Rwandan leader urges Kenya healing

Thursday May 28 2009

Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses the 7th National Prayer breakfast at the Nairobi Safari Park Hotel on Thursday. He told Kenya to embrace reconciliation as a way of averting ethnic conflict Photo/ FREDRICK ONYANGO

Rwandan President Paul Kagame addresses the 7th National Prayer breakfast at the Nairobi Safari Park Hotel on Thursday. He told Kenya to embrace reconciliation as a way of averting ethnic conflict Photo/ FREDRICK ONYANGO  

By  JOHN NGIRACHU

Kenya has been asked to reconcile and heal wounds inflicted by ethnic conflict or risk joining the list of failed states.

Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame said the 1994 genocide in his country should serve as a pointer to the destruction negative ethnicity can bring to its people.

"The people of Kenya cannot afford to fail. The Rwanda experience leaves no doubt that where leaders do not seek knowledge and wisdom, they will lead their nation to destruction. When a country fails, it has no friends," he said.

He said this and an acceptance of the diversity in the country and a commitment to building consensus and common good on matters of national importance, had also helped Rwandans deal with the genocide.

"All successful nations have mechanisms of rendering national consensus. The formation of opposition is not necessarily setting up enemy camps but getting different perspectives on forging a plan for the country’s future," said the Rwandan president.

Speaking at the seventh national prayer breakfast at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi Thursday, President Kagame warned politicians against driving the country to war or genocide, adding they should lead efforts to heal the country from the effects of last year’s post-election violence.

Kenya President Kibaki asked fellow politicians to 'demonstrate by word and deed that they are committed to the reconciliation and healing process.’

He said Kenyans should 'seek forgiveness in the true spirit of repentance.’

“God has promised to heal our land on condition that we turn away from wicked ways. I urge Kenyans to uphold this spirit of repentance and to make a deliberate effort to walk the path that God has prescribed,” said the President.

“It is only through repentance that we shall be justified before God as individuals and our country exalted among the community of nations. We are in great need of reconciliation and healing.”

Last year’s post-election violence is seen to have been incited by politicians with a combination of historical issues, among them exclusion from sharing of resources, leading to its escalation over January and February.

Kenya’s coalition government, formed under pressure to end election-related violence last year, has also been largely divided since its formation despite a commitment by the partners to work together.

The power-sharing deal was reached on the premise that the coalition leaders, the president and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, would initiate reforms to key contentious areas.

Rwanda’s genocide, said President Kagame, was the result of ethnically-driven politics and a sense of ethnic entitlement, making a section of the population to feel marginalised.

President Kagame said only when citizens are able to exercise their rights and feel they are sharing resources well would there be cohesion and a sense of nationhood.  

In Rwanda, the party that wins the presidency cannot nominate the Speaker of the National Assembly while the president can only nominate half the Cabinet, with the opposition appointing the rest.

A rule to have women constitute 30 per cent is also strictly followed and 56 per cent of the country’s MPs are women.

He said consultations on matters of national importance are necessary 'no matter how long they take.’

He said African countries should be left to solve their issues the way Rwanda has done and also draw on their traditions to resolve disputes. 

“We don’t agree that Africa, and Rwanda, will remain backwards and dependent on aid and charities,” said President Kagame to applause from the crowd.

He, however, acknowledged that fighting poverty remains the biggest challenge for countries like Kenya and Rwanda.

President Kibaki called on Kenyans to individually promote justice and reconciliation within their communities and reach out to neighbours and those in need and forgiving one another.

With mutual respect and responsibility, he said Kenyans would have equal opportunities and an equal stake in shaping the future of the country.