Distinguished Leaders of our country;
Distinguished Guests from abroad;
Senior Officers of the RDF;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Commandant of the Senior Command and Staff College;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is my pleasure to be here today to inaugurate the RDF Command and Staff College and to officially open the first ever senior command and staff course in our country.
Previously this course was undertaken by our military outside Rwanda, and I wish to acknowledge the support we have received in the past from defence forces of friendly countries in this regard.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank those who participated in developing and accrediting this new course. I would particularly like to mention Fort Leavenworth College and the UK’s Joint Services Command and Staff College, as well as colleges from our continent with which we have developed very good working relationships.
The establishment of the first RDF Senior Command and Staff course is a significant landmark in the development of our armed forces. It shows how far we have come in less than two decades in the pursuit of our vision to have a professional, highly effective and constantly improving force our country needs and deserves.
Throughout its history, the RDF never invested primarily in numbers, armament, equipment and technology. While armament, technology and equipment have been important to the RDF, what has made a difference for us has been an emphasis on training that engenders personal and collective values of clarity of purpose, competence, integrity, a sense of identity, and ethical conduct.
These are the same values that have led the RDF’s success and have earned them respect when they go on international peace keeping missions.
We believe that training should equip our officers and the RDF in general with the tools to respond appropriately to security challenges of our time and even to anticipate problems of the future.
As you know, this College is opening in the context of a challenging regional situation. You are also aware that increasingly, there are non-traditional security threats. The nature of these threats demands our armed forces to enhance and diversify defence capabilities and develop skills that can meet these and other challenges.
But the College is also opening in the context of regional integration and increased cooperation. These provide opportunities and means through which we shall further strengthen our capacity to deal with current and future security threats.
I wish to emphasise that at this level of training, the line between military strategic analysis and planning and that of political policy formulation becomes blurred. We also know that the non-traditional security threats I was referring to are not entirely military in nature.
They encompass socio-economic and political issues. Our forces will therefore be required to go beyond the military realm. And so, the new course should be consistent with our country’s strategy of seeking lasting solutions to the challenges we face. Ultimately, the Command and Staff College graduates should be prepared to become catalysts for the transformation of our society.
To you the first intake of this College I say this: you bring to this course different experiences and you come from diverse backgrounds. You have been selected on the basis of your high standards of personal integrity and discipline. For those of you who have had opportunities to train abroad, this is your chance to marry lessons learnt from outside with our own so that you come up with appropriate and relevant solutions to emerging security issues.
You understand that training is fundamental to continuity. Some of you recall that during the liberation struggle, at times we trained and fought at the same time.
This was in acknowledgement of the intrinsic value of training in maintaining the efficiency and continuity of the Force.
Furthermore, the establishment of this College should give RDF officers an opportunity to crystallize our own doctrine and ethos. The virtues that have enabled us to overcome all forms of adversity in the past ought to be preserved and promoted through various means, including research.
Today, more than ever, this College should encourage students to carry out research and document what has been achieved so that ownership of what we do is really actualised. The fact that most students are players in their own history is a big advantage and this opportunity should not be missed.
Let me conclude by making again reference to some of the things I mentioned earlier. Building an institution like the RDF, in this contest I have been talking about, is not different from building other things, whether you are building a city of a country. There is something we want to ensure, something that must be seen as Rwandan even if other things have been feeding into it. Even with our city of Kigali, much as we have been missing some of these things and we keep encouraging people to do what needs to be done, the architecture of our city, we want a modern city, we want many things, but at the same time we want to see something Rwandan in that city. Something about us must not be lost. The country itself, as we modernize, as we transform, something about us must stay with us as Rwandans. So this college, what it stands for, forming and shaping our leaders of today and those of tomorrow, new ideas, knowledge that improve who we are but also maintains something about us.
There is who we are, we cannot be other people. We are who we are, it doesn’t matter how it gets lost on some people, we will always repeat it and there are no apologies about it. We are who we are, we will be who we are, we will learn from others, we will get support from others, we will be as good partners as we can, but we must stay who we are. Something about us cannot change. Something that came up as we struggled to transform our nation of Rwanda - through the many struggles that we have fought, it was not for nothing, it cannot be for nothing. This must always be borne in mind by those conducting this course and others, and also those who are attending.
Rwanda will continue to transform positively through many things, in many ways, even with the pressures we come under from all over the world. While this is always very challenging, I always want to see a silver lining around it. The pressures even for bad reasons that we come under, I think should harden our thinking. This should make us better fighters for our better future. And it should constantly shape our thinking, our conduct and actions thereof.
Every day we have reminders that we don’t need; reminders every month, every year, every five years - people knocking at our doors and reminding us that we are third world, we don’t need that. But when it comes, it should provoke positive energy in us, to say even if that’s how people want to look at us, we want to be different.
I alluded to some regional issues both challenges and opportunities. Some of these regional challenges will be there for some time. In fact they are not exclusively regional, they end up being international and in fact fed into and even complicated further by how international actors feed into it. This situation we are having to deal with in our neighbourhood, in the Congo, that keep coming in cycles almost of three or four years. Looking at it superficially, as the intention of some has been, it is easy to spread the blame but mostly put the blame on Rwanda’s shoulders.
This is very challenging but it’s OK as well, I think, maybe Rwandans need it, they need to work hard, work more hours by the day than anyone else, to think how they deal with issues. But this problem has not been caused by Rwanda, has not been abetted by Rwanda. On the contrary, in the last three to four years, nobody in this region, in this continent and beyond has worked as hard to see peace come to our country and peace to our neighbouring country as Rwanda.
