Q&A: Rwandan President Paul Kagame

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Dominic Nahr / Magnum for TIME

President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame arrives in Uganda to take part in the a Great Lakes summit in Entebbe, Uganda, Aug. 15, 2012.

[INTERVIEW RESUMES AT KAGAME’S HOME]

TIME: We were talking yesterday about the storm of accusations that Rwanda has faced…

Kagame: Is this how you are going to run the world?

TIME: … and you have a summit on Tuesday and Wednesday in Kampala at which African leaders, the Great Lakes’ leaders, are going to discuss an African force to intervene in Congo and try to achieve peace where the U.N. has failed. Do you think you can succeed in Kampala?

Kagame: I am trying to figure out, with all this noise, where are we now? Is Congo any better off? Is anybody better off? Are we in a better situation than yesterday? All this misrepresentation… Are we any closer to dealing with the problem, any closer to a solution? Maybe we are actually worse off. Not Congo, not us, not the donors, not the internationals who make so much noise. I do not see anybody who benefits from this. Nobody.

And the problem of Rwanda, which for many years has been one of security, these murderers who live in Congo, this problem never features. We should not just be used to find solutions for other people’s problems when ours has been forgotten. So I am really taking a back seat in this. Rwanda is not going to be unhelpful. But we are not going to be forced to take the lead. If anybody though that accusations which falsely blackmail us was going to make us more useful, they got it wrong.

The idea of a regional force came up in Addis Ababa [at a previous International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in July] but then it’s a regional force to do what? Congo thinks it’s meant to help those opposed to them. Congo thinks the world owes them a solution, that someone will just come and provide a solution. They think it’s meant to monitor allegations of Rwandan support to the M23. And while that has never been the case, one would want to know why such a force would not be also monitoring support by the government for these genocidaires.

But in the end, this is just diversionary. A solution at the end of the day is political, not military. If the government of Congo is not going to do things to bring about a solution, and bring about some understanding, to what are very serious and legitimate grievances… I do not think you can shoot your way to a solution. They’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked. You have a whole army of tens of thousands collapsing because of a few hundred rebels. That tells the story.

My relationship with President Kabila has been gradually eroded by things that have happened in the last few weeks. Kabila is used to playing games and the international community entertains that and plays games with him. They tell you one thing and mean something else. We have been talking and trying to find a solution. At the same time, he was sending emissaries all over the world to abuse us. He says we can be part of the solution and at the same time he is making very serious allegations against us. The relationship has been affected.

TIME: How has the recent storm of controversy around you affected your family?

Kagame: We try to keep them out of it as much as we can. They don’t need to be part of it. They’re better off leaving the burden to us.

TIME: You’re a very close family.

Kagame: Sure. That’s what we want. We like it. It works very well for us. We are closer than even you have been able to see.

TIME: You met Jeanette in 1988. Is it her, and your family, from which you draw so much of your sense of purpose?

Kagame: I really find a lot of strength [from them]. My moments with my wife and my children have the highest value of any moment for me. I take some relaxation from it. It takes away any bad days I have had. It’s very refreshing. I can start all over again. It’s been that way right from the time we built our family, and it gets better every day. We go out together in town to restaurants, to meet friends. I try as much as possible to give them a normal life.

TIME: Are you working 24/7?

Kagame: It comes close to that. Either working or thinking. [But] it turns out to be some kind of fun, also. It’s like you cannot do otherwise so you try to enjoy it, try to find some life in dealing with complex issues. It just becomes a way of life. People look to you got a way out of this mess. And you enjoy that responsibility in the end. At certain times you do.

That’s what I am required by Rwandans to do for them. The good thing is Rwandans are very, very responsive to the needs of a situation. They play their part, I play mine and that’s how we manage to make good progress even under such pressure. In the outside world, a number of times I have met people who say: “The whole world has descended on Rwanda! The country is being torn apart!” And they find people here are still in one piece and they get surprised.

TIME: There are few greater contrasts in the world than crossing the border from Rwanda into Congo. In one, street lighting, smooth roads, law and order, development; walk a few feet and it’s unpaved and potholed, there’s rebels waving AK-47s around, there’s refugees, there’s no power and terrible poverty.

