Image via WikipediaBy: Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
Fellow Citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last night as I thought about what to tell you today, it was humbling to me to think about the long journey that our nation has taken for many centuries. I remembered those who have led this nation before me. Ndahiro Ruyange. Ndoba. Samembe. Nsoro Samukondo. Ruganzu Bwimba. Cyilima Rugwe. Kigeri Mukobanya. Mibambwe Mutabaazi. Yuhi Gahima. Ndahiro Cyamatare. Ruganzu Ndori. Mutara Seemugeshi. Kigeli Nyamuheshera. Mibambwe Gisanura. Yuhi Mazimpaka. Karemera Rwaka. Cyilima Rujugira. Kigeli Ndabarasa. Mibambwe Seentaabyo. Yuhi Gahindiro. Mutara Rwogera. Kigeli Rwabugiri. Mibambwe Rutalindwa. Yuhi Musinga. Mutara Rudahigwa. Kigeli Ndahindurwa. Gregoire Kayibanda. Juvenal Habyarimana. Sindikubwabo. Pasteur Bizimungu. As I contemplated the lives and fate of those before me, I realized that the only constant in our history has been change and this nation called Rwanda. I now realize that like them I came, and like them I will go, leaving behind this nation.
Like you Rwandan people, each one of us leaders had abilities to do constructive things. Like all humans beings, we also make mistakes, some of them costly. Each had something positive to offer to this nation and her people and each one had flaws. Sometimes, the flaws outweighed the strengths and the nation suffered as a consequence. Colonial conquest was possible in Rwanda, as elsewhere, because we were weak compared to foreigners. They had guns, money, and ideas. It survived in Rwanda for long because we were a divided house. We have remained a divided house till today, and some of the consequences are the repeated violent conflicts, death destruction, and genocide. Because of repeated trauma we have inflicted on each other, we have become the sick nation, with a chronically sick people that desperately need healing at home and abroad.
I am very concerned about this nation as you all are, and as my predecessors were. Often we, your leaders, and the elite that has governed Rwanda, have decided to see a small part of Rwanda. A Rwanda of Bahutu or a Rwanda of Batutsi. Actually, we rarely think about Batwa. It seems difficult to us to imagine a whole Rwanda, of Bahutu, Batwa and Batutsi. We have tended to cater for our own interests by making sure that most power is in our hands. We live in today, hardly looking at the long term impact of our present actions. Our habit of seeing a small part of Rwanda, vesting absolute power in our hands, and to have short term interests, have caused much damage to this country, especially in recent years.
Last night I was thinking about how many people have died or fled the country from 1959 to 2011 as a result of conflict and state inspired violence. Innocent Bahutu, Batwa, Batutsi have become victims of state violence, human rights abuses, civil war, or genocide. I thought about life in refugee camps and the jungles through which ordinary people, including myself, had to move through. Mushiha. Kigamba. Ngara. Nyakivara,.Cyangwari, Nshungezi,. Gahunge. Goma, and others. I thought about the humiliation of statelessness, and the lost dreams and opportunities. I recalled the loss of life in the civil war that pitted RPF against the regime of the late President Habyarimana. Each side in the conflict lost many lives of young Rwandans. Each side believed they had a patriotic duty to defend a nation or a cause they loved. In the opening stages of the civil war RPF lost the charismatic General Fred Rwigyema. In the final stages Rwanda lost its President General Juvenal Habyarimana in circumstances that we as a nation are still to come to terms with. For this level of sacrifice, what do we owe Rwandans? Can we stop the trauma we inflict on each other? Can Rwandans heal? Can we Bahutu, Batwa and Batutsi imagine and create a common future in peace, rule of law, freedom, democracy, and shared prosperity?
I was almost tempted to give a speech talking about RPF’s victories from 1990 to 2011, and especially since 1994. As I reviewed the speech written by my advisers, I recognized its usual arrogant tone and deceptions. Some of RPFs victories are facts. So are the facts about victories of my predecessors. It is not my intention to repeat them here. You have heard them from me, RPF, and by other government officials. What bothers me is that we have become an organization that has become insensitive to the damage we have caused to the Rwandan people.
If there is one failure that stands out since 1959 up to now, it is the inability to place the sanctity of human life, and basic freedoms, at the center of everything we do as a nation. On behalf of RPF members and the Rwanda Government, I apologize to the Rwandan people where RPF under my leadership have caused additional trauma to the Rwandan people. On their behalf I ask for your forgiveness. Today I would like to propose a one-point program. Today I am announcing a program for freedom, on which all other national endeavors must be anchored, and against which actions must be prioritized, and performance measured. There must be freedom, first, or nothing else.
In this regard, I am proposing the following measures, which I hope will change the course of our nation in the next several years.
First, with regard to Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF)/Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA, now Rwanda Defense Forces, RDF): As RPF Chairman, I am ordering,
1) A full and independent investigation on party finances since 1990
2) A report on all RPA deaths, and lessons learned, from October 1990 to 2011
3) I further propose commissioning a committee to come up with proposals on how RPF can re-dedicate itself to freedom, internal democracy, and innovations to champion democracy in Rwanda
4) An investigation of the RPA human rights abuses in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the Mapping Report,
5) An immediate international investigation into the death of Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprian Ntaryamira,
6) The creation, out of RPF finances, of RPF Widows and Orphans Fund to support the welfare of widows and orphans of RPF’s fallen comrades
7) creation, out of RPF finances, of RPF Scholarship Fund, to get RPF cadres into education, training and employment opportunities and 8) creation of a Small and Medium Enterprises Fund from RPF finances, to support growth of small businesses.
