The 15th National Leadership Retreat would be described as an adrenaline stimulating meeting where issues of national significance were analysed, mega proposals presented and the naming and shaming of leaders that performed well plus those dragging their feet.
President Paul Kagame yet again brought the retreat to a conclusion with great counsel.
below is a transcribed excerpt of Kagame’s closing remarks.
I would like to start by thanking you. I think we had a good conversation today and past days. There have been good and constructive ideas. The main purpose is that all of them help us to develop and bring about changes whether in action and the results we get. It is not the first time that we discuss and mention things that we want to change. We also suggest the way they should be changed.
Let me start with something that we did not discuss in deep, which can help us to change those things: medium, long-term.
One: If there is something that stimulates change elsewhere around the world in countries or companies it is culture even if is not often mentioned. Culture allows cohesion because any organization, it does not matter whether it is business or politics, needs concerted efforts aimed at the same direction.
I have never known of a divided group attaining their goals. However, it is promoted and results in falling short of those goals. So, what kind of culture do we want to have? We have mentioned Asian nations as examples because they have a culture of hardworking as well as other cultures that enable them to work together in harmony.
Let’s not take long on Asia because it is used in many examples but we were once at the same level of development. Why is it said that they left us behind? But let me mention other examples: if you go to Europe and look at the Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, or America. What makes America strong is based on culture, and the first culture is having confidence. The second one is that they are not afraid of fighting for their interests.
They even have the culture to respect their army not just because they are wearing military uniforms but what they are wearing them for; Americans are strong and dominant because they thought for it. People are proud that their grandfather, father and they gave a service.
They even proudly ask each other whether a member of the family gave the service and are also willing to fight for their name, pride and interests of their nation. They want to fight for them and it is in their culture; they work confidently and are ready to prove it.
In those parts of Europe, they also have a human culture that results in humility and that does not rank them low. And you even know their climate. The number of times when they can and cannot get the sunshine is equal in a year. They freeze, but remain humble, humility is very important.
Those were just a few examples, let me stop by here. So, what culture did we choose to follow? Meanwhile, I have not yet touched other points! I am talking about the culture of humility, hard work and immunity to be what one wants to be, not what anyone wants them to be. I want to live the way I want to live; good for me and good for my people.
Yesterday, we talked about churches that were closed for operating in disorder. Imagine 700 churches in Kigali city! Are they boreholes? We do not even have that number of boreholes! What else benefits us in the city? Do we have 700 factories in the city? But the 700 churches you closed were operating in disorder!
The disorder happens as a result of the quality of the system and lack of something in the culture of both life and way of action. That disorder happens in two types of places. It happens where people are so rich that anyone does whatever they want. They then list down laws and other regulations that relate to them or those laws prevent them from having a negative impact where they are.
That disorder sometimes exists in European and American countries and it does not cause any problem even if people are extremely rich and are busy doing other things, they set up laws. They have active structures that protect them from that disorder.
Another place where it happens is among the have-nots like us. There are many reasons, but I will mention a few of them.
The first one, the way we are organised in Rwanda, Africa and the way the world looks at us or wants us to be is accepting that disorder and get stuck there. When you ban 700 churches, people will accuse Rwanda of denying people of their freedom. Different churches are being denied the freedom to live as they want, and that becomes a problem.
But it is not what they look at and it doesn’t look like the ones for those who have wealth. For them, those things are there for other reasons and they have protection against the bad effects.
But you do not have anything and they know that you have no protection against that useless mess anyway. That is why I asked what those 700 churches that were closed serve, whether they are boreholes, shops or factories. They do not serve you anything, but you must have them.
You do not even have any protection against their bad consequences, but the world will still tell you to keep them. If you touch them, they will say that you do not have the right to do so. As I told you, that kind of mess exists in two places; rich and poor.
The rich are so fed up with development that they wonder what they will do next after getting all the things they wanted to have like high technology. So, they tell people to go and do whatever they want to do.
