Kagame on June 30th, 2013: Youth and intellectual kwashiorkor

Paul Kagame addressing the Youth Connekt dialogue on 30/06/2013

Paul Kagame addressing the Youth Connekt dialogue on 30/06/2013

This is the first time I attempt translating a speech of the Rwandan president Paul Kagame. Many know about his dictatorial regime and atrocities he is responsible of in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo particularly. When he speaks to foreigners he addresses them differently from the way he talks to Rwandans. He is not a great speaker. He always speaks his mind and many times forgetting that he is president of a country, lacking in the use of a certain language appropriate for the role of head of state. Why trying to translate this particular speech and not any other. It is true that in the past the Rwandan president has abused his position, proffering publicly menaces and threats even insults to any real or fictive enemies, foreign or Rwandan. But this time what he is setting through his address is not only of a different nature and tremendously far reaching in the existing precarious relation between the Rwandan communities of Hutu and Tutsi but it is also destabilizing the rapports between Rwanda and Tanzania. In my view, what the president Kagame’s speech of June 30/ 2013 achieves in today’s Rwanda was only experienced when the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s soldiers attacked the country from Uganda: the way Tutsi and Hutu lived together before became more strained and very difficult because of that attack of October 1st, 1990. And that is what Kagame did on that last day of June 2013.


“Have you had a great day? (Audience claps)

I hope the day was not long, you are not tired! …but let me… in what I will be saying I will be thinking on the fact that you want us to end the day … those who spent time here could go to relax.

But the first thing I would like to start with is to thank you. People, when you have taken time, thinking about an issue, I think here you have taken time to reflect on the issue related to developing/building our country. You took time on what can build our country today, and the tomorrow of our country. You gave that priority to the youth. This is all good, for those who prepared the event, those who came to participate and are here, I would like to start by thanking you for that.

The second part [of thanks] is for those who gave us  testimonies, those who shared learning, those who told us many elements we can build on in understanding everybody’s roles, and where we should be aiming.

Starting with the youth, the one which is here, …the reason I did not go into the usual protocol of starting by greeting their excellences, I went straight to the youth. (audience claps) That means I went to the excellencies of the upcoming future. As for our case, I suppose our time has reached somewhere where we should be putting ourselves aside.

Youth! It is the future, it is leadership, it is the value of the country. All these aspects combined. It is the strength. It is leadership. It is value for tomorrow. That is what the youth means. But the youth only, saying only the youth, and understand that you have implicitly referred to those other elements is not correct. Youth! The concept itself, with you here as the youth, to call you only the youth is not enough. There is something you must have. Requirements you should be fulfilling. There is dignity you must be portraying yourself, or your carers/guardians/parents ensuring you to carry. In order that that youth we see as strong, as bearer of the future, as bearer of dignity, all that must be groomed/developed/built. It is not enough to talk of youth only….eh…let’s refer to something commonly used in Kinyarwanda, agaseke [decorative basket], when someone mentions agaseke, what do they mean? The word agaseke is commonly used. But when I hear agaseke, I run looking at what is inside. ..eh…an empty agaseke, or an empty agatebo [ruff bigger basket], or an empty inkangara [much bigger ruff basket]? It is only an inkangara….eh… there must be put inside something. And even you cannot put whatever inside. Valuable things are put inside.

In these souls, in this intelligence, of the youth, what are we putting in? What is there? … in order for this youth to be what we expect from it. What should we put in? The youth you starve,…you understand…malnutrition! Malnutrition, do you understand that? Do you know people who don’t eat, or who don’t eat well, how they are or become? They catch kwashiorkor. Do you know kwashiorkor?…aha…eh…a seed [imbuto] – I even refer to Imbuto [Foundation] which brought us together here, [audience claps]…a seed you plant in a place where the sun does not reach, do you know how it becomes? … it does as well suffer from kwashiorkor. Instead of being a green plant it becomes yellow. When it has become yellow it means it is dead.

Youth you have not fed, ends with the same fate. But as you must’ve noticed, the physical part, what we see, which carries kwashiorkor, even in the brain, the location of intelligence, that we don’t see, even that part becomes yellow. That place also starves. Particularly, when the brain is starving, we see that kwashiorkor in performed actions. You see actions of someone starving intellectually; you then understand that in his brain there is kwashiorkor. You notice that. You see that through what we chose to do. You see that in what we say, you see that in actions. When you see someone promoting hatred, hating others, opting for laziness, not doing anything, using lies, … when you see someone prioritising theft, you understand then that they have kwashiorkor in their brain. You understand that their brain is starving. You understand that it has not been fed properly. This is the focus where I want to talk about the youth. Our youth, you who even came here and took responsibilities/ engagements and swore to the country that you will never allow it to become as it was under the bad periods, the first area you concentrate on is to feed your intelligence.



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