21 January 2013

Rwanda: 2013 Budget Priorities Are Adjusted - Kagame

During the monthly press conference yesterday at Village Urugwiro, President Kagame was asked about the strategies he has in store after the suspension of aid to Rwanda following questionable reports by the UN group of experts (GoE).

"This is not the first time donors are cutting aid to Rwanda, but as Rwandans we should learn from what is happening and put it in context. We did some soul-searching to stop being fully dependant on foreign aid," the President said, referring to solutions such as the Agaciro Development Fund brought up during the national dialogue. "It happened, and we never invited it; it would have hurt us more, if we had committed the acts they accuse us of."

Kagame took a defiant stance, saying that this could not bring Rwanda down on its knees. "Maybe it's a blessing in disguise," he observed.

Yet the President pointed out that it is astonishing that the suspension of aid happened even before the GoE report was finalized. "They didn't even wait till the fraudulent process of the report was finished. This is good evidence but every day we get more prepared," he remarked, castigating the international community for endlessly blaming Rwanda for Congo's woes and intentionally disregarding the fact that they were historical.

"We will continue to work with the DRC and have good relations with the Congolese people so that we solve our problem that remains there - which is FDLR and the genocidaires".

Concerning the proposal of using reconnaissance that resurfaced recently, Kagame said it's not Rwanda's business. "If they feel that drones will solve the DRC issues, let them go ahead. This response comes at time when a request had previously been made by the former head of the UN peacekeeping force for helicopters, drones and other items to improve real-time intelligence gathering."

As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Rwanda has opposed the plans to use surveillance drones in eastern Congo until there is a full assessment of their use, saying it does not want Africa to become a laboratory for foreign intelligence devices. "If drones can bring peace, Rwanda has no objections, this is beyond our capacity," the President said. "Our question is how these drones will bring peace, otherwise it's for the international community to make a decision."

Diplomats from Russia, China and some from Europe also expressed reservations as members of UN Security Council.

When asked whether the government is revising the 2013 budget, Kagame admitted that Rwanda is in the process of shifting its budget priorities. He mentioned that the economy grew by 7.5% instead of 9% as predicted. He added that the aid suspension will affect the country's economic growth.

"By cutting aid, they are not punishing the leaders but the poor people who can't afford to take back their children to school. We are adjusting to priotise the key economic sectors for a better cause," he said.

Yet he assured that Rwanda is on the right path and will remain focused, energized and determined to achieve the targeted goals.

Rwandan troops for Mali?

As has nearly become a habit during Kagame's meetings with the press, someone brought up the issue of a possible third term for the President, to which he responded with a smile. "That third term issue is not a big deal, I cross the bridge when I reach it," he said. "When the right time comes, we will cross that bridge, let's not confuse the public with this issue."

He added that if Rwanda has managed to achieve many things, the third term issue will be also be dealt with when time is ripe.

Another question concerned the possibility of Rwanda contributing troops to liberate Mali? In reply, Kagame said Rwanda is very committed to many peace keeping missions across Africa. "Rwanda can't be everywhere, we have home limitations. For Mali we would love to contribute but we are tied up".

He said he wishes Africa could handle crisis like what is happening Sudan and Somalia but sometimes issues of capacity incapacitate African states.

A local journalist raised the question why government institutions are establishing radio stations which is likely to hamper the private media to acquire adverts from the government institutions. The President agreed it is a confusing situation. "It is confusing for the government institutions engaging in this business. If parliament its radio, the following day, we are going to hear that the cabinet or Police doing the same business; why don't you use the national radio?"

When asked for an explanation, Local Government Minister James Musoni, who is also in charge of media, replied that the national radio has to deal with many programs, so it is useful for such institutions to start their own stations to reach to the people.

The President did not seem convinced.

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