President Paul Kagame on Wednesday repeated his warning against “neighbors” who support the country’s enemies. He did not explicitly name names.
However, although the Head of State did not name names, in the recent past, Uganda and Burundi have been named by the government as funders of Rwanda’s dissidents and armed groups based in the DR Congo.
On the first leg of his six district tours which started today morning, Kagame was in Burera district─which borders Kisoro district of Uganda.
Kagame first read from a prepared speech which largely focused on poor performance of central and local government officials. Referring to Burera, he said that it was the poor delivery of services that makes local people cross to “our neighbours” for basic services like education and healthcare.
The Head of State wondered why he keeps hearing that some communities in Rwanda, including some parts of Burera district cannot access the state run television and Radio Rwanda (both operated under Rwanda Broadcasting Agency – RBA).
When the locals want to know international news or what is happening, he said, they have no option but listen to radios from “our neighbours”.
Addressing security, the President said: “These neighbours of ours began long ago trying to cause us problems. It has happened all the time, all the time”.
He added: “This country Rwanda you see, you Rwandans, it’s our country. It’s a country we must develop [and] protect it [as well as] what we are building. We are not slaves of our neighbours…do you hear me”, Kagame asked, to the callus response from the audience with: “Yego” (YES), amid prolonged applause.
Kagame said much of what border communities cross to find in the neighbouring country is actually available within the country.
“Even the markets are available,” Kagame said, but that locals cross borders because officials are not helping them to improve livelihoods. The officials are “in towns and the capital city thinking the world rotates there,” said Kagame.
The President also said that he was informed that some people cross the border to buy bread.
He said: “I see bread in cities. Why can’t they produce enough to supply [in Burera and elsewhere in the country]. They produce so little which is unable to even satisfy towns. You see some people don’t know business. They make little to sell to the person close by. They make the products expensive. Why can’t they make the bread from here or supply here, instead of you having to cross the border”?
He continued: “As for the neighbours who want to cause us problems, ignore them. Let us solve our problems. Whenever they will understand that good neighbourliness is necessary, we will live peacefully together. For us we never disturb anyone. We live with everyone.”
“We want to live in peace with our neighbours. We want to work with them. We want to trade. But when you turn us into your garden where you do whatever you want, cultivate whatever, there is what we also want.”
After talking about neighbours and good neighbourliness, Kagame turned to dissident groups and individuals, but without naming names.
He said that security will be maintained at all costs.
He said: “We will have security either peacefully or [using] other means. We cannot plead with anyone to give us security. You have to give it to us whether you like it or not.”
“Am saying this to those amidst us or outside of Rwanda. Even those outside, we reach there. We will reach them. Those outside Rwanda trying to destabilize the country. Just give it time. Some come on their own and we solve the problem. There are others who have not brought themselves whom we will go for. Security will prevail, first of all, peacefully. Another way will be by force and we have the means…[to do so].”
As Kagame made the above statement, there was repeated applause by the intently listening thousands of locals and officials.
He went on: “All those you [hear] on radios, internet and other platforms, saying nonsense. They don’t know what they are saying. They don’t know what they are playing with. They say whatever as people who are in America, South, France – thinking you are too far. Of course you are far, not near the fire. The day they will move close to the fire, it will burn them. They should be aware that, whether it is them or those supporting them, you don’t play from here.”
“Even those who want to join or support them, inform them that they are playing with fire which will burn them. We cannot plead with anyone for security.”
“We had insecurity for a long time. We lost so much. But that time is no more. It elapsed. In this period of stability, we want stability, either peacefully or [using] other means.”
“I was reminding you [Rwandans about security] because you have a role to play. But I would also like to make a commitment that whatever will bypass you will not bypass me.”
Kagame told Burera people that it was him and his officials to blame for whatever they are supposed to be receiving but hadn’t been delivered.
He said: “Whether it is electricity, healthcare, education, infrastructure, agriculture and animal husbandry, tourism, and all those things that develop the country, we have strategies which will be implemented. You keep notifying us of the progress or even when nothing [has] reached you. We will be going back to check what went wrong such that we solve them. I will return back here soon to check if progress has been made in solving problems raised today.”
Earlier, the Mayor of Burera district Florence Uwambajemariya had outlined a series of challenges the region faces including roads.
The famous Butaro Hospital and Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence are located in the same area, as well the newly established University of Global Health Equity. It is currently hosting international students doing graduate studies in various fields of medicine.
After the speech, there was the usual interactive session in which people lined up to ask questions.
It emerged that a milk factory supposedly setup by government never actually opened because the machines procured were the wrong ones. Now the facility is idle. Kagame directed Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) to make sure all responsible are brought to book.
It also emerged that more than 400 people have not been compensated for property they lost as the new highway linking Butaro district to other regions is scheduled to be constructed. The road project is funded by India.
Infrastructure Minister Claver Gatete said that “All the affected people” had been compensated, but acknowledged that some might have been missed as evidenced by the resident who raised the issue.
From Burera, Kagame will be in next door Musanze district─the major trading center of the Northern Province. Today evening, he is also scheduled to have closed door discussions with officials from the region and opinion leaders.