Kagame: And that contrast is taken is a negative. We are held responsible for this difference. No. Compare us with ourselves. Look at our history and see where we are now. That’s a better comparison than comparing us with Congo. The two are different and have different histories. For us, we are doing it for ourselves, not as compared with Congo or anybody else.

It should be the same in Congo. If you look at the size of wealth of Congo, the question is why should it be like that? Why does Congo look like that? It shouldn’t. [Comparing us] becomes the false basis for making a judgment against us. Some people try to explain the difference by saying Rwanda must be exploiting the wealth of Congo. Do they think that’s what lights our streets and puts up all these buildings in our city and builds our roads? That’s a very shallow way of thinking.

Maybe people who raise these issues should be asking themselves a simple question: why does Congo, that has this wealth, not thrive on it?

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27 comments
Deo Koya Ntarugera
Deo Koya Ntarugera

When hell was let loose on Rwanda a couple of decades ago degenerating in what was termed a major genocide of the 20th century,  the UN and the international community stood by idly aiding and abetting a national government that had become utterly morally/politically bankrupt and irresponsible. Paul Kagame was then a young man in his mid thirties commanding a rebellion battling to stop a genocide unleashed by a government gone mad and an irresponsible UN amp; international community. A repeat of same has been happening in D R Congo where the national government has over the years been referring to their Tutsi folks as dirty vermin to be cleansed. The world has seen defenseless Congolese Tutsi men, women and children massively killed and on occasions burned alive in great numbers in Congo! These glaringly genocidal acts are still unfolding today, and the UN mission, so massively present in Congo, has never filed a report of a genocide in the making.  Apparently, in this world gone berserk and lawless, the Congolese M23 rebellion alone must shoulder the responsibility to stop genocide in Congo just  as the Rwandan RPF rebellion assumed responsibility to put a stop to genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

Rwamugabo Frank
Rwamugabo Frank

Your Excellency, we are all indebted to you.

Very smart on body and in mind indeed.  I reckon Rwanda is a threat to all doom sayers and genocidaires. If it means tightening our boot straps to confront this world order of injustice, we are more than ready.

Mr. President, keep up the fight after all 11m plus people are the most beneficiaries and of course neighbors that benefit indirectly.

We will support you come what may, shine or rain.

Long live PK, Long live Rwanda and long live Rwandans.

Rwamugabo Frank
Rwamugabo Frank

Big up your Excellency.

I wish other African leaders could pick a leaf from him.

Let's just not lend our all ears to this hullabaloo that is raising dust and wants to push it to our door step

Rwanda will endure in peace because we came to know how international Community works.

Congo should take a bull by its horns otherwise, its reaches will be feasted on by those claiming to be their mouthpiece.

Long live our PK, long live Rwanda and long live Rwandans.

Long Meingfah
Long Meingfah

Keep flagging it and I will keep posting it... what is it? No room for intelligent discussion and argument?.... oh dear it feels just like we're in Rwanda... no freedom of expression...

Once again:

Alex Perry's Qamp;A reads like a press release from Kagame's well-oiled PR machine (Racepoint or BTP advisers couldn't have done better)... Kagame is never really challenged on anything attributed to him... and when an attempt is made to challenge him, it is a suspiciously superficial line of questioning... what a joke.

Mr. Perry as the icing on the cake you should've dedicated your piece to the following Journalists who have either been killed or disappeared in Kagame's Army State:

 Journalist Manasse Mugabo, journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage, Reporter Dominique Makeli (who survived abduction in Kampala), Charles Ingabire (editor of Rwanda’s Inyenyeri news gunned down in Uganda), and Idriss Gasana Byiringiro (who was arrested probably these past few days while you were pampering or being pampered by Mr. Kagame.

Now you Kagame goosn go ahead and flag it, suppress it, just like it's done back home.  Show Time's audience how tolerant of dissident voices you really are.

Zaberra
Zaberra

If only there was more open-minded coverage of this kind in the media, the DRC would have far less pages to hide behind the fact that it refuses to take responsibility for its many failures. Not only that, but that it instigates the very conflicts that have cost far too many innocent lives.

How do you explain that a "sovereign" country endowed with such phenomenal natural resources fails to achieve any kind upwards trajectory in their development? Could it really be that a tiny neighboring country is sucking its lifeblood, ALL of it??Or could it just be that corrupt officials will never have to answer to their people, as long as the international community continuously provides a cover for the insane amount of illegitimate business deals taking place in Congolese government offices? 

