By Brian Kwesiga
President Paul Kagame has revealed to a United States audience what inspired him to take up arms against the regime of then Rwandan leader, Juvenal Habyarimana.
“I grew up in refugee camps for thirty years. I experienced injustices of every kind. What was always at back of my mind was that we could not continue to live this kind of life, we had to sort it out, there is no one else who was going to sort it out for us,” said Kagame.
“We were reduced to the kind of level where you had to give everything you had, including possibility to lose your life to be able to regain it.”
Kagame gave the remarks on Thursday night at Everest Capital Emerging Markets Forum in Miami, US. In attendance was former US Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice.
Kagame led the RPF in a four year guerilla war that toppled Habyarimana’s government before putting an end to genocide that left over 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead.
“The driving factor in my mind was to try to do what is right. Our vision was to bring together the people of the country, for them to value each other and work with each other for their country,” said Kagame.
After seizing power in 1994, said Kagame, “we had to ask ourselves, will we be the kind of people that are unjust to others?”
He added: “The driving factor was to make sure that we do what is right and avoid what may make anyone live the kind of life we lived. I thought we can’t continue to live this kind of life, we have to sort it out, there is no one else who will do it for us.”
On reconciliation, Kagame said “in today’s Rwanda, you can’t use who you are to the detriment of the other who is different from you. In today’s Rwanda, we emphasize what is common to us and harness our differences for the common good.”
The President maintained the RPF government has “worked to make sure our economic growth is not just numbers but is inclusive of all, adding, “we have invested in infrastructure that can deliver our ambition to deal with challenges of being a land locked country.
“It all starts with the people; we invest in our people’s education, health and capacity to be able to contribute to Rwanda. Our vision was to bring together people of the country, replace divisive politics with Rwandans valuing each other.”
He reiterated government was building institutions and a firm foundation on which people of Rwanda could build their future.
“We decided early on that if we didn’t take ownership of rebuilding our country, it wasn’t going to last on rebuilding Rwanda; we had to take the lead of rebuilding the country even though we benefitted from external support.”
He agreed that rebuilding a nation blood and ash following the 1994 genocide was a “daunting task, but we had to start from somewhere.”