Reconciliation was a pre-condition of Rwanda’s recovery, says Kagame

Reconciliation was a pre-condition of Rwanda’s recovery, says Kagame

President Paul Kagame has said that reconciliation and forgiveness were among the key necessities as Rwanda embarked on a reconstruction journey, following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Kagame was speaking during a panel discussion at the Nantucket Project, an annual conference held in Massachusetts, US, that brings together leaders from business, politics, arts, and academia.

Reconciliation and forgiveness were among the key necessities in post-Genocide transformation of Rwanda. File.

The President was joined on the panel by Jim Sinegal, the founder and former chief executive of Costco, and Bob Diamond, the chief executive of Atlas Merchant Capital.

The conference this year was held under the theme, “Understanding Understanding,” with emphasis on forgiveness.

Kagame said that following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, fostering national unity and reconciliation was a necessity given the extent of the effects of the tragedy on Rwandans.

“Forgiving and rebuilding were a necessity, we were a country that lost everything. We had to find a way to reconcile,” he said.

This, the President said, involved self-evaluation among Rwandans to understand what went wrong and what could be done to turn the tide.

“We looked each other in the eyes and asked; how do we reconcile and start building? So we had to make a choice. This was the thinking; Forgiving is a process as well as a choice and we had to do the very thing required to start rebuilding. It was also about having a conversation with each other on what went wrong and why and how can we turn the tide,” the Head of State explained.

Homegrown approach

The unity and reconciliation process also involved a realisation that solutions were not going to come from outside and ought to be homegrown.

“We also realised it was not going to come from outside, it was going to start from the inside, with ourselves,” he added.

Rwanda’s reconciliation process is largely characterised by homegrown solutions, most of them considered unconventional and never tried elsewhere before.

Among the solutions include Gacaca semi-traditional courts that were reintroduced and ultimately dealt with nearly two million cases of the Genocide against the Tutsi, and Umuganda (voluntary community work) to encourage social cohesion, among others.

Speaking at the session, moderated by Bob Diamond, Kagame also cited the significance of human capital in creating a business friendly environment.

He said that human resource continues to be the country’s biggest asset.

“Our people have to have the capacity, skills and knowledge to be useful to themselves and the country. It is a combination of this investment in human capital that we now have to combine with the business environment,” he said.

Other than investing in the citizens, the country has also made efforts to make a name for itself with a sound business environment that addresses investors’ needs.

“As a government we had to create an environment that easily allowed for us to understand the needs of investors. Anyone who comes to Rwanda wants security for themselves and their investment. We had to ensure such an environment,” President Kagame added.

He also explained the government’s reasons for investing in technology saying it has improved service provision and linked the country to the rest of the region.

With about 4,000 kilometres of optic fibre cable rolled out across the country, public amenities such as hospitals as well as businesses across the country have had access to reliable internet, consequently improving service delivery.

Kagame is in the US to, among other things, attend the United Nations General Assembly underway in New York.