Rwandan president explains why, to him, the M23, the DRC government, and the international community, are all ideologically bankrupt
So what does Rwanda's President Paul Kagame really think about accusations (which he denies) that he, or at least some key figures in the Rwandan government and military, are the patrons of the Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group M23 that recently captured and then vacated the eastern city of Goma?
President Kagame expressed his views in a speech at the launch of The Judicial Year (of all things!) in Parliament on October 4, 2012.
Below are excerpts. It is a worthy read:
"We are here for two reasons:
The first is to witness the swearing-in ceremony of Hon. Mukakarangwa Clothilde, Madam Ombudsman, Cyanzayire Aloysia, and the Army Chief of Staff, Land Forces, Maj. Gen. Frank Kamanzi.
We are also here to launch the 2012-2013 Judicial Year. This is an opportunity to present to Rwandans the new plans for the judicial year.
There is no doubt that the Judiciary in Rwanda has greatly improved. Many Rwandans have trust in their Judiciary and so does the international community. The international community has recognised this progress and this is why there is now good collaboration in transferring (genocide) cases to be tried in Rwanda.
Although our judiciary has generally improved significantly, we still have challenges that we cannot control - those originating from the external justice. All our efforts have not stopped some foreign jurisdictions from misinterpreting us, especially when it comes to building our countries and our continent. In fact, this applies to developing countries in general.
As far as Africa is concerned or Rwanda in particular, it's not possible to tell whether what is applied is justice or politics - you cannot easily see the dividing line.
International justice, just like so many other things we have seen in the recent past, is used to define and determine how Africans should live their lives.
In English there is the saying about a carrot and a stick. Sometimes they give you a carrot but then later this carrot becomes a stick which they use to beat you up.
When international justice is applied to us, there is no carrot and stick. There is only stick; a political stick which they use to lead Africans in the direction of their choosing. One day they use international justice to lead you where they want, but another day they use aid.
They call it international justice, but there are no clear guidelines. This international justice is not used where there is injustice. Instead, they use it for their political interests.
Let me start with our neighbours in D.R. Congo. This region used to be called Congo-Belge-and-Ruanda-Urundi as if it was one country, remember. Some people still think it is still the same - it is not. The Rwanda of today is totally different from the Rwanda of Ruanda-Urundi-and-Congo-Belge.
Congolese victims of brutal Belgian rule: Part of DR Congo's crisis today, has its roots in its unhappy colonial past.
Those who caused the current problems in Congo know themselves. They caused these problems in the past centuries. Now, strangely, they want Rwanda to be accountable for the existence of Rwandaphones in Congo. Those who took Rwandophones to the Congo should be the ones accountable for these problems. These Rwandaphones are persecuted every day. Yet the people who give us lessons about human rights keep quiet and condone what goes on. And they turn around and blame Rwanda for the problems of the Congo. They should bear responsibility for the problems.
The law of the jungle says: 'You break it, you own it.' But for them, it's the other way round: 'I will break it and make you own it.' We are not going to own it. Even with these threats every day, threats of aid cuts, threats of whatever list you have, you are just dead wrong. We Rwandans are better off standing up to this boorish attitude. The attitude of the bullies must be challenged. That is what some of us live for. We are better off that way. We know that if we don't, we will be terribly worse off.
Rwandans - if you don't stand up for your dignity, you accept to be beaten with that stick I talked about earlier. When you accept to be bullied, you are worse off than rejecting abuse and fighting it. When you fight, you can live your own way, and get along with what you have. This is where our interest lies, not kneeling down for people who in the end will persecute us. When I see what Rwanda has gone through in the recent past, I look for the real justification for it and can't find it. I hope some of you can find the reason for it and let us know so that we can get out of this. Rwandans need to question why the whole world keeps mentioning Rwanda when they are talking about problems in the D.R. Congo.
The other day I heard on the radio people saying: "You know, if Kagame stood up and said he is condemning this group, the donors could unfreeze the aid." Really?