I was going to mention something but I have decided to keep it so that I do not cause a confusion. But they are so fed up with wealth that they tell people of the same sex to marry one another. It is like saying: why can’t we do these things also when we have done all things. Then, they also bring you that culture and instruct you to be like them.
I want to ask what is going to be our culture? Which one have we chosen, or it is not yet time? What is the problem? Let me come back to something important for which we are gathered here. We talked about the good policies we set up, sometimes I was surprised that for the ones we have to change, we cannot change them.
But I think the discussion we had was about evaluating the policies to know what is wrong in their implementation that prevents them from reaching where we wanted or the results we wanted to have.
Those who spoke did not answer that question but wanted to reopen the debate to discuss whether the policies are good or bad. But that has its own time. If they want us to revise them, we will allow anyone who wants to change them for good reasons through discussion.
But I cannot take long on them while you do not even implement the ones for which you have nothing to criticise. That is what we are examining; we have all the requirements, ideas and resources. But before I move to the next point, I ask whether we did what we would do with the resources.
That is the discussion we should have had, it happened for one part, but there are other cases where it did not happen and we diverted from that question. Let me try to explain it partly, I will not probably answer to it completely.
Let me come back to that culture, the one that we do not have but plays a big role in that problem. I will mention examples. The first example is about what we talked about when Rulindo district mayor said that leaders should go to homesteads instead of just floating and waiting for people to come and see them.
That has many reasons. The first, why don’t leaders go there? There is a problem of lack of culture. One aspect of culture that prevents us from going there is because that is how we have conceived leadership. You sit relaxed in your office and people come to adore you.
You do not have time for those who have come to look for you, and even when you have some, it takes long for you to respond so that people will know how much strong you are. That problem is related to culture, behaviour and practice.
Even those who bother to go down and see the citizens once in a long time, when this happens, it looks like the heaven has fallen. Their coming becomes known but they do not take time to do what has brought them here. Instead, all activities stop to welcome them.
What happens then is that people overshadow them with the wall of that welcome and they do not see anything beyond it. They do not see what is behind while it is what they should be seeing. What is more, those who welcome them write what they want them to see on that wall.
The expense that is incurred in those movements is high. I am just giving you examples of what I witnessed. I once told you about the time when we went in the countryside. First, when I am about to go there, they make roads where they did not exist. You wake up to see that all the roads are smooth. Then, I said to myself what has happened to these roads?
These roads have been bad for 10 years, but when I said that I would come, they found those resources in just one week. Why didn’t they use those resources in all the past years and make those roads? Where do those resources come from at this time? They do not come from the president’s office. They are already somewhere and should have been used to make the road for citizens.
You also know the saying that came from there, it is not something I am making up. In fact, it is here in Eastern Province. I was expected to go there but for some reasons, I could not come. At last, residents were told that I would not come. They were very disappointed because the president did not visit them.
They even sent me a message thanking me that I had at least thought about visiting them. But they told me that if I would not have time to visit them, I would at least send a message that I was coming. They said that when I say that I am coming, leaders put everything in place, and construct roads. They told me to do it at least every month.
What do you think is missing? It is not because there were no means to do that before. People are busy doing other things. There is still that culture of doing what we must do when someone is coming. People say because he has not yet come let us relax or do our own things. It is not a matter of resources nor leadership, what is missing is culture.
Leaders say the president is coming, minister is coming, mayor is coming. Instead of coming and correct things that are not going well, they say please freeze everything let us pay the bill to receive him. That is not enough, they even accompany you.
You remove a suit and they receive it, when the shoes go out they immediately come to put it back on for you. And things become great. Do you know how much we spend on that? They even close a factory that you are visiting and the staff stops working and run after you.
No one even bothers to explain about anything about the factory but to take care of your suit because you have travelled too much. And it happens in all levels. The cost of protocol is a very bad culture. Even here, you find five people looking for the chair for one person.
