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By Frank Kanyesigye

This Blog is sponsored by http://www.reflexecogroup.com

President Paul Kagame has said that Rwanda is not a small country as some people may think because the country’s people are determined to own it’s development process and choose their destiny.

The head of state made the remarks yesterday in London, UK, while addressing about 3,000 Rwandans, most of them living in the diaspora.

The colourful event that was preceded by performances by Rwandan artists like Intore Masamba, François Chouchou Mihigo and London-based traditional dancers also attracted Rwandan citizens as well as friends of Rwanda.

“I used to think that Rwanda is small but following the challenges we went through last year, I realised that Rwanda wasn’t small,” Kagame said drawing a loud applause and a standing ovation.

The president emphasized that Rwandans have made their country big. “It’s not about the size of the country; it’s about the people who face challenges and try solving them without blaming others.”

A UN Group of Experts on DRC accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels in a report to the UN Sanctions Committee on June 21, 2012, to which Rwanda presented its rebuttal.

Following the report, some development partners to Rwanda subsequently suspended or froze aid to the country.

The Rwanda Day 2013 was held under the theme: “Agaciro (self worth): Delivering Prosperity,” and according to the organisers, this year’s focus was on economic development. The event was streamed live on national radio and TV as well as online.

“We have learned that when you are determined to solve your challenges, you succeed. We will not be made to carry the burden of other nations or allow others to decide our future for us,” said the president.

“Nobody can give you dignity if you can’t give it to yourself. Others will respect you after you have respected yourself. Nobody can donate dignity to you,” he added.

“The problems we faced throughout