U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Rwanda

Four noticeable things from Ambassador Susan Rice’s speech at Kigali Institute of Technology (KIST) in the Rwandan capital this evening. The first was the activity on Twitter. I admit, I got distracted during the first part of her speech, as the now familiar praise for Rwanda’s impressive development on multiple fronts was heaped upon the audience by Ambassador Rice. Distracted, I turned to Twitter, and was pleased, and surprised to see a lot of people tweeting from within the room at KIST.

The second thing I noticed is that I was the only one to tweet the first quote mentioning the political situation in Rwanda. No-one else in the room tweeted it, retweeted it, or even went close to it.

The third thing I noticed was that Ambassador Rice’s speech ended with a fairly strong appraisal of Rwanda’s successes with warnings that these successes were not mirrored in politics, the media, human rights and freedom of expression.

The fourth and final thing I noticed in Kigali tonight was that when one, very well-spoken, member of the audience, asked a question about democracy in Rwanda, there was a very audible hummm… throughout the audience. You very rarely hear these questions in Rwanda being asked by Rwandans, let alone in a public forum like the one at KIST tonight.

I was there for Reuters, who needed to hear what the Ambassador had to say on the latest news from Libya. However, for the sake of the blog, here are some key quotes from her speech in Kigali this evening transcribed below. For the full speech, you can listen in to this less than perfect recording, (UPDATE: There is now a transcript of her entire speech.) And here is the audio of the Q&A with the KIST students.

“Rwanda has not just moved beyond its own genocide. It has consistently led by example. From Darfur to Libya and standing up against those who would commit genocide or mass atrocities.”

“I’ve visited Rwanda now several times and as always I come here as a friend. This time, for the first time, I’ll be joined by my family. I want them to see your beautiful country and to learn what can be accomplished when a proud people unite in common cause.”

“I want them also to witness and take inspiration from your achievements. I believe as well that friends should speak frankly to friends.”

“Rwanda’s economic vitality has moved the country forward. Social progress has been substantial, yet the political culture in Rwanda remains comparatively closed. Press restrictions persist, civil society activists, journalists and political opponents of the government often fear organising peacefully and speaking out. Some have been harassed, some have been intimidated by late night callers, some have simply disappeared.”

“Yet, the world is moving rapidly in a different direction. Across the globe, including in societies where a common system rose that freedom would never arise, we’re seeing people demand the right to chart their own future. To organise peaceful demonstrations and to criticise their own governments. From… Tunisia, the demand to be heard has spread across North Africa and the Middle East…”

“…They will keep speaking out because they have a universal right to do so. And they know it. These rights: freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom to organise peacefully, are just as valid, just as inherent in Asia, in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa as they are in Europe, America or the Middle East.”

“As President Kagame said, I quote, “The uprising in Libya has already sent a message to leaders in Africa and beyond. It is that if we lose touch with our people, if we do not serve them as they deserve and address their needs, there will be consequences. Their grievances will accumulate — and no matter how much time passes, they can turn against you.” End quote.”

“The deepening and broadening of democracy can be the next great achievement of this great country and its remarkable people. In Rwanda, economic development and political openness can reinforce… this is Rwanda’s next great developmental challenge.”

“And with all that you have achieved ove the past seventeen years, I am confident that you will pass this milestone as well.”

The Associated Press has more. The photo of Ambassador Rice at the post-speech press conference is taken from my Flickr account. The photo from the KIST lecture is also on Flickr.

2 Responses to “U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Rwanda”

  1. Alegisi says:

    While noting all her references to “politics, freedom of expression, media and human rights” (and accepting that there is much to be done in Rwanda in these and other areas) I do not believe that the US cares about such things for one second. US foreign policy is about self interest. Following on from the hostile comments by Johnnie Carson (another African- American) this is about telling Kagame to “get in line” (and not to get too close to the Chinese for example).

    So what examples should Rwanda look for in the US to try to find “success” in the areas she has mentioned? A political system that produces Presidential (GOP) candidates who support the death penalty and waterboarding or have “brain freezes” or “all those things going round in my head”? Bradley Manning detained without trial re Wikileaks? A black President but still none of the health insurance he promised? Guantanamo Bay? Murder by drone attack? Fox News owned by Murdoch whose newspapers have indulged in phone hacking and corruption of the police in the UK? A celebrity obsessed gutter press? The death penalty including for juveniles and the mentally ill and used disproportionately in the case of black defendants? A political system abused by lobbyists and acknowledged to be corrupt? 14.5% of US housesholds suffering food insecurity in 2010?

  2. Alegisi says:

    A day after it was trying to bring Rwanda into line interesting to see that the US was isolated on the land mines issue. The US wants to legitimise them and so much for its supposed concern for human rights eh? e.g of all the children killed and maimed by them. But then how many American children are affected? None. So just more hypocrisy and zero contribution towards improving anything since their credibility is zilch.