Don’t you travel with buses? There are people who have to sit very close to each other to give more space to one person to relax. They rush to the bus ask whether so and so’s seat is ready, but seats are already there, anyway. How do you come to see if there is seat for so and so? Why are you taking that time?
You find a PS arguing with people in the bus to find a seat for ministers. A seat? When get in and find that there are no more seats, you will go to another. Why do they have to protocol you and check whether no one occupies the seat of the minister?
I am asking you because you are the ones who do eat every day. Why do they have to protocol you from the first day to the last one? For what reason? What is that expense for? But the mentality of it, itself, why don’t you think that it is a reason why we do not achieve what we should be achieving? I am very sick of that. I feel like fighting.
Even the one you try to tell about it, they repeat the same thing the next day. Those people who always run after you to that extent that when you go somewhere you forget about doing the main activity and get distracted by protocols. Anyone tells me the feel or the importance of that.
Leaders who are here, you are silent but I know that you are aware of that scandal. I know that you experience it day after day. It goes further to become a blindfold so that you do not see anything because a lot has not been done, others were done badly, or a lot has been deprived of their recipients who are the citizens. That is a tactic to blindfold someone so that you do not see.
Why should a minister visit a certain province and that be considered as favour? They even think that if they have not taken care of you to a certain extent, you will not go back there. How do you explain this? While I am explaining it, I have avoided mentioning names and telling you that so and so has people who run behind him.
There are even those who are present here that I telephoned personally and warned them against these weird protocols. I told them that the day I will see them again OI will catch them on spot. When I see that, I become very angry. There are many of them here, and if you want, I will mention tell you their names.
People who land at Kanombe airport, when high ranked police officers land, airline managers stop all operations. But police officer, you are in charge of security, manager you are in charge of the airline management. You stop all things and run behind a minister who lands off a plane. How? What culture from where and where is it going to take you?
How? You are a plane’s manager; you are not checking whether all things are flowing smoothly but you are going to run behind the minister. Airline manager is not in charge of infrastructure. Police man in charge airport, you cannot run and go to accompany the minister who is in charge of police.
You dismiss the work of airport security to go to accompany the minister in charge of police, or chief inspector general of police who was coming from Kenya. They have their own offices and people to receive them not a police officer or someone who does a certain service at the airport.
That is not how it works. Police officers or airline managers do not stop working and follow a minister. I have had moments to tell those concerned which means that those that I have not seen are more. But this must stop. It is too expensive and means nothing. It means absolutely nothing. Do your work, if there are questions you feel you are not payed paid well for your work, that is a different discussion.
But your personal importance should be getting rid of all these. Moreover, the culture I mentioned goes with professionalism. Do your work professionally and don’t get lost in these useless things. Absolutely not. Let me give you more examples.
Make an effort to abstain from them once, twice and tell me whether you have lost anything. What do you lose at a personal level when you humble yourself and do your job?
But when you abstain from them and focus on your job, I think that a normal person should have satisfaction. Something they do and produce something meaningful for them and other people. There should be this satisfaction.
When you do something properly, you should have these results. But haughtiness where even those who are not very haughty feel proud. Why and to what cost? There is immediate expense but there is another cost that comes from things that have not been done.
It becomes a huge burden for all of us. People in the countries that I mentioned humble themselves. When you look at them, what do you have more than them? What do they lack? Tell me, just one. But we know what it costs us.
We assessed many things that we have not been able to achieve, and search for reasons. But this is the reason why we did not achieve, or one of the many other reasons. I do not know whether there are other reasons but this is what I chose and what we can rid of ourselves successfully.
Prime minister, let me give you an example, and you will help us in many ways. The prime minister is new but what I am going to say is not what he told me. When I say those things, he may agree that those things happened. First, the prime minister will have advisers who tell him that certain things are not done in a given here.
When the prime wants to do something, they will tell him that he is wrong and blocks his way. Or because they can see that he has new ambitions they tell him to calm down. They tell him that they are more experienced than him. Minister, if they have not yet come to you, they will do it. Please, do not accept it. There are things that should be done the way we know and that is how we must do them.
