You will not distract us, Rwanda President Kagame tells ‘external forces’

Saturday July 06 2024

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party attends the first campaign rally ahead of the July Presidential vote at Busogo, Musanze District, Rwanda on June 22, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS


President Paul Kagame said external forces will not distract Rwanda from its trajectory of achieving lasting peace and development.

Taking time off his campaign schedule for the July 15 elections to address the nation as it celebrated its 30th liberation anniversary, President Kagame said despite the tumultuous past, “Rwandans today are better and stronger than we have ever been.”

“We express our thanks to those who liberated Rwanda, and remember those who gave their lives,” he told a crowd of 45,000 in the Amahoro Stadium.

Perhaps nothing tells Rwanda’s story of the last 30 years like the Amahoro Stadium. At the height of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, thousands of people sought refuge in it. The stadium became a target of the genocidal forces, who shelled it from elevated positions.

The Tutsis in the stadium were only saved by the Rwanda Patriotic Army soldiers who, after learning of the situation, evacuated them to safety in Byumba.

Read: Kagame accuses West of double standards on democracy


Now, 30 years later, like Rwanda, the stadium has risen from the ashes. Renovation works by Turkish contractor Summa, which started in 2022, are complete, transforming the once dilapidated stadium into an ultramodern sporting facility.

The stadium was inaugurated on July 1 by President Kagame and the Confederation of African Football President Patrice Motsepe in a colourful ceremony.

The stadium now boasts a seating capacity of 45,000, up from the initial 25,000 seats.

Doubling down on the external detractors, who have become a mainstay in his recent speeches, President Kagame said efforts by outsiders who do not understand Rwandans, and try to spoil what has been built, will not yield anything.

“Some of them even try to spoil what we are building.... They are just words on the internet, or statements from different high offices, with no power over us at all,” he said.

“Liberation cannot be imposed on people. It is unlocked by a free choice, that each citizen makes at heart.”

Alluding to Rwanda’s place in the region’s geopolitical and security landscape, Mr Kagame said: “Rwanda seeks peace, for ourselves and for everyone in our region. We know the value of peace... maybe even more. Where there is a need for humanitarian action, Rwanda will not be absent. But the only answer to any humanitarian crisis is to fix the root cause of the political problem.”

Read: At least 9.5m people to vote in Rwanda elections

Rwanda’s neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the USA, and United Nations have accused the country of backing the M23 rebels bent on ousting the government in Kinshasa, something Rwanda has always denied.

Rwandans will go to the polls on July 15, in an election President Kagame is widely expected to win by a landslide, to continue his feat of winning by over 90 percent of the vote.

Some two million Rwandans, born in the past 30 years, will vote for the first time, and are excited to participate in this civic duty.

Kagame, who is often accused of suppressing dissent, and clamping down on free speech, told Rwandans born over the past 30 years: “This country is yours to protect, defend, and make prosperous. It is worth repeating that real liberation only begins when the guns fall silent. We began that stage 30 years ago, and we are counting on you, the liberation generation, to take us farther. Rwanda’s struggle today has a bigger scope than just surviving. It is about living well, with success.”