How else could so many foreign investors be active and thrive in a war-torn country?

I wish the voices of those who suffer most from the ongoing senseless conflict could ask the tough questions in a very public way...

karamaga
karamaga

I find the interview complete rubbish. He is attacking, lamenting, incoherent, repetitive and incoherent. That is his real level. Rwandans are really unfortunate!!

karamaga
karamaga

I'm really disappointed with  President of Rwanda. It is so embarrassing when you read this interview and see how he responded to the questions, it is like primary school teacher who did not train properly. No wander Rwandans are suffering  under his rule . Rwandans deserve  better !!!! I find the interview complete rubbish. He is attacking, incoherent. That is shows his level.

Long Meingfah
Long Meingfah

Alex Perry's Qamp;A reads like a press release from Kagame's well-oiled PR machine... Kagame is never really challenged on anything attributed to him... and when an attempt is made to challenge him, it is a suspiciously superficial line of questioning... what a joke.

Long Meingfah
Long Meingfah

Alex Perry's Qamp;A reads like a press release from Kagame's well-oiled PR machine... Kagame is never really challenged on anything attributed to him... and when an attempt is made to challenge him, it is a suspiciously superficial line of questioning... what a joke.

Long Meingfah
Long Meingfah

Alex Perry's Qamp;A reads like a press release from Kagame's well-oiled PR machine... Kagame is never really challenged on anything attributed to him... and when an attempt is made to challenge him, it is a suspiciously superficial line of questioning... what a joke.

yasmine malika
yasmine malika

Truly refreshing interview that redefines the argument on

Africa’s place in the world and shows the kind of resistance experienced by

Africans who decide to do things differently from hypocritical international

systems that are themselves lost. President Kagame is right – no one has the

monopoly on solutions for Africa’s problems, least of all organisations like

Human Rights Watch or the UN which has failed spectacularly in the DRC with

MONUSCO, after messing up with tragic results in Rwanda in 1994. No one should dare undermine current regional efforts to find a solution for a regional problem that has lingered way too long.

Nkunda Rwanda
Nkunda Rwanda

Sounds like a crazy dictator on the loose. After reading this interview, I am convinced of one thing. Human rights in Rwanda (and the region) will only deteriorate. This man has no basic decency to admit his mistakes--and there are very many. His bloated ego, saintly pontification will continue to work as a stumbling block to peace amp; reconciliation. There is need for humility, I think.

And, as for military liberators turning into dictators and right's abusers, there are way too many accounts. Every human being given absolute power has the capacity to do evil. Ironically, he does not see any problem in a fascist arrangement. The former rebel army controls the state, the businesses... and this is, according to him, how the West functions. What a deluded leader!

Sekomo Jean-luc
Sekomo Jean-luc

 be serious man,where are u to help yr people?i can imagine hidding in europe doing what?garuka iwanyu and stop blaming other people because of yr failure

rurangwa janvier
rurangwa janvier

hate him or love him,we all agree Rwanda is better off  than any Rwanda before him

facts are there:

-less corrupt

-women power

-health for rwanda citizens

-educations

-infastructures

but all of these for me are less than self respect,determination that president Kagame has taught rwandese all over the world,AGACIRO my fellows africans means the reason you have been blessed with conscious,minds to decide what is best for you with whatever you have.enough of lectures from washington,Paris,london.Dignity

Long Meingfah
Long Meingfah

No we don't all agree... - and no... Rwanda is not less corrupt.  Police, Government officials, and the such are easly bribed like everywhere else... Corruptions is just as pervasive as elsewhere is just that those who are corrupt know how to hide from the outsiders.

- Women in numbers but with no voice.  It's a PR and Photo Op... just that.  Just look at Victoire Ingabire (as well as the women journalists who have been harassed and arrested) and one will realize how a woman with potential power will be treated in Kagame's Rwanda.

- Health, Education and Infrastructure works for those with money to pay for it... if you don't have money these services are substandards like everywhere else, unless of course is for PR or Photo Op purposes.

AGACIRO is just starting... whereas I doubt anyone will challenge Kagame on how the money will be used, I have a pretty good idea who, in the end, will benefit from such entreprise.