So, is that what they want? Kagame to denounce so and so, so that they can release the aid that Rwandans deserve? If I am to do it, I would first denounce those that caused the M23 to exist in first place. I would denounce the [Kinshasa] government that does not respect or work for its own citizens. I would denounce the international community that seems blind to what is happening, before I denounce anybody else. To me, M23, the Government of Congo, the international community, are all ideologically bankrupt because they cannot properly define a simple problem that they see. They keep running in circles. For over a decade, they've been running around and keep blaming Rwanda for the problems of the Congo. Why don't they have courage to blame themselves and take part of the responsibility before anybody else will take the responsibility? What is this blackmail about?
Aid? There is no country in this world that receives aid and accounts for it better than Rwanda. There is none. So, I am not sure if these people who give us aid want us to develop. They give us aid and expect us to remain beggars. They give you aid so that you forever glorify them and depend on them. They keep using it as a tool of control and management.
Our new Rwanda must be different. And I will not stop telling my fellow brothers and sisters, Africans, to just wake up and know that wherever this happens, some of them invited it and are not ready to stand up to the challenge. They must get up and be ready to stand up to this challenge. They are better off that way and there is no alternative. Africans must refuse to be treated as nobodies.
These powerful countries create a court for Africans and call it "international", when it is only for Africans. And it's not necessarily for those who have done wrong. It's for those who have disobeyed. They pretend and tell us that they are going to punish people who are involved in the recruitment of child soldiers but they don't pursue those who kill children. There are people who kill, who rape, who do everything but these powerful countries just keep quiet about them. Is that how Africans should be? Is it what they want them to be?
So, it becomes a tool of control, of management. If you are killing your own people, if every day you are inciting people to kill other people, these powers will not show up. They will be quiet because, after all, to them there are some people who deserve to be killed. That's what we are seeing across in the Congo.
DR Congo M23 rebels after they captured Goma recently: Are they ideologically bankrupt?
Some of you, members of this house, you probably will have visited those refugees as many others I know have. You follow what goes on in the Congo. One part, actually the main part, where crimes are committed in broad daylight, that's none of their business. It's okay because people who are being killed, who are being raped, maybe deserve it. And then they turn to the other part and say everything wrong that has happened in the Congo now has to have people who should be responsible - the so-called M23. People who are raped and killed in Kinshasa, M23 is blamed and Rwanda must condemn it. People killed in Kindu, in Uvira, wherever, M23 is responsible and Rwanda must condemn it. People who raped young girls who are in those refugee camps, it's M23. Even now in the territory that is occupied by representatives of that international community (the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO).
It even goes to Geneva, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights who says: "These are the worst criminals in that territory. They are raping......" Well, there is a bigger territory where worse things are happening. If that was happening, it does not cover up what is happening even in the hands of government, does not substitute for what needs to be done about crimes.
So, if I am to condemn; if you ask me to condemn people or to blame them for anything, I know where to start. I can't be like these people. This law of the Jungle, this persecution of people even at the international level is just unbecoming. It is unbecoming and they start mixing things that are completely unrelated. They say: "Freeze, freeze aid to Rwanda, suspend..." What is the connection? This injustice does not make us compliant, it makes us defiant. I am not one of those who would be made to comply by means of injustice done to my people, to my country. I am one of those who will be openly defiant. On being defiant, count me on that.
You can have your day, you can cause suffering to my people. On that one, they are very good. You can have your day. But to make Rwandans compliant because of that or on that basis will be very, very difficult. I know I am speaking for Rwandans. I know I am speaking for Africans, many of who will not stand and say it. If I am wrong and mistaken; if I am not speaking on behalf of you Rwandans; if I am not speaking on behalf of Africans and you are not of the same view as me, ask me to step down and I will not hesitate to do so right away.
This injustice cannot and should not be tolerated. And these people who created injustices here and who have created injustices for this region and for our neighbours cannot stand there and give me lectures about anything. They cannot. They are free to go and do anything they want. I know they are capable of doing wrong things... On that one they are very good, so they are free.
We are doing our best. We are trying our best to take this country forward, to unite our people, to give them a decent living like those people have. But they think we don't deserve it. They think we don't deserve the same development, the same value as they have. Why would anybody accept that?
