RWANDA: East Africa: President Kagame Discusses ICC, FDLR, EAC Integration, Women Majority in Parliament and More At Press Briefing

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Central Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

President Paul Kagame said that Rwanda had already expressed a strong opinion on the International Criminal Court (ICC) at its inception ten years ago - questioning it's premise - and the years that followed proved that Rwanda had made the right decision in not signing the Rome Statute. President Kagame said this at a press briefing with editors of print and broadcast.

"Our stand [on the ICC] does not in any way relate to what is happening in Kenya. Kenya only serves as a good example of the problem of the ICC. This relates to another problem that we have discussed at the AU and is now with the UN General Assembly. It relates to Universal Jurisdiction where some lower courts or a local judge from some nations wake up and decide to indict officials of another country."

If universal jurisdiction applied fairly to everyone President Kagame said, it would mean that a judge in Rwanda or in East Africa could be entitled to indict leaders from other countries, which is not the case. "There are people who have the power to use international law to judge others but it does not apply to them. You find mostly that this is used either against people who they think do not serve their interests or to determine leaders of countries...selective justice or political justice... and it happens only in one direction... why should we accept to have a world that is like this?"

Responding to a question on whether Rwanda recruits child soldiers, President Kagame said the integrity, professionalism and discipline of the Rwanda Defence Forces is well known the world over and Rwanda does not recruit children in its ranks.

Asked about whether the quota system that requires that women be provided at least 30% in public decision making organs should be removed, President Kagame said the overwhelming majority of women in Parliament was a great achievement. "Yet, we still have to work on internalising this, on making sure it runs down to all areas. Until then, the process continues."

On the notion that Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya - called the coalition of the willing by some - may be trying to exclude Tanzania and Burundi from regional integration, President Kagame said that ideally, all five countries in the bloc should move together on issues. "The best starting point, if we can do it, is for all of us to move together... but there is another way of looking at it and say that if we wait for everyone to be at the same level, there is a danger that we might never move forward. Therefore, those who are ready should move forward on some aspects as fast as they can, as long as they keep the original objective, and help others to catch up where necessary. This will accelerate East African integration."

On recent shelling of Rwanda from the eastern DRC, President Kagame assured Rwandans that although what was happening in the eastern Congo had repercussions for Rwanda, the country has the capacity protect its citizens.

"Problems in Congo have been there for long, and focus for everyone should be on finding a solution ... Today there are efforts in the region and beyond to try and find a solution and that is what we are all involved in.."

On FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) who committed genocide in Rwanda and are now creating havoc in the DRC, President Kagame explained that the issue is not the age of combatants but the genocide ideology that drives the group. "If we were use the example of someone espousing the Nazi ideology, whether he is 20 years old, it is not a matter of age but what he is saying he believes in."

Finally, commenting on the ongoing Ndi Umunyarwanda program, President Kagame said that continued dialogue was key to reconciliation. "We must have those sometimes uncomfortable conversations with the objective to build the unifying Rwandan identity. Speaking the truth, addressing these issues can only be good."

The briefing was part of the regular briefings President Kagame has with local journalists as well as foreign correspondents working in Rwanda.