Development without human dignity is meaningless – President Kagame

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Development is not just about human rights but also human dignity, President Paul Kagame has said. He was yesterday addressing students and faculty members at Brandeis University, Boston on Rwanda’s journey of recovery in the last twenty years.

Pointing out the need to redefine what many define as development, Kagame said development also encompassed human dignity.

“No matter where they come from or the colour of their skin, humans need food, health care, education. They need to not live on handouts and to work for what they live on. These needs don’t need to be taught to them or encouraged, they exist within us.”

Sharing Rwanda’s experience in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, he said: “There is no template for putting a country back together after such a major tragedy. Everything was a priority. Almost everything of value had been destroyed. We had to make decisions without any comfort of adequate time or resources.

“This was the situation we faced in July 1994, as we stopped the genocide and formed a government of national unity.”

Faced with the challenge of rebuilding a nation, Kagame said that Rwandans were determined to learn from their history.

“Rwanda felt abandoned when the genocide started. The international community made a decision to pull out peacekeepers that were in a position to save lives. But we learned an important lesson that has guided our efforts of rebuilding: we had to be responsible for ourselves as we remained open to working with others.”

In the interactive discussion with the audience, President Kagame answered questions ranging from the perceived contradiction between development and human rights as well as his own personal story of leadership.

When asked about his ambitions to remain President, Kagame shared his personal experience. “It was never my ambition to become President. I spent nine and half years of my life in the battlefield. Every single day of those nine and a half years, I was never sure if I would see the next day or the end of the war.”

President Lawrence of Brandeis University described President Kagame as a man who will be remembered as “someone who on the battlefield and in the hearts of his countrymen was committed to human dignity.”

Kagame also emphasised on Rwanda’s commitment to find solutions within and face challenges together. “From the outset, Rwanda had to take risks. Our very survival was at stake, and we had no expectation that others would, or even could, find solutions for us.

“We emerged from the tragedy because Rwandans were prepared to stay the course, despite constant doubt and criticism. Without that tenacity, Rwanda would have remained a failed state.”

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