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The East African : Jul 12th 2015
12 The EastAfrican NEWS JULY 11-17,2015 Q &A WI T H PAU L K AGAME Practising tribal politics and corruption can destroy a society Since the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, Rwanda has achieved remarkable progress. During a tour of Kamembe district near the border with the DRC recently, the country’s president spoke to TEE NGUGI on a wide-range of issues concerning Rwanda and Africa Mr President, what is your assessment of Rwanda’s progress? I have been pleasantly surprised to come this far in such a short time. Twenty-one years is a very short time after the tragedy that happened to our country. But even before the genocide, the situation was not good — illiteracy and poverty were at their highest. So seeing where we are now is remarkable. We can only hope for the best as we continue doing the best we can to get to where we want to be. We have Vision 2020. Our ambition is to raise our country to middle income status — $1,200-$1,500 per capita income — in five years’ time. We are now getting close to $800, from just $190. The results we are seeing tell us we can get there. You are on a journey and you want to get to a destination, and it matters not only that you get there, but also how fast you get there. We are still struggling with the ethnic problem in Africa. What lessons can we learn from Rwanda? People must decide to get away from that, because everything we know so far shows that practising politics of ethnicity can only destroy or slow down the advancement of a society. We have three groups, or three in one. Because we all speak Kinyarwanda, we have one culture, we share almost everything. But we have these categorisations — Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. One could sympathise with countries that have 40 or 50 or even sometimes hundreds [of ethnic groups], but the principle of managing these kinds of problems is the same — practising the politics of inclusion. You want to make sure that every one of these groups has rights like anybody else. Leaders must think of how to bring everybody in, irrespective of their background, and make them part of this process that benefits the country. So they do not feel left out, feel that they do not matter. We had a situation here after Independence where they practised ethnic politics, and it was not enough. They went to regional divisions within one ethnic group — the Hutu. The Southerners took power and monopolised it, almost to the point of excluding the northerners. And that is how Habyarimana overthrew Kayibanda through a coup, and shifted power to the north. And that was just between the Hutu, because they had killed and exiled all Tutsi and the few who remained were shut out of everything. The Twa were just ignored because they were a minority. But now they [the Hutu] turned inwards, on each other — north versus south. So that is the downward spiral of ethnic politics. And it really shows how one bad thing leads to another. The same principle applies eve- rywhere. The moment leaders do not insist on practising inclusion and allow the formation of tribal politics, there will be a point of rupture. Nothing is perfect — I would not say that there are no people who still think on the basis of the past, even here where we have made very good progress. Today in Rwanda, every child goes to school. Everybody feels politics here is for them, it is about them. It is a theory, but it is possible to put it into practice. There are many people who will tell you that they had never been to the capital, and had thought that ministers and other people in high places could only be children of certain families. Now, across the country, everybody is saying that life has changed: I never used to own anything, now I own a piece of land, now I have access and opportunity, I feed myself and my family — things like that. There has been a lot of discussion about presidential term limits. What is your view on this? It is like there is a standard set by somebody else and everyone is fighting to fit into it without even thinking of the context. I had an argument with some journalists. They were asking me: Is term limits the solution to Africa’s problems? And I was telling them — maybe in some cases, it can be a solution. But it definitely cannot be the only solution. You have to ask yourself what is the situation we are talking about? I told them that there are places where they observe term limits and the only thing that is constant is the mess they are in. But we have seen other places with no term limits, and things are going right. We gave them the example of Singapore. They went through this struggle, getting pressure from across the world. But they defied everything, and continued with this great man Lee Kuan Yew, fighting on, and everybody rallying around him. And now everybody wants to be like Singapore. Does that work for everyone? I don’t think so. Maybe it will work in some places, and it will not work in others. But look at the Europeans. They are the ones pushing for term limits when they don’t have them, from the UK to Germany to Australia… Angela Merkel of Germany may go for a fourth term. Has it stopped Germany from being the number one economy in Europe? But I find it difficult to present my arguments, because, when it comes to Rwanda, I am the person in question. Even when I have a good argument, they will say: We can understand why he is arguing like that. Corruption is a big issue in Africa. How do we deal with it? We have to have leaders who re- ject it, and build systems that can check it. And corruption is always from the top. The middle and lower levels get involved because of the top. If the leaders at the top are held accountable and hold each other accountable, then corruption goes down. I was really happy for Kenya when something happened, [ministers being held to account] they need to keep building on that. But it takes a toll politically. Some of these people you hear who are outside opposing us and making all sorts of noises, there is not a single one of them who did not start with a [corruption] case. Then they tried to turn it into politics. But we insisted that it does not matter if you are a general or a minister or MP or mayor, you cannot get involved in corruption with impunity. We may fail to prove what you did, then you may get away with it. But what we have proved, you have to answer for. And we have been focusing on the top — these other ordinary people, they are involved in corruption because of the top. It can become a culture… I lived in Uganda, I grew up there and worked there. In high school, if asked what job do you want to do when you leave school, most would tell you I want to be a Customs officer, I want to be an immigration officer and so on. The reason is simple: They had seen young men or women building mansions from nowhere. What are your views on international justice, especially in view of the recent detention of a Rwandan general in the UK? This raises many questions, and it all amounts to one thing — injustice. Rwanda faces two cases, one in France and the other in Spain. In the French case, one of our people who used to be in the army was arrested in Germany and handed over to France. The case was dismissed and she was released. Imagine France, which is actually implicated in the genocide in Rwanda, taking upon itself to start judging people. Now in Spain, they have a law which allows these prosecutor judges to single-handedly indict somebody in China or Africa for something that that happened in China or Africa. One can argue that if it happened and there was no follow up, they would be right to do that. But the case was flawed right from the start. This Spanish judge starts by saying that in 1987, a criminal organisation called the RPF was formed. And then says that with the help of the US and UK, the English-speaking criminal organisation took over a Frenchspeaking country with the aim of killing Hutus. Because the criminal organisation belongs to Tutsis. That is how he develops the case. And then starts to indict people, saying some people were killed — some nuns and some people working for the Catholic church — and says these officers must have killed these people. That now becomes a fact. Spain had tried to use Inter- pol to have these officers arrested, and Interpol said the case did not make sense. So Interpol issued certificates to these people who were wanted, saying: We have no case as far as Interpol is concerned. Then the High Court in Spain pronounced that the law has no merit, and if there is a case against these people they should be tried in their own countries. But to continue with the case, they went to the Supreme Court to seek an opinion on the High Court’s position. So the least you can do is wait until the Supreme Court pronounces itself. We asked Britain, you want to extradite this fellow to Spain, on what basis? You have worked with this person before, he has diplomatic immunity. So this whole thing is not international justice. Q: With all the problems in South Sudan, Central African Republic and Burundi, do you think Africa is moving in the right direction ? We are making good progress in some areas and having problems in others. This regional integration is very important. We seem sloppy, slow, unclear, yet it has great potential. Q: Do you get impatient at the slow pace? You learn to wait, especially if it is not your area, not within your means. If it is Rwanda, then my impatience can translate into something, but beyond your borders, what do you do?
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