by Ivan R. MUGISHA,
PHOTO: PRESIDENT KAGAME ADDRESSES PARTICIPANTS AT THE KENYA GOVERNORS’ SUMMIT ORGANISED BY THE NATION MEDIA GROUP IN NAIVASHA, KENYA, YESTERDAY. KAGAME URGED AFRICAN LEADERS TO DO MORE FOR THE COMMON CITIZENS THAN TO TALK. ((SOURCE: THE NEW TIMES/ VILLAGE URUGWIRO)
President Paul Kagame has said Africans and their leaders need to work hard to ensure the continent’s rightful place on the global stage.
He was speaking yesterday in Naivasha, Kenya at an event dubbed the ‘Governors’ Summit’ organised by the Nation Media Group-an occasion that gave the country’s governors an opportunity to take stock of the last eight months they have been in power under a devolved governance system.
The President said for Africans to claim their rightful place on matters that concern the continent and the world at large, they need to spend more time on actions than words.
“People speak of the African renaissance or Africa Rising – all these mean a lot and I want to believe them. But I ask myself hard questions, like why wasn’t the previous one Africa’s century? What stopped Africa from claiming its rightful place during past periods?” he posed.
The Rwandan leader added: “There are more meaningful things to be done than to be said. We need to do more; be honest with ourselves, and have the courage to face our challenges upfront.
“We have to make sure we fulfill the hope Africans have for our continent.”
Kagame hailed the East African Community (EAC), for placing the interests of its citizens right at the heart of the regional integration agenda.
But he urged regional leaders to do more.
“The overwhelming positive reaction from our citizens in this framework of cooperation is proof that we have common aspirations that transcend our individual countries. The people of East Africa want to trade together and to get opportunities that come with strengthening regional collaboration. It is up to the leaders to find ways to deliver on these expectations.”
Kagame said that leaders in the region had a duty to be accountable to individuals beyond their respective borders in order to enhance EAC integration process.
Kagame shared Rwanda’s governance and decentralisation experience following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and encouraged Kenya’s county government to place more emphasis on homegrown solutions that prioritise the wellbeing and aspirations of the people of Kenya.
He said interventions that respond to the unique situations of a country and the needs of its people deliver development visions faster.
Kagame also took questions in an interactive question-and-answer session which touched on his personal journey into top leadership positions and how Rwanda managed to forge ahead after suffering from the most brutal genocide in recorded history – the infamous 100 days of slaughter that claimed the lives of more than a million people.
“Together with the rest of East Africa, Rwanda stands with Kenya as you embark on the important work of implementing a governance framework that will deliver to your citizens,” Kagame told the governors and other participants.
Kagame added: “This new beginning should be a unique opportunity to use your own homegrown solutions to achieve and sustain the goals of your respective counties and ultimately to attain your national vision.”
The President said although each country is unique in its own way, African governments shared common aspirations and challenges, which provide an opportunity to learn from each other.
“We can adopt and adapt beneficial practices and sidestep pitfalls to guarantee the wellbeing of our people and build successful nations. To begin with, it is up to us to put in place a leadership and governance that is based on local needs and is people centered. This is the first step in fostering community prosperity, which in turn will create confident and self-reliant nations,” he explained.
Drawing from Rwanda’s home-based initiatives like Umuganda (monthly community service), the Rwandan leader urged Kenyan governors to devise cost effective schemes that involve citizens in nation building.
For example, he said, if you don’t need donors to keep a clean house then you don’t need any to keep a clean country. “In the business of government, there isn’t anything that doesn’t involve citizens. We continue to learn that sustained frank dialogue between leaders and citizens at all levels, is the only way national goals can be achieved, even with limited material resources.”
“Failure to respond to the needs of our people will inevitably result in stagnation, instability and, eventually, jeopardise sovereignty – but we have the ability to prevent such outcomes.”
Other speakers at the forum included Isaac Ruto, Governor of Bomet and Chair of the Kenya Governors’ Council, Philip Kinisu, Chairman Governance Board, PwC Africa, Linus Gitahi, Group CEO, Nation Media Group, and Prof. Olive Mugenda, Vice Chancellor, Kenyatta University.
Kenya swore in 47 elected county governors in a new government structure in March last year. The structure is provided for under the new 2010 constitution.
The county governments are expected to decentralise service provision and resource distribution and to involve citizens’ participation in government affairs.