PRESIDENT Paul Kagame yesterday called on Rwandans and Africans in general to continually fight against western injustices.
He was opening the 10th annual National Dialogue (Umushyikirano) at the Parliamentary Buildings in Kimihurura, which attracted participants from within and outside the country, including senior officials, local government leaders, members of the civil society, and ordinary Rwandans.
The President said that while fighting for one's dignity might be costly, the price of accepting to be used as a tool was much higher.
"The more we seek peace and self reliance, the more resistance we face from those outside Rwanda. We must stand up for ourselves and refuse to be accused of crimes committed by the very same people who accuse us," Kagame said in reference to a UN report of experts accusing Rwanda of backing a rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
He added, "We are being accused of a crime in DRC that was committed long ago against Congolese but today is blamed on Rwanda. Crimes are committed against Congolese by others and Rwanda is blackmailed to take the blame."
Kagame compared the accusations to a situation where someone kills a person and then dumps the body on the doorsteps of another person's home.
"In the morning they teach us about human rights, in the evening they take away our rights and tell us to do as they say," the President said at the event, which was broadcast live on the local TV and radio stations. Thousands of people followed the live streaming online.
He accused world powers of manipulating international systems to serve their selfish interests, and reaching uninformed conclusions and taking decisions before commissioning sham inquiries to legitimise their narrative.
"Agaciro (dignity) has a very huge cost, the more you struggle to achieve agaciro, the more resistance you face...but we must own our destiny, it cannot be determined by others. We will continue to push back, fight back while keeping a smile; but even with a smile, we say no."
The President was making reference to a UN panel of experts which accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels in an addendum released in June, prompting several donor countries to freeze aid to Rwanda even before the release of the final report.
Rwanda has denied links with the rebels, and urged support for a regional initiative designed to find a lasting solution to recurrent conflict in eastern DRC.
But Kagame also faulted some African leaders whom he said abuse their power, a phenomenon that is quickly exploited by the continent's detractors to further their smear campaign.
"African leaders have been defined as corrupt, dictators and expected to fit that definition," the President added.
"We must be seen to have sufficient anger against injustice done to us and demonstrate it in ways we deal with our problems."
Kagame noted that while the majority of people in the west have good intentions, a few with ulterior motives made the loudest noise, which he said in the end influence public opinion in the west.
He questioned the rationale of deploying a $1.4 billion UN peacekeeping force in the Congo, with 20,000 troops, yet the international community continues to pressurise Rwanda to address the same issues for which the force was deployed.
"We have our own problems to deal with. If you want me to carry the burden of neighbours, pay me. You can't pay others and ask me to do the job," the President said to a thunderous applause.
The two-day event, held under the theme, "Agaciro: Aiming for self-sufficiency", saw thousands of the youth at Petit Stade in Remera, Kigali, participate in the Dialogue via a video link.
A cross section of participants at the Umushyikirano at the Parliamentary Buildings yesterday. The New Times/Village Urugwiro.
As always, central and local government leaders in the hall were tasked to respond to queries raised through live call-ins, SMS and social networking sites Twitter and Facebook messages.
Some of the questions concerned inadequate market for local produce, universal health care (mutuelle de santé), energy, education, and access to public services.
At the Dialogue, Prime Minister Damien Habumuremyi highlighted the achievements hitherto registered since last year's event, noting that previous resolutions had been implemented at over 90 per cent.
He also gave an overview of the achievements since the inaugural National Dialogue in 2003. "We have the opportunity to accelerate our development process," the Premier said.
The Minister of Finance, John Rwangombwa, talked about major targets under the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) II, saying the country needed an annual growth of at least 11 per cent to reach the targeted GDP per capita of $1200 by 2020 - twice the current per capita.
Rwangombwa noted that the country's exports tripled over the last five years.
François Rutayisire, a delegate from the Rwandan Diaspora from France, said the Dialogue was an important platform to chart the country's future.
"You realise that we actually have solutions to most of the challenges we face as a country," Rutayisire told The New Times.
Stipulated in article 168 of the Constitution, Umushyikirano is one of several homegrown initiatives devised in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Dialogue continues today with discussions focusing on values of self-reliance, EDPRS 2, innovative financing mechanisms, strategic skills development and youth employment.