But actually the problem came from outside. Both if you have looked at the long history or even the recent one. This recent history, this recent problem, was created by the international community, - our partners. And because they don’t listen, they are so arrogant, they don’t listen. In the end they don’t even provide the solution they just keep creating problems. They are so arrogant that they don’t listen. We know better our problems, we know better these problems of this region, we are genuine about wanting to find a solution. But they will come, run over everything, like other people don’t matter, and then when things explode, they’ll come around and blame you for it even if they are the ones who caused the problem.
From nowhere, when we have been dealing with all these problems all these years. This country DRC had elections. With all problems it had, we tried to play a very positive role with Government in Congo, and after that we were working together to deal with security challenges that have affected us for the last 18 years.
We worked with them to contribute to solving challenges they have in their own country, some of them; they are others we couldn’t be helpful about. And then some people are not happy about that I think, they come up with ideas of having people they want to arrest in the Congo for justice, for accountably, which is good if only it wasn’t selective. If you want people accountable then hold people accountable. They come to us and said ‘You know what, we want to arrest some people in Congo and we want you to be helpful to arrest people”.
We said if you want to arrest people in the Congo, international community you can do anything, you don’t need us. You want to arrest people then go ahead and arrest them, why do you even come to us? They said no, we want you to help the Government of DRC to arrest so and so, and we said oh, how this become our problem, why don’t you go and help to arrest the people you want to arrest for ICC, this is International Criminal Court, which has been so highly politicized that it has lost meaning. We said, for whatever reasons, you do not even need to explain to us, go ahead and do whatever you want to do but don’t involve us, we don’t want it, we don’t want to be involved, we don’t even understand what you are doing.
Actually the pressure turned from the country where they wanted to arrest people, it turned to us. This was before this conflict by the way; I’m only giving you the origin of it, how it doesn’t even involve Rwanda, even though at the end of it, you’ve seen all the accusations. I’m sure maybe by the end of the day, we are going to be accused of holding a meeting in Nyakinama plotting to do something in the Congo. But fortunately we are with some of their representatives here so, I think they be considered because of this.
But this kept going on and on and on, and we were saying “Look, you are messing up, things are beginning to take shape in the Congo, we are working with the Congolese Government, there are still problems, instead of you joining hands with everybody and trying to help this situation, this whole approach of yours is going to create a mess. We warned them, we advised them, we appealed to them, they just wouldn’t listen. I think they then developed an idea “If we can’t have you support this Government and support us to arrest, then we will put you together with those we want to arrest”. That’s really how it turned up to be. I am not dramatizing anything here; I am just telling you the real story.
We even tried to be helpful; I was the first person, when we learned what was going on and how it was being messed up, I called the President of the Congo. I picked up a phone and called him, I said “You know what, there is something coming up that I don’t understand, are you aware of it? Are you behind it with these others I hear about? Aren’t you creating problems for yourself? He said “Yes, they have come to me, they have told me this, but my approach is different, I want to arrest this fellow for his indiscipline but I am not handing him over to the ICC.”
This is a conversation we had and I am just revealing secrets. I told him “I hope you will be able to contain the problem” and gave him the details of what we had from our intelligence. Then he asked what I thought we should do, and I suggested we have our people meet to find a way of managing the problem. We had a meeting in Rubavu and the officials from the two countries spent day and night discussing this issue and in fact they were agreeing with officials in DRC about the problems that were to be addressed in order to avoid any problems. They even invited the so called rebels to be part of the meeting, at the request of the DRC Government. One of them is the fellow who is leading this rebellion. They came, explained their grievances and the DRC officials were taking notes and agreed that indeed they were aware of the grievances and that they would address them. But when they went back, they did the opposite and we heard the fighting was going on, because they went ahead and wanted to arrest some people, the same people they were discussing with and the whole thing was spinning out of control.
Again I called the leader of Congo and talked to him. When things continued getting out of control, the only thing that came out was UN, the whole world, every country that you know, these powerful countries, was that Rwanda was helping the rebels. Helping them with what? And for what reason? They were became vague and started talking about supplies, what supplies? Guns? These people are picking guns from their own armouries. The arms and ammunitions they are from their own country. We are not supplying even one bullet, we have not. And if we had done so, I would be here telling you that we have, because we would have done so for a reason.
We have not had a reason to have this conflict going, on the contrary we have been trying to prevent it and we advised both the Congolese Government and the International Community that never listens. We advised them.
Anyway, for the reason that they are able to put the mess they have caused on other people’s shoulders is why they don’t listen. They don’t listen the way they never listened when genocide was taking place here in Rwanda. In fact, this ICTR they put in place to try people on genocide should have tried some member of the international community.
They never listen even when they see facts, even when they see things happening because they have the power to blame the mess on someone else. They have the power to screw up and then blame it on someone else. This is what goes on every year, every decade. They have screwed up in this case of the Congo and they bring it and put it on our shoulders.
Well you are aware, I think somebody alluded to it, I was seeing some two hundred thousand dollars, some military aid withheld because RDF is helping, or is associated with rebels. Come on, this is not serious, honestly. And it’s not even the money, it’s the name you are giving to the RDF and this country that it does not deserve, and has no basis. It’s not this money, what is two hundred? It’s nothing. But it’s just that responsibility.
And then you have these organisations running around, nobody knows who they are, nobody knows what they do, nobody knows where they are accountable. They say some experts on the ground have said this. Jesus! If the world has these kinds of experts, on whose account of their report, people are going to be blamed and penalised and abused, then, this College needs, if you cannot avoid it, then you need to learn how to constantly challenge it. Because, and I want to end on this note, knowledge is very important, but it is only meaningful if you are able to put it to good use. It is not enough to learn things, it is not enough to be knowledgeable, if you are not going to use it for the transformation that our institutions, our people and country need. So remember, this college and the knowledge that will be associated, will only be meaningful and important if the product becomes part and parcel of our transformation, the transformation of the people of Rwanda.
Thank you very much