Efforts of regional integration are suffering setbacks because leaders in the region are involved in bad mouthing, beating war drums, and continuously engaging in arguments about petty and trivial matters.
While presiding over the opening of the 16th National Dialogue (Umushyikirano), President Paul Kagame said the region is experiencing bad brotherly practices from some East African Community Member States.
He said Rwanda has tried to play a role in attaining good cooperation in the region, “because we have many common interests in regional integration than what separates us…,” he said adding that, “but the problem is not that its not understood, but the problem is in the implementation.”
Kagame said some neighbours have become unsafe for Rwandans and insisted that neighbours must stop destabilising others.
Without mentioning any countries Kagame inferred to countries where some Rwandans have reported harassment, kidnapping and providing free pass to enemies of the state to conduct subversive activities against Rwanda:
“You can not allow activities that destabilise others from your soil. That is not regional integration, that is not good relation,” he said.
“You cannot talk about inter-trade, good relations, and then turn around to target Rwandans. This is not good, yet those who do it are the ones who are preaching regional integration.”
“Regional integration also goes along with safety of people and goods. You cannot invite people to trade with you when people are [illegally] arrested and imprisoned or abducted and no one gets to know where they disappeared to,” he said.
Kagame promised to keep engaging neighbours for better implementation.
“We are going to continue engaging…we [all] have to say the same thing and do the same thing…regional integration is give and take, it can’t just be for you to take and you don’t give anything.”
He called upon Rwandans to focus on their problems first. “Before we ask others to have good relations with us, let us first have good relations ourselves,” he said.
Earlier this week, the President warned those with intentions to provoke or destabilise Rwanda that the country is ready to defend itself.
He said those who are planning to provoke Rwanda will be dealt with accordingly.
“You have heard people wish us bad…the day one makes a mistake and attack us, they will not return home,” the Commander-in-Chief said. “We will keep them here, dead or alive. That is how it will happen.”
Kagame then said, however, that Rwanda is not going to provoke anyone, “and our army does not exist to provoke anyone….even those who insult us, or provoke us…we ignore them until they cross the line.”
“I presume, if it the provocation finds us home, we will not ignore. That is our doctrine…” he said.
He was speaking, on Tuesday, at a just concluded Combined Arms Field Training Exercise at Gabiro,codenamed “EXERCISE HARD PUNCH III/2018”.
Rwanda has been actively involved in different international activities throughout the year. This was mainly because the country wants to participate in roles that serve the country’s interests and the interests of its allies.
“When we get a chance to take up a responsibility, we do whatever it takes to fulfill it so that everyone, including Rwanda, can achieve their interests,” Kagame told about 3000 participants at the ongoing Umushyikirano. “And results are there,” he said.
Kagame was referring to Rwanda being chair of AU, AU Reform Commission and many other roles. Under his tenure, there has been the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), free movement of people, self-reliance, security, opening up air space, and many others.
He reminded Rwandans of the three main ingredients that should guide the country’s ambitions and aspirations.
Unity: “Let’s look for unity first,” he said.
Accountability: “You have to be accountable because if you are not accountable, its is going to affect others.”
Thinking big: “You have to think beyond small things or beyond oneself. Think about others, think about the country and think about where we are heading to.”
He said the discussions in the national dialogue should be guided by the three elements.
“Once we fix ourselves, we will be able to ask others to play their role,” he said. “We will have a strong argument in a conversation.”
The event is attended by Rwandans in the country and those from the diaspora plus friends of Rwanda in the country and from abroad.
This includes members of the Cabinet and Parliament, representatives of the Rwandan community abroad, local government, Civil Society Organisations, and the diplomatic community.
Umushyikirano is a unique Rwandan institution that is about bringing citizens together to review the State of the Nation over the past year, and exchange ideas about the way forward.
Moments at Umushyiukirano
Photos/courtesy of Urugwiro
Full Speech in Kinyarwanda