Why should you Rwandans ever accept it? Why? The only crime we have committed is to be trying our best to be decently making progress. That's a crime! Let me tell you: No, it cannot happen. It should not happen. It should not be allowed. It should not be accepted. Let us continue to do what we can do. Those insults thrown upon us every day, you ignore them. Don't even accept to put these unhappy faces on because they will think they have got where they wanted you. Just let us continue doing our best and let us not accept to be provoked. Let us remain balanced. Let us keep mastering our art of getting the most out of the very little we have in our hands. Let us also try and continue to be decent people. Some of these insults and injustices, everything, happen because of mainly two reasons.
One reason is that some Africans also continue to make horrible mistakes, and of course, that makes for a good excuse for people to come in and make it worse for you, not any better.
The other reason is our weaknesses in terms of institutions and our own lack of integrity. We fail to focus on how to deal with our problems ourselves or at least to take the lead in resolving our problems. So they go through that. Those are cracks through which they will come in and cause you worse problems.
All these pretexts come about because some people in Africa make mistakes that they shouldn't make. People who don't govern their people and represent their interests in the way they should and end up attracting attention and give people loopholes and excuses to come and mess them up. They will use that to say: "you see, this is how Africans are..."
There is also the failure to create institutions, because of the mistakes I mentioned, and end up attracting these people who come with the excuses of helping to solve our problems. Fellow Rwandans, you should not accept to be victims. Never put yourself in a vulnerable position because no one will get you out.
Of course, there are good people out there who understand how things should be, but sometimes we find ourselves getting caught in the crossfire of political wars.
Honestly, some of these things are done to us because people can just do it; they don't have to have justification, no. First of all they are the law unto themselves. They consider themselves as the law and what they say or want is what should be done. They even influence international justice institutions to do their bidding and this is how international justice ends up being politicised. There is no respect for justice. When you don't respect the law, why do you expect others to do so?
Look at the issue of aid. There have been many agreements on aid, signed in different places; there is Busan, Cotonou; the Abuja treaty, Lagos..... What else? We are not short of places and agreements signed for aid disbursement. But if you ever were deceived that the other party respects you or the agreements, then you are mistaken. They have not even the courtesy to tell you. You just hear on radio that they've cut aid or read it in newspapers. No courtesy because they owe you nothing. May be that's right. They really don't owe us anything after all, do they?
But why would you deceive people and say we have an agreement and this is how we are going to conduct business, and the other party disowns the agreement as and when they want? They don't even have to have a good reason, they don't. That shows how much contempt these people have for us. This shows how much contempt and arrogance they regard us all with. If there was an understanding that they owe us nothing, I would endorse that 100% because it's true. The problem is that they say they are assisting us but there is lack of consistence.
We are told that they are pursuing their interests but you are left wondering sometimes how we have stood in the way to stop them from pursuing their interests. It is difficult to understand what they really want. We have never questioned or stopped anyone from taking Congo's wealth because it's not even our business. However, you will hear the same people turn around and accuse Rwanda of progressing because of Congo's wealth. How can this happen if the wealth cannot make the Congolese who own the wealth progress? What is saddening is that even the Congolese themselves will join the chorus about Rwanda progressing because of their wealth. Why won't they use their wealth to develop their country? How can wealth benefit others and not those who possess it?
The only external wealth that I acknowledge to have helped Rwanda progress is the aid that is given to us and taken away as those who give it wish. We are always courteous enough to register our appreciations to those who assist us. However, there are those who give you assistance and want to control and follow you up to show you how you should use the assistance. What culture is this? I think this is too much contempt and arrogance. This cannot happen in a society that values its culture.
People who have power, and have a lot of it for that matter, should also be wise. They should wisely exercise that power. Why do you have power and go tramping on people who are powerless? When the powerful get angry, it's not justified. But many times the powerless have a lot of justifications to be angry.
The weak, the poor, the powerless have a different potential that they should use correctly to get out of this kind of position we find ourselves in every time. There is another kind of power that we have and should use. The power of being right. The power of being correct. The power of refusing injustice. So, you will keep hearing from me on this. That is why you hired me, Rwandans. I would be happy that some of you or all of you should be thinking about how we continue with this attitude of according ourselves dignity.
Even after me, we should have somebody who continues on the same path. In fact, this should be the qualification for the one who will step in my position. It should be that and nothing else: to fight for Rwandans so as to have what they deserve and that is no less than dignity. Agaciro - the dignity that we have. Only people who can continue to give that dignity to Rwanda are the people who should lead Abanyarwanda!