Brussels — President Paul Kagame, on Saturday evening, met with Rwandans from several European cities at a festive gathering in Brussels, four years since his last visit to Belgium.
The President is on a working visit to Belgium and will, on Monday, attend the fifth edition of the European Development Days.
Addressing nearly 2,700 Rwandans and friends of Rwanda who had braved the unusually cold Belgian winter,and travelled many hours to meet with him, President Kagame said that each one of them were living outside Rwanda for various reasons and had come at different times and under different circumstances, but that Rwanda belonged to all of them. And, what everyone seeks is a Rwanda for Rwandans, not for Tutsis, Hutus or Twas, or even foreigners, but for Rwandans.
a member of the rwandian diaspora showing her T-Shirt
Kagame spoke of the values that guide the new Rwanda, particularly the rejection of the culture of corruption, and importance of self worth of every Rwandan.
“As Rwandans, we have to believe in our own worth, and not expect to get this as a gift from someone else. People who do not value themselves cannot achieve development; we have seen this in the past in our country and on our continent,” he said.
The President cited registered success in many sectors; including education which has seen a massive increase in the number of children in schools since 1994; agriculture where, for the first time in its history, the country achieved food security; private sector development, where Rwanda has been a top performer in business reforms; governance where decentralization has empowered citizens; aid effectiveness – where the country has earned the reputation of utilizing donor support to great impact for the benefit of Rwandans; as well as unparalleled security in the region and beyond.
On the choices that Rwandans make for themselves, President Kagame questioned those who seemed to demand a different outcome when Rwandans had come out in record numbers to the election campaigns and to vote in defiance of the lies being propagated about their country.
“For those who claim to be experts on this, what should be the correct percentage in election results? There is a reason Rwandans voted the way they did, who else has the right to speak for them except themselves? It is Rwandans that vote, not journalists, not NGOs, not human rights organizations,” he pointed out.
Correcting a representative of the Rwandan diaspora who had spoken earlier, Kagame pointed out that French had not been banned in Rwanda, rather English had been added on and both had joined Kinyarwanda as official languages. He also mentioned the significance of the addition of English in the current context of Rwanda’s pursuit of global trade and business partnerships to improve Rwandan lives, as well as the country’s membership in the East African Community and the Commonwealth.
Clarifying another misplaced concern by the same representative, on the wiring of funds from Europe to family members in Rwanda being construed as a crime, alluding to ongoing investigations into funds sent from abroad to the FDLR in the DRC, President Kagame pointed out that those sending normal remittances had nothing to worry about, but that support of terrorism anywhere in the world is punishable and that Rwanda was no exception.
On Gacaca, President Kagame said the system existed for a reason and urged those who criticized it to reflect on the reason why it was set up in the first place, and the benefits it had brought to the country.
The President added that in building a new Rwanda, there was room for debate, competition of ideas, forgiveness and compromise, but divisionism of the kind that once destroyed the country will never be allowed.
To great applause, President Kagame called on those who were ready to move back to Rwanda, to return with him, adding that those who preferred to stay and were being productive in Europe should do so, but no one should stay as a refugee or to be used as a tool by those wanting to see the country fail.
Following his address, President Kagame interacted with the gathering and responded to numerous questions and proposals on issues ranging from ideas to develop various sectors, cases of injustice, consular services in Europe as well as professional development among diaspora youth.