Lifting COVID-19 lockdown will be a phased exercise – Kagame

adPresident Paul Kagame has said that cabinet will meet this week to analyse available information on the progress in containing COVID-19, which will inform the next course of action.

Addressing a virtual press conference that brought together members of the local and international press corps on Monday, April 27, the president said that opening up the economy from the ongoing lockdown will be a phased exercise.

The lockdown, which has been in place since March, 14, is expected to come to an end on Thursday, April 30, but the Head of State said that rushing to fully open the economy pauses a risk of undoing the gains made in the fight against the pandemic.

“It is a sort of balancing act. How much do you continue progress and not allow the virus to make a comeback and how much of a calculated risk do we take to balance normal life versus the problem we have? We will be deliberately taking it step by step,” he said.

Kagame reminded journalists that at the beginning of the outbreak, the challenges seemed to be insurmountable but the country had taken measures progressively and used resources at its disposal to keep citizens safe from the virus.

This week’s Cabinet will consider information that has been collected from different sources which will inform the decision that will be taken about the lockdown.

“The cabinet will analyse the information including the data collected by the Ministry of Health from both the rural and urban areas, specifically City of Kigali, and also analyse what is going on in the region, cross-border activity and how that feeds into the problem that we have to deal with,” he said.


Economic revival

Kagame explained that the government is mobilising resources, and identifying which sectors deserve financial support to remain afloat.

He added that whether it’s SMEs, big companies or specific institutions, each of them will be considered.

“Everything is a work in progress. We are trying to mobilise resources and we are making good progress. Some of the problems may be taking their toll and we are not yet in a position to fix them but we are making plans to do so,” he said.

Kagame said that resources, which include, borrowing from different institutions, were slowly working out.

“Where we have asked for assistance, people have given assistance and where we go to borrow or where we shall go to borrow if we decide that, I think the market has been favourable because of how we have been performing in our economy.” he said.

Rwanda has so far secured $109m from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and an extra $14m from World Bank that will be injected into mitigating the impact of COVID-19.


Dismisses DRC allegations

The President dismissed allegations that Rwanda Defence Forces were present in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He described the claims as based on rumours and lies which have been circulating for the last 26 years.

He pointed out that the issue is worsened by certain people who he said should be responsible for fixing it but instead perpetrate it even further.

He particularly pointed out experts who have been in the region for the last 26 years who he said survive on telling the same story and spreading the same myths, rumours and lies.

“I am surprised by some of these experts who do not see what is actually there but instead, see what is not. How can someone be talking about RDF in that part of the region? Because they (RDF) are not there,” he said.

He said that Rwanda’s contribution was limited to sharing intelligence information on the multitudes of armed groups, which the Congolese use to deal with the issue, and added that the area is occupied by government forces from Burundi and  countless number of rebel groups.

The rumours of RDF’s presence in DR Congo were fueled by the recent onslaught by Congolese forces against negative forces – mainly Rwandans – which have been operating in the eastern part of the vast country.

The onslaught intensified mid-last year and several commanders of different armed groups have been killed while others were captured and sent back to Rwanda together with thousands of their dependants.


AU benefits

Kagame also touched on Rwanda’s $1m contribution to the African Union COVID-19 Fund and the African Centre for Disease Control (CDC), explaining that working together as Africans has many more benefits for Rwandans.

“If CDC or AU is doing well, as Rwandans we benefit as well. There are more resources that are going to Rwandans than those that went into the two funds. There is more benefit from this collective effort than the one million we put there,” he said.


Passes on thanks

Meanwhile, President Kagame took time to thank Rwandans, leaders, health workers and everybody for their support in dealing with the pandemic.

“We have spent many days, all of us working together, to deal with this pandemic. I hope that everyone is continuing to keep safe so that we can continue with the fight,” he said.