President Paul Kagame has accused opposition politicians and groups – all of whom are exiled, of having no development agenda other than seeking to advance their personal interests.
Kagame also lashed out at groups and individuals who have been comparing the 1990-1994 liberation war to their political activities against his government. He said: “They have been saying ‘just as RPF won the war, we will as well”
“[RPF liberation war] cannot be compared to any other, it is not simply a matter of adding one-plus-one-equals-two, NO!” said Kagame, in an unscripted address this Friday in Kigali at the end of a two-day annual forum of Unity Club.
The platform is a grouping of former and current top government officials together with their spouses. The platform was initiated 12 years ago by the First Lady Jeannette Kagame as a forum to bring together all individuals who have held senior positions in government.
Apart from the annual meeting, Unity Club has the ‘Abarinzi b’Igihango’ award given to Rwandans and foreigners who have done deeds that promote unity and reconciliation. Unity Club has also been building homes for vulnerable elderly genocide survivors.
Speaking in relation to the theme for the 2019 Unity Club forum on “Ndi Umunyarwanda”, President Kagame said it has created a “critical mass” of Rwandans who crave for what is good for every Rwandan, not individual interests.
The Head of State said the so-called opposition groups, which are actually advanced by foreigners who want to make choices for Rwanda, have “no single thing of truthfulness”.
In unusually strong language, even when he has previously talked tough, Kagame described the opposition in a single sentence as “Greedy, liars, ungrateful and extremists”. (“Abo b’inda nini, b’ibinyoma, b’indashima, b’intagondwa”).
Rwanda’s opposition loosely appears in three categories: there are politicians and ordinary people associated with the pre-genocide era on one side and people who took part in the liberation war but have since turned into bitter opposition to President Kagame and his administration. This later block is led by former Army chief Staff Lt. Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, who is exiled in South Africa.
There is also another block including people like Faustin Twagiramungu who was in opposition during the pre-genocide era, then briefly worked with the RPF as prime minister, and fled to exile. There are many like him.
These three blocks have for years tried to unite under a single banner but have failed as neither want to be under the other. Instead, they are never short of derogatory terms to describe the other. As a consequence, they remain disorganized and disunited; often only unable to stage protests against President Kagame when he visits Europe and North America.
Speaking today, Kagame accused these groups, but without naming any, of attempting to reverse all the gains in the last 25 years which has created a united and developing country. He said war was not an option as they would obviously lose.
Comparing what he described as “inclusive politics” in Rwanda to the west, Kagame said the political turmoil ongoing in different western countries was “uprising” by the majority against the 1% who have suppressed them for too long.
“What you see as Brexit, those rising up wearing yellow colour and what is happening in that other very powerful country, are demands by people telling those who have led them for this long that ‘we want what belongs to us’…” said Kagame in reference to UK’s fight to leave the EU, the Yellow vest protests in France and the election of troubled President Donald Trump in the U.S.
Kagame said that some of the same countries whose people are demanding their rights, did try to impose their version of “divisive politics” on Rwanda.
“We told them if your aid is conditioned on such bad politics, we don’t need it,” said Kagame.
Meanwhile, for the first time, Kagame said today that the decision by the former government of President Juvenal Habyarimana to block Rwandans outside not to return, was the single factor which “accelerated” planning for the forceful return by arms.
In his 2019 book, “Transforming Rwanda: Challenges on the Road to Reconstruction”, academic and Kagame aide Dr Jean Paul Kimonyo writes that on July 26, 1986, the then ruling National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND) in Rwanda adopted that policy position that turned out to be one of its worst – that eventually led to the overthrow of the President Habyarimana-led regime.
That policy position was the rejection of the right of return for Rwandan refugees, adopted by the party’s highest organ contained in a secret document titled “MRND Central Committee Position on the question of Rwandan refugees”.
In the document, the authors argued that Rwanda was “overpopulated” and recommended that government shouldn’t accept the “collective return” of refugees. Instead, MRND party preferred that the refugees settle permanently in their host countries, and emphasized that they should actually obtain citizenship where they are based.
For the years that followed, Habyarimana and his key allies said Rwanda was like a “glass full of water” and that any attempts to add more water would lead to it spilling.
In his narration today, Kagame said people were dispatched to different diaspora communities to discourage them that there was no need to go back to Rwanda.
Kagame said that in 1988, he met with a wealthy Congolese businessman who had been sent to talk to him out of plans to return to the country.
“He told me ‘there is nothing in that small country, you can stay here and actually take over this country’…you can imagine how much Rwanda had been belittled at that time,” Kagame informed his listeners.
“How can you ask someone whether they want to go back home? Home is home. What do people choose home for anyway?”, he asked.
Kagame, at the same time, also sent a conciliatory message to the opposition, saying those willing to come home are welcome, but that they have to leave “bad manners” they learnt in their current country of refugee.
Meanwhile, at the Unity Club forum 2019, American Carl Wilkens, who refused to leave Rwanda during the genocide against the Tutsi, was awarded with the Umurinzi w’Igihango medal (Protector of Friendship Pact), a key honours in Rwanda. Two Rwandans also recieved the medal.
At the same event, Kagame announced that each of about 40 recipients since 2015, who only got a medal and certificate, would also be given a cash reward of Rwf 10m ($10,900). From this year on-wards, the award will have cash.
“The Nobel that you see is accompanied by support to enable the laureates continue the good deeds,” said Kagame of the annual prizes.