President Paul Kagame says that his government team had to break traditional rules in order to drag his country out of a deep ditch after the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
According to President Kagame, he faced complex challenges after inheriting the country in the broken state it was.
“We were unconventional. We defied what the rules are known to be. For example when it comes to justice, we were able to say no, we don’t have to wait for the normal traditional ways of justice,” Kagame said on Friday.
The President was delivering his remarks at the Vivatech – a gathering of the world’s brightest minds, talents, and products taking place in Paris, France.
He said 25 years ago the Rwanda Patriotic Front and its army (RPF/A) he led and captured power, they were looking for where to start from but it was very difficult.
“It’s not just pacifying the country and reconciling society and seeing justice done and you stop. We started by bringing people back together. It’s reconciliation, it’s security for people, it’s justice.”
One of the biggest challenges for the new government was how to take a million people through a court process? How many courts do you need? How many years would that be to see justice done?
Kagame says that they had to look through some of the traditional ways of handling such issues and for example Gacaca was a good answer to the justice challenge.
“These [gacaca] are traditional people in rural areas, sitting, choosing their leaders, and hearing grievances, and deciding how they should be resolved,” Kagame told a massive audience.
Gacaca was so efficient that only in 12 years over a million cases had been cleared and government had just spent $37 Million for the entire process while the international system, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, tried effectively 62 cases and spent over 2 Billion dollars.
“That tells you the story,” Kagame said proving to the audience how the Rwandan traditional choice was a much better option.
Kagame says his government was also moving from one level to another to fix challenges in; education, health, justice, agriculture, infrastructure … “we were also thinking about the use of technology and digitalisation of our economy for the future.”
The President further explained that they chose ICT ingredient as one of the ways to fix challenges but faced tough criticism.
“Some people used to ask us and say you Rwandans must be crazy, how are you talking about digitizing, ICT when the country is torn apart, education is not working, health has to be built,” Kagame shared the constraints he faced from critics that didn’t buy into his unconventional means.
“We told them from the start that we don’t see any conflict. The whole process of digitalisation was going to make every sector we had to deal with more efficient, more productive.”
According to Kagame Rwanda has come from far and has been breaking the traditional rules but excellently fixing one challenge after the other and this has earned his country enormous recognition and is inspiring many others.
“We created the Smart African Alliance that brings together countries that have a population of about 600 million people on our continent,” says Kagame.
Kagame has thus been invited by Maurice Levy of Publicis Groupe to share with delegates at Vivatech event Africa’s progress in digital economy.