They tell you that you are using theories and principles from the World Bank, and when you are weak, you agree to what they are telling you reject the principles you and join them. Let us refuse and take our things in the right direction instead of always being swallowed by people who always put obstacles and tell us not to move so they do the for us. We know that they cannot do them and they also know that they cannot do them. Let us refuse and take our things in the right direction.
Let us search for that culture and build it as quick as possible. We cannot keep repeating the same things. Can you see, what I said that leaders should leave offices and meet with citizens while other resources get lost in protocols.
Another thing is that the mayors and vice mayors I addressed before yesterday, will not avail more time to do. You are now going to visit them and hold endless meetings. Meeting them gathering them and do the protocols.
You will write in the book that you went somewhere in the that you went to a certain place. But what did you do? They also spend a long time in disorder, at t the end, nobody talks about implementing what they are supposed to be do. Because I told them to get out offices and meet with citizens. When they come, they confuse the citizens instead.
Even those who were working will not do it anymore. They will spend the whole day receiving the guest or receiving many instructions every now and then. They change what they were going to do because they were instructed to do something else that sometimes don not do what they should be doing. Sometimes, they give instructions according to their personal interests.
Another thing I discovered you might have seen already known about. Some people blame a given institution for something that is not going well while they have agreed to do things in a certain way. They tell you different things that another person from that ministry will explain.
Sometimes, one of them is right. They may be minister of finance, or the CEO of that organisation in that ministry. Which may be true. But I am saying it because they do not even talk.
Even the good they achieved, the CEO is aware of that but the minister keeps saying that they are still facing some problems and is still searching for the solution. And the organisation already finished it but there was no communication.
It shows that the minister did not talk to the director general and what we are asking him was already done. They know and explain to you very well. They show you what was achieved and you wonder what you were asking or what the minister told you. What kind of category do we put those issues? Should we say that it is due to lack of means, resources or skilled personnel?
Why should we have a problem with communication when all the resources are there? Therefore, implementation of policies will not be possible while things got locked somewhere. Lack of coordination, something that I keep reminding you every day, is a bad culture.
It is not the culture we should be building to be able to achieve our vision. When we are here searching for a solution, I wonder about what other solution we are looking for apart from culture. Without a good culture one cannot achieve anything.
When we were starting this retreat, I told you that all people have commitment and willingness. In fact, there are good things that have been achieved that means that even if those good things are there, there is no reason to reject them. Why have you chosen good things but at a low level? What explanation is there for rejecting to do good things that are in one’s capacity? What kind of culture is that?
I will use the same example as the one I used about the prime minister to young people who are present here. When someone works energetically, then others wonder where the burning fire in him is coming from and start trying to put it out.
And that becomes the objective, they want to tone you down. They even try to use water pipes to cool you off, but I am telling you to refuse. You should fight back and say no. This is what I know is good for me and it is good for my country.
I do not want people to understand respect in a bad way. Especially those small children I would like to tell, I saw the minister angrily looking at me. But the interpretation is that they looked at them angrily so that they stop to do what is right.
And they stop that for the sake of his security. No, you should refuse it. You should do what you think is right, even what you were trained to do and the way you were trained to do it.
In the end, of course, we would like to create an environment where if somebody is doing the right thing and they meet any obstacle along the way, the system should be with you to protect you. I always dream that seeing someone doing the right things and another uses their haughtiness to discourage them. I would not tolerate this.
The system is so essential that it intimidates people, even the one who does not want it or has rejected it. And people say to themselves, if I refuse to them I am not sure that things will be good in life. Can we figure out how our system is present so that those people who think we are them; why can’t we create a critical mass that says that someone normal is being followed by another person.
There should be some consequences for that person. Who prevented people from doing what they were supposed to do. Whether it is because of his or her personal interests, when they have become know, there should be consequences. The culture can gradually be eradicated.
I have a lot of things that I wanted to tell you, but let me keep them for another day.
Thank you very much.