The New Times (Kigali)

African Leaders Urged to Shape Continent's Destiny

Africa has reached a time to rise and determine her destiny, delegates at the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) international conference on liberation struggle, in Kigali, concurred yesterday.

The one-day forum was organised as part of the series of activities to celebrate RPF's Silver Jubilee today at Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali.

It drew scholars, diplomats, politicians, senior government officials, civil society and the media from Africa and beyond to discuss inclusive governance, prosperity and dignity of the Africans.

Speaking at a panel moderated by the renowned South African Journalist Daniel Makokera, Tanzanian political commentator and civil society activist Jenerali Ulimwengu, said that Africa needs to be liberated from Western influence to determine its own transformation journey.

"Africa has reached the first step and there are many steps ahead to be self reliant.

So we need to accomplish our mission with African spirit free from foreign interference," he said.

Ulimwengu, who is also the Chairman of the Board of the Raia Mwema, a Tanzanian newspaper, cited Rwanda, Cape Verde, and Botswana among African nations that are willing to learn from their past history and strive for a better future.

"Whatever happened to unite Africans, will now divide them, if the visionary leadership with clear policies that benefits all masses are not put at the forefront of African leadership," he noted.

In Africa, he added, there are few leaders in few countries, the remaining are rulers.

"That is why our continent is full of political instabilities, wars and other inhuman activities. It's now the time for Africa to rise and define her own journey," he said.

Ulimwengu who was speaking at a session dubbed 'Liberation struggles: cause and lessons learnt' appealed to African leaders to strive for a better future of the people they lead and not wait for colonial masters to feed them.

"If we wait for them to feed us, it's like going back to slavery,"

"If you do not give the people you lead freedom of expression, education, democracy, then you're not a leader, you're a ruler," stressed Ulimwengu.

Speaking at a session 'African assertiveness: beyond the right to self-determination' Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation said self determination of African countries should go beyond flags and national anthems.

"We have got to have a say as Africans in international arena and there is no need to be aggressive. Self determination is about making our presence visible and heard," she emphasised.

"We need to bring in our own word into the global discussion, we Africans need to have a voice because the most important tool we have, is our voice. We have to crash the party if we are not being heard. Our voice has to be heard," she said.

The Foreign Affairs minister stated that, there are attempts by many to deny Rwanda the right to shape her own destiny.

"Rwanda from a country of non existence in 1994 to today, I cannot fear to say that, our country is very optimistic for a better future of its people," said Mushikiwabo.

The forum that was characterised by interactive discussions was officiated by Christophe Bazivamo, the Vice Chairman of RPF who explained that RPF was born in the quest for freedom from exile, injustice and poverty among other many things.

"Our commitment is to ensure all Rwandans have equal access to education, health, and justice among others".

He emphasised the need for home grown solutions if African nations are to become self reliant.

At the start of the high level meeting that was also attended by RPF supporters, a moment of silence was observed in memory of those who died in the liberation struggle.

At the RPF forum, Robert Kabushenga, Managing Director of Vision Group, a Ugandan media organisation spoke passionately, urging Africa to revisit its history and the struggles for freedoms.

"The African leaders should critically think about being accountable to the people they lead and our liberation philosophy," he emphasised.

At the meeting, Senator Tito Rutaremara a veteran senior cadre of the party discussed, the RPF struggles to liberate and transform Rwanda into what it is today.

Louis Michel, Belgian Minister of State and Member of the European Parliament said, "There are many examples that show that Africa is on the move, but resources can be a curse if not managed well".

"Investment in education by African countries, creating human resource is the way forward. My optimism is a shift from the liberation struggles, being power hungry to serving the people," noted Professor Sir David King, Director of environment, energy and development consultants at Cambridge Kaspakas.

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