By Collins Mwai
President Paul Kagame spoke out against the tendency by Western countries and a section of the international community to impose their wishes on African countries.
Kagame was speaking at a session hosted by the Council of Foreign Affairs, a think tank specializing in American foreign policy and international affairs.
President Kagame is in the US attending the ongoing United Nations General Assembly underway in New York.
President Kagame revealed that he too has experienced attempts by certain western powers trying to impose their wishes on Rwanda including prior to the elections.
In one of the most recent scenarios, prior to the referendum that saw article 101 of the constitution amended, Kagame said that he was approached by ‘friends of the country’ who urged him not to contest in the elections.
Their advice to him was to groom a successor or pick from one of the westerners’ preferred choices for the position.
Pointing out the flaw of such interferences, Kagame said that it fails to reflect the wishes of ordinary citizens.
“How about the people of Rwanda, I have not heard about them in this decision,” was Kagame’s reply to the attempts to interfere in choosing Rwanda’s leaders.
Highlighting the irony of such incidences, he said that it is contradictory that the same powers that were involved in preaching democracy were partaking in denying countries the freedoms and rights to choose their preferred leaders.
“How I am going to be free when you want to dictate to me how I should live my life?” he posed.
The president added that democratic models cannot be imposed across the world without taking into account different backgrounds, histories, cultures and contexts.
“Democracy is democracy, this whole thing of adding ‘western’ is okay but what does it mean? All countries can hardly fit into that sort of definition because we come from different backgrounds, histories, cultures and contexts.”
“That is the principle all of us would like to associate with. But associate with as far as the history, the culture and context allows us and to what extent,” he said.
On foreign aid
Foreign assistance, Kagame said has played a big role in the development of the country largely due to the understanding that Rwanda strived to work in partnership with donors.
The approach involved agreements that Rwanda would have a choice in the decision of where and how to invest the assistance to ensure that it addressed Rwanda’s development plan.
“Foreign aid played a big role in the development of the country, in fact we tried to engage the aid donors to modify how they understand aid and the use of it. We tried to engage them on the basis that we the people of Rwanda should be given some space on how and where to invest rather than them bringing the money and deciding where they put it and in the end they are not bothered about the outcome. Fortunately some of them agreed to it. We wanted Rwanda to remain in the driving seat,” Kagame said.
On the country’s economic recovery and progress, president Kagame said that much of the progress was linked to deciding what was right for the country and laying out plans towards it.
“We had a vision for the country that spanned from 2000 to 2020. Top of that was how we were going to invest in our people, in education, health, security and so on. We spelled it out and it was clear and even sold to the donors,” he said.
Other aspects that he said played a role in the development journey was investments in infrastructure, private sector development and regional integration.
All this was done with the sole aim of developing the country and improving welfare of citizens.
“We were really focused on how to improve ourselves and how we can get our country from where it has been, at very low base on everything and take the people of Rwanda where they deserve to be. This is what we concentrated on,” he said.
On regional integration, the president said that it is obvious to most that it will speed up and fast track development but often politics get in the way and frustrates the process.
Addressing a question on his take on reports by a section of human rights organisations, Kagame said that he has and will always serve Rwandans to give them the best.
“Half of my life I’ve been living in the trenches, not sure of living to the next day. I didn’t fight to be the president of my country, never. It came by accident. So I was fighting for my own rights, which anyone in any human rights organization could not give me. And even now, cannot give me or cannot give Rwandans,”
” As the leader of my own people, to be accused of violating their rights is just an absurd insult. But my answer is simple, is to do my best to serve my people the best way they can be served,” he said.
President Kagame had earlier in the day attended the opening session of the UN General Assembly as well as featured in a session hosted by Corporate Council on Africa on US Africa relations.