or distort certain realities? As you know, power is isolating …
I do know that. But I have a powerful antidote for this: I demand accountability, and I know how to read the results. Numbers do not lie. You can tell me what you want and even try to deceive me, but at the end of the day, your results will speak for you, and that’s the only language I listen to. With no reservations.
For example, a minister for health can tell me what they want, but they know that they will be judged on the child and maternal mortality rates. The same goes for food security, security, water, electricity, school, etc. There are numbers, averages, and statistics for everything. The most important is to know how to interpret them.
Do you have regrets for some of your decisions?
No. Never. How would it be useful?
But you do make mistakes… .
Definitely. When I make mistakes, I try my best to minimise consequences, without dwelling on them. I believe it’s better to make mistakes than to do nothing at all.



Pierre Nkurunziza and his entourage accuse you of trying to destabilise his regime. You don’t respond to those allegations? Why the silence?
When someone has a problem and wants to make you part of it, it is better to avoid falling into that trap. That said, keeping our distance doesn’t mean that we are not concerned. We are conscious that what is taking place in Burundi could have consequences for our own security and we will never allow that line to be crossed.
Does Rwanda support the opposition in Burundi?
No. But we provide support, on a strictly humanitarian basis, to all Burundians who come to Rwanda as refugees and we are hosting them in camps. I repeat it, we are keeping our distances from this crisis. Even though they vilify us in Bujumbura’s streets, we don’t give it much importance.
Read full interview here: Kagame speaks out on upcoming election, Rwanda’s vision



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