Joseph Karangwa
Joseph Karangwa

U buze icyo atuka inka aravuga ngo dore urucebe rwayo! Ntagitangaza kuba Long saying that because I think u're just wrong no clear research u've done! and then even Jesus turned back to heaven without convincing Abafarizayi! kuko he wasn't there to convince them but doing the will of his Father! then even our his lovely EXCELLENCY is not there to convince the enemies of RWANDA but doing his best for rwandes!

God bless Rwanda  and God bless all of u enemies of rwanda may u know in ur hear that u're in the wrong side!

blessings to U my EXCELLENCY! Pray 4r u all d time!   

yasmine malika
yasmine malika

Very telling that the one woman Long Meingfah mentions here is terrorism suspect Victoire Ingabire - why don't you tell us about her side-kick Joseph Ntwangundi, a self confessed genocider killer who murdered students at his school. Or Ingabire's mother, famous in Butamwa for killing pregnant women at the health centre where she worked during the genocide. We understand your angst - your are concerned about your illustrious friends.

Gahangwa Papicooler
Gahangwa Papicooler

 your brains are so short to make any sense !!! u shouldn't post anything in the first place ! yr name is opposite of  your thought !!

G
G

Well i don't know what you read and where you go it from but one things for sure that he metnioned was people with a mindset like yours... and I understand because what you want to think of Rwanda the region and the President himself is what you are talking about... Talking about Humulity I think that should Apply to you too how you use your words and and how you present your views. I wonder what Nkunda Rwanda means but from my point of view your name should never have anything to do with Rwanda becuase just like you said if given power you destroy the entire region.

Imenagitero
Imenagitero

Congratulations to TIME and Mr Perry! I wonder why other western media fail to make such an effort to get the other side of the story and feed us with a cocktail of lies about Congo- Rwanda.

I think Africa needs Presidents like Mr Kagame who works for their population (I just read that the children mortality in that country has been reduced drastically while the DR Congo takes the last place in the world in the matter). Keep up the good work Mr President, for sure, you'll get out of this mess strengthened! 

JJ Okonda
JJ Okonda

You can only congratulate the Time because he fails to ask some logical questions. you only have to come from Mars to ignore the implication of Rwandan government in Congo's soil. The government of Kagame is beneficiary of the war the in the Democratic Republic of Congo to boost his economy.  

"The Rwandan Government has constantly denied that Congolese resources are being plundered, but a letter from the National Bank of Rwanda sent to the author shows that Rwanda last year exported seven times more coltan than it produced. The same is true for diamonds and gold, and the author estimates that Rwandan forces last year earned at least US$ ¼ billion from the exploitation of Congolese minerals." This is the fact not the assertion!

Kagame is happy to see Congo in trouble for his self gain, but I assure you things are going to turn around for the people of Congo.  I wonder why Kagame is so supportive of M23.  Further more, you are talking about of Genocide in Rwanda but what about the 8,000,000 of people killed in the Eastern of Congo?  Kagame is in a hot sit, soon or later is going to pay it all.

Check the new link: http://www.reuters.com/article...

PHMUTMAN
PHMUTMAN

 Mr Okonda, Rwanda is not pillaging DR Congo. It is Kagame, and his clique who are pillaging nad perpatrating attrocities tantamount to covert genocide in Congo, as well as in Rwanda. The only people who are benefiting from that shame are  Tutsis mainly from Uganda and backers of Kagame's ethnocentric dictatorial regime. Even Tusi survivor of genocide are being impoverished, without saying horrible poverty hutus are surviving in due to ethnic impovershment policy of Kagame and RPF.

To Imenagitero, Rwanda is not experiencing any economic growth. If you are familiar with Rwanda poverty is raging. rwanda is under voodoo economic growth and reports are only sexed up. if Rwanda is economically growing, why Kagame refused to WB in 2010 to conduct independent investigation?

 Umukobwa
Umukobwa

this article really is a pleasant surprise - it is extremely rare to see a mainstream publication like TIME give an African leader space to express his views and share information that hasnt been confused or shaped by ppl with interests that arent very clear but certainly dont favour the ones being discussed. i have gotten alot from the perspectives shared in this inteview - a job well done i think, would like to see more of this!

but one thing - why the title "The Iron Man" in the print edition? i see nothing in the interview that justifies this headline???