Second, I propose creation of a Coalition Transitional Government to undertake the necessary reforms prior to holding genuinely free and fair Presidential and Parliamentary elections within the next 36 months. I am inviting all credible opposition leaders in and outside Rwanda to unconditional talks, leading to the creation of the coalition transitional government, the full opening of the political space, freedom for the media and civil society, the repatriation of all refugees, and the re-integration of armed groups and demobilized soldiers into RDF and civilian life.
Third, I propose a comprehensive national dialogue, with local and international chapters, that goes beyond justice to talk about our society’s struggle for healing. Among other things, the national dialogue will attempt to construct a national “balance sheet” from 1959-2011. Among other things, it will produce a candid general assessment of how many people Rwanda has lost from state-inspired terror, civil war, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These chronicles will be published as a National Black Book. This will be a basis of having a National Day of Remembrance, Forgiveness and Healing. When we celebrate this day for the first time, we’ll release all prisoners in Rwanda, and institute discussions with the international community to free even those who are being tried (or have been convicted) by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. There will be a day in our history when all Rwandans are free. The national dialogue will have the freedom to recommend a way forward on other substantive challenges facing the country. Such issues will include a “History of Rwanda Project,” to produce a harmonized approach to writing and teaching history in Rwanda’s institutions of learning, and a “Constitution Project”, to recommend revisions that are commensurate with this new agenda for freedom, reconciliation and healing.
Fourth, with effect from today, I am disbanding all the informal security networks and ordering immediate cessation of harassment of opponents at home and abroad. I am also instructing forthwith that the Rwanda Defense Forces, the National Security Service and the Directorate of Military Intelligence be brought under full Cabinet/Parliamentary oversight.
Fifth, I am ordering the immediate release of all political prisoners.
Sixth, I am initiating a special bill, The Rwanda Defense Forces Integration, Education, Training and Employment Bill, to put every man and woman of the RDF into school, training and employment programs. Through this bill every barracks should function as a school. All schools must be expanded to accommodate educational and training needs for soldiers and former combatants, including Ex-FAR, FDLR and other armed groups operating out of eastern DRC. In connection with this, and under the auspices of the coalition government and help of the international community, Rwandan armed groups will be integrated into a new reformed RDF that reflects the character of the Rwandan nation.
Seventh, I am ordering cessation and review of all unpopular policies that the RPF government has undertaken, including:
a) A policy on French as a language of instruction in Rwanda
b) A policy on scholarships in the institutions of higher learning
c) A policy on vasectomies for Rwandan men as a family planning tool and
d) A policy on housing for the Batwa.
Seventh, I am asking the entire government to review and come up with innovative policies that will help us tackle the problem of poverty and hunger in an equitable and sustainable way. While we have been praised by foreigners on social and economic development, the truth is that our economic growth is confined to the small urban elite. Too many of our people are still poor and hungry. This is not acceptable.
Eighth, it might sound a bitter pill to swallow for me and my fellow partisans in RPF, but I am forced to declare the last elections of 2010 null and void. I am concerned that having rigged the 2003 elections, as well as the last one, the RPF is setting a corrupting effect on its cadres and RDF’s officers and men. I apologize for the deception, and the waste of time and resources that have gone into the elections of 2003 and 2010. I am sure that all of you citizens agree with me that it is better to admit mistakes, so as not to repeat them, rather than to continue on a path of deception that will inevitably lead to civil war and more bloodshed.
We are in need of a fresh start. Let this be the day we re-dedicate ourselves to trying new and bold things. Free and fair elections, under the new coalition of transitional government, must take place no later than 36 months from its formation.
Ninth, I would like to assure all our neighbors that from now on Rwanda is genuinely interested in good neighborliness, and will stop policies which in the past have destabilized the region.
Tenth, I am announcing today that I will not stand in the next elections. I leave it to you and history to judge my performance while in power.
Make no mistake about this; the task before us is a Rwandan task. Only Rwandans can build Rwanda for the benefit of Rwandans. However, we need the help of our elders, our neighbors, our African brothers and sisters, and the rest of the international community. In this regard, to face these difficult tasks before us, I will be seeking the advice of my fellow Rwandan leaders currently in exile and those within the country.
In the next few weeks, I will be requesting my colleagues President Museveni of Uganda, President Kikwete of Tanzania, President Kibaki of Kenya, President Kabira of the DRC, President Pierre Nkurunziza and President Zuma of South Africa to an urgent summit to discuss how best these proposals can be supported by the region, the African Union and the international community. I will also be reaching out for advice from eminent personalities like former Presidents Arap Moi, Benjamin Mkapa, Al-Hassan Mwinyi, Pierre Buyoya and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. I am also counting on the support of my allies, the United Kingdom and United States to support this peace process towards Rwanda's freedom and democratization.
I realize that the proposals I have highlighted are ambitious and difficult. However, this is not the first time we have faced a challenge of this magnitude. We have to count on our own imagination, hard work, and collective will to enable freedom to thrive in our country. Rwanda can only break away from its dangerous habits of violence, coercion; politics of exclusion, mistrust, and fear if its citizens embrace freedom, with all its rights and obligations. I know that freedom is what every one of us needs to live a full life. This is what the blood of departed Rwandans, the aspirations of the present generation, and the future generations demand from us. We cannot afford to offer them anything less. We cannot wait for another seven years.
Will you join me in implementing these proposals to make freedom and healing a reality?
Thank you very much and may God bless you.