Paul Kagame spoke at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore to a crowd of students, diplomats, and reporters. All text is my paraphrase of his remarks unless otherwise noted.
Africa has a reputation for perpetual crisis and unfavorable investment climate, but this is no longer completely correct. What changed? Africans deposed many dictators; the end of the Cold War; the end of apartheid; the spread of information technology, finance, and investment in Africa. Resulting in improved investment climate. Joel’s note: He said “investment” nine times during his remarks.
Q: What is the key to better governance? A: You need good leaders at many levels, not just at the top. [some empty verbiage] It’s a matter of choice that Africans have to make.
Q: Singapore has its own kind of “democracy”. What kind of democracy will Rwanda have? (Joel’s note: this is a very loaded question in Singapore, since Singapore’s form of democracy is not very democratic. Kagame didn’t seem to pick up this nuance.) A: … common principles of democracy, different details. People must free themselves, not just apply foreign formulas. When I’m watching TV [of the West?], I get the impression that it’s about having the most money to splash about.
Q: Did Rwanda choose Singapore as a model/advisor? A: … yes.
Q: Being Tutsi, how did you feel about reconciliation? A: … from my background of injustice and prejudice, I know how good it is to be different [from that behavior]. ….
Q: Your focus on human rights is rare for Africa. What steps are you taking to promote this in the African Union? Do you see leadership on this in Africa? A: …
Q: I commend your zero-tolerance on corruption. What institutional framework are you implementing to prevent more massacres? A: genocide is ideological, from the colonial legacy …
Q: You come close to fitting the bill of the “Big Man” trap. What are you doing to not follow that role? A: “I don’t feel close to a Big Man … I am very conscious of the fact that there is a tomorrow without me.” You have to build institutions … constitutional processes … limits …. “I will follow it to the letter. If you want, there is another time of judging coming up [when Kagame reaches his term limit]”
Q: What about the office of Vice President, which was created just for you in 1994 and dissolved after you became President in 2000? A: “yes…” It was during a transition period. I didn’t want to be in government, but they said I couldn’t leave after our struggle to get to that point, so they made me VP. The guy I recommended for president didn’t work out and problems remained, so I accepted the presidency.
Q: Will China rape our resources too? A: “This is the most important thing you have come to ask. They say the right things … the US is more worried about China in Africa than Africans are. They [the US] are worried they [China] are going to beat them at their own game.” Africa must step back and plan. “I don’t think anybody owes us anything. If they find you sleeping, they will take things and leave you sleeping. They will not wake you up.” There is no value-added industry in Africa; cotton is exported raw instead of being processed in Africa. It’s up to Africa to demand cotton processing in Africa. It’s not discrimination; we have to set the terms. China and India compete for what we have, so [having both interested] will give us a better price, “if we are not sleeping.”