I’m optimistic, Africa can stand on its own

Saturday May 5 2018

Rwandan President Paul Kagame during a panel

Rwandan President Paul Kagame during a panel discussion at the Ibrahim Governance Weekend in Kigali on April 28, 2018. PHOTO | RWANDA PRESIDENCY 

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Rwanda’s president spoke to the telecoms tycoon and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim on issues affecting Africa, during the Ibrahim Governance Weekend.


Let’s start with the African Union. What exactly are you going to reform, Mr President?

To begin with, we have to change how we do things to be more efficient and take pride in ourselves. We also need to put in place institutional reforms. Then we must review our financing model.

Financing is critical; we need resources to do things. But we must also review the source of these funds.

If somebody else is financing our programmes, there are problems associated with that, such as payback. You will be trying to do what is good for yourself but you will also have to do something else for the financier which may not augur well with you.

Each country is supposed to levy 0.2 per cent tax on certain imports to fund the African Union. How many countries are doing so?

So far we have close to 25 countries applying it, while others have said they will do so.

But more importantly, the 0.2 per cent of eligible imports was arrived at following consultations that found it was possible to fund out activities if countries remitted the amount. Our team has sensitised countries on how it works and helped to quel their fears.

You recently hosted the African Continental Free Trade Area summit. Does it apply to all items? How far do you intend to go with free trade?

We intend to have a completely free trade area across the continent and in fact it is part of the reform process — reforming our mentality, activities etc. The fact that countries responded positively is a big achievement. 

Forty four 44 countries signed up at the Summit and some have already ratified or are in the process of ratifying. By July when we go to Mauritania for the African Union summit, we hope the number will have risen.

We (Africans) have a habit of signing things but never acting on them. Are you optimistic that those who signed up will execute the agreement?

I’m very optimistic; signing is the first step; the next is implementation and already, a good number of countries are showing commitment to do so.

Can the African Court replace the ICC?

The ICC was supposed to cover the whole world; it ended up covering Africa. We had a meeting in Sweden where we decided creating an African court would help us identify which cases have merit to be tried before passing them to the ICC.

The one thing I was concerned about the African Court is that it’s mandate is for serious crimes but it lacks the jurisdiction to try presidents or vice presidents or ministers. So what is its function? Who commits genocide other than presidents?

I agree with you but the functioning of the courts can be improved. What is the point of having a court which could end up being selective about which cases to try or one that will exonerate certain cases because of the powers behind them?

On the Congo crisis, we have a president whose term ended but he postponed elections. Is there a need for intervention?

From the African Union perspective, there have been efforts to bring the different Congolese groups together, to agree on how to move forward. They have secured some form of agreement. Now the problem is whether this agreement will stand.

The African Union wants to pursue dialogue and if the DRC leaders need the support of neighbours or the international community, this has already been engaged through the United Nations which has a presence there.

Congo’s problems are not just Congo’s problems; they affect us as well as neighbours.

— Transcribed by Berna Namata