Paul Kagame on Foreign Aid vs. Trade in Rwanda

President, Rwanda

There is bad aid and there is good aid. The bad aid is that one which creates dependencies, but good aid is that which is targeted to create capacities in people so that they are able to live on their own activities.

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Paul Kagame—President of Rwanda

Paul Kagame was sworn in as President of the Republic of Rwanda for a seven-year term on September 12, 2003 after being elected in Rwanda’s first democratically contested multiparty elections. He was re-elected to a second term in 2010, buoyed by years of strong economic growth. Under his leadership, Rwanda has streamlined the process for starting businesses and emphasized free trade, the rule of law and entrepreneurship while de-emphasizing the role of foreign aid.

Paul Kagame—Rwandan Refugee in Uganda

Kagame was born in 1957 in Ruhango, Southern Province, Rwanda, and in 1960 he and his family fled the ethnic persecution of Tutsis that was to characterize Rwanda in subsequent decades. Growing up as a refugee in Uganda, Kagame was among the first 27 men who, together with Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, launched a liberation war in Uganda that eventually deposed dictator Idi Amin Dada, whose regime is estimated to have killed between 100,000 and half a million citizens.

Kagame served as a senior officer in the Ugandan army between 1986 and 1990, during which time he attended a staff and command course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Paul Kagame—Ending the Genocide and Encouraging Reconciliation

In October 1990, the Rwandan government initiated a genocide that eventually claimed close to a million Tutsi lives. In the midst of this and after a thirty year exile, Kagame led a guerilla army back into his native country and ended the genocide 100 days after it began. Although some international observers expected Kagame’s Tutsi army to begin systematic revenge killings against the Hutu majority, Kagame and his fellow army leaders encouraged a path to reconciliation. In July 1994, he was appointed Vice-President and Minister for Defense in the Government of National Unity, which contained both Hutu and Tutsi.

In 1998, Kagame was elected Chairman of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a partner in the Government of National Unity. On 17 April 2000, he was elected President of the Republic of Rwanda by the Transitional National Assembly. He took the Oath of Office April 22, 2000. Today, under the Kagame administration, it is illegal for Rwandans to speak or write in a way that encourages Rwandans to identify each other in terms of Tutsi and Hutu.

Paul Kagame—Criticism

Kagame has faced recent criticism for what some have characterized as a pattern of declining political freedom in Rwanda, and for military involvement in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kagame continues to face opposition from some who supported the former Hutu government.

Paul Kagame—Awards and Honors

President Kagame was awarded the 2003 Global Leadership Award by the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), in recognition of his role in uniting and reconciling Rwandans and in promoting peaceful solutions to the conflicts in the region.

In July 2003, President Kagame was elected 1st Vice President of the African Union during the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit held in Maputo, Mozambique.

In September 2005, President Kagame was awarded the Andrew Young Medal for Capitalism and Social Progress by Georgia State University; and in the same month received the African National Achievement Award by the Africa America Institute. In 2006 and in 2007, he was presented the ICT Africa Award, which recognizes organizations and individuals that have demonstrated excellence in promoting the use of ICTs for the overall development of the African continent.

President Kagame also was the recipient of the 2007 African Gender Award presented by Femmes Africa Solidarité in recognition of outstanding achievement in furthering gender mainstreaming in the economic and political spheres, as well as addressing social and cultural barriers that impede the involvement and advancement of women in national affairs.

  • After the Rwandan Genocide

    After the world turned its back on Rwanda 14 years ago, or even as many as before that, I still don’t think—this is my personal view—that the world owes Rwanda anything. … you don’t expect the whole world to be able to address your own problems.

  • Competitive Free Markets

    Competition is good for everybody…. Competition helps bring out everybody’s potential… and be able to move forward. And it doesn’t matter what level of society; even the poor people have that energy, deserve that freedom where they can be able to compete with the rest and do the best they can, and be able to move forward on that.

  • Aid and the Cycle of Dependency

    Aid leads to more aid and more aid and more aid and less independence of the people that are receiving aid.

  • Bad Aid vs. Good Aid

    There is bad aid and there is good aid. The bad aid is that one which creates dependencies, as we’ve known for a long time now. But good aid is that which is targeted to create capacities in people so that they are able to live on their own activities.… In the long-term they have to depend on themselves rather than depend on aid.