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Speaker Events - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Africa is Reforming, Rwandan President Kagame Tells IPI Audience

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at an IPI event on September 21, 2009 that "on matters of stability, peace and development, today’s Africa is unrecognizable from that of yesteryear."

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Below is coverage by Edith Lederer, UN correspondent of the Associated Press:

Rwanda and Congo Making Progress Toward Peace

Rwanda's president said Monday his country and neighboring Congo are making "very good progress" in restoring peace to war-torn central Africa.

Paul Kagame said a January offensive by forces from both countries aimed at disarming Rwandan Hutu fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo achieved a "major breakthrough" by drastically decreasing fighting and seriously weakening the command of the Hutu rebels.

But Kagame said both countries recognize "that there is still a lot of work to be done."

"We're making very good progress," he said in a speech to the International Peace Institute. "The major problems have been resolved. That's the starting point."

Central Africa's Great Lakes region has been a hotbed of political instability and fighting since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda saw more than 500,000 people, most of them from the country's Tutsi minority, slaughtered by a regime of extremists from its Hutu majority.

After Tutsi rebels led by Kagame ended the genocide, the extremist Hutus fled into neighboring eastern Congo.

Since then, Rwanda has, together with neighbor Uganda, twice invaded Congo — in 1994 and 1998. During each invasion Rwanda has said it was chasing down the Rwandan militias. The second invasion sparked a five-year, six-nation war in Congo that killed some 3 million people.

Congo, known as the DRC, cut off diplomatic relations with Rwanda over its support of a rebel movement whose mission was to hunt the Rwandan Hutu fighters in eastern Congo after the genocide.

Kagame disputed claims that Rwanda intervened in Congo to exploit the country's rich natural resources, using the hunt for perpetrators of the genocide as a pretext.

"Rwanda does not have capacity to exploit our own mineral resources," he said, so "how can we take advantage of those in the DRC?"

The United Nations established a peacekeeping force in Congo in November 1999 which Kagame said was very costly and did not achieve "corresponding results," because fighting continued and the Hutu rebels were not disarmed.

Rwanda and Congo normalized relations in 2007, and in January, both armies teamed up and conducted a successful joint offensive in volatile eastern Congo.

"The situation has now changed fundamentally because Rwanda and the DRC both now recognize that we must work together to find answers to peace for Congo," Kagame said.

"On the political and diplomatic front, we have now exchanged ambassadors with the DRC, paving the way for further efforts in the more important realms of economic growth and development including joint projects in energy, environment, trade and investment," he said.

Kagame said both countries also need to do things in their own countries to manage the remaining problems.

"How effectively they are able to manage these complex problems they have to deal with may be different than how we manage to deal with our own problems within our borders," he said. "But these collaborative efforts are very important and they ... have made a huge difference."

Kagame urged the international community to continue supporting peace efforts in eastern Congo and to tackle the root causes of the conflict.

"Genocide in Rwanda — the causes of it are not Rwandan, are not African," he said. The genocide "has its roots somewhere else."

Without naming any individuals or countries, Kagame said most people who organized the genocide were outside Rwanda's borders, yet none have been held accountable.

Some 63,000 people are suspected of taking part in the genocide.

The Rwandan leader questioned the fairness of the International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, saying it is widely seen as targeting Africans, developing countries or weak countries and not dispensing justice equitably on a global basis.

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Below is coverage by Arthur Asiimwe, from the September 22 edition of New Times, the English language Rwandan Daily:

Africa is reforming, Kagame tells experts

A new wave of reform is sweeping across Africa and the continent is keen to engage the rest of the world in doing business, President Paul Kagame told the think-tank International Peace Institute (IPI), in New York on Monday.

With drums of war falling silent across the continent, Kagame told his audience of experts in different fields that Africa is enjoying relative peace and stability - more pre-occupied with creating prosperity for its people.

“I am pleased to state that on matters of stability, peace and development, today’s Africa is unrecognizable from that of yester-year,” said Kagame.

“Like other parts of the world, present day pre-occupation in Africa revolves around creating prosperity.”

To drive home the message of change in Africa, Kagame gave an example of the recent World Bank Doing Business report which cites post-conflict nations as making ground breaking reforms on the continent.

Referring to Rwanda, which emerged the world’s top reformer, Kagame said the urge to reform was steadfast and cutting across the continent to countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone - all post-conflict countries.

While acknowledging that the continent still faces challenges, including a few conflict hotspots, the President emphasized that: “Africa is a different place today.”

“Africa’s sources of trade and investment, in the meantime, have been broadening beyond our traditional partners of North America and Western Europe – Asian countries especially China and India have become key actors.”

“More importantly, Africa’s own private sector has been gaining strength in most sectors, notably in the mobile telecommunications where several African companies have become highly profitable transnational operators.”

Whereas, the continent was increasingly seeking its own solutions to its own problems, Kagame said partnerships with the rest the world have to be based on, “mutual respect, trust, and a collaborative outlook.”

As a forward looking example on how Africa is fairing in using home-grown solutions to solve its problems, Kagame gave an example of the recent home-driven and peace-building initiatives between Rwanda and DR Congo.

He said, out of their own will, the two nations have achieved what he described as “a major breakthrough towards extending the boundaries of peace.”

The President said that though problems between these two nations have been defined with distortions in the past, Kigali and Kinshasa were now looking ahead to peaceful co-existence and embarking on joint projects in the areas of trade and investment.

“On the political and diplomatic front, we have now exchanged ambassadors with the DRC – paving the way for further efforts in the more important realms of economic growth and development – including joint projects in energy, environment, trade and investment.”

President Kagame will today join a select group of seven Heads of State to address a UN special session on climate change. He will be the only African leader to address the session, at which US President Barack Obama will give a keynote address.

Later in the day, the President is scheduled to join his colleagues from sub-Saharan in a meeting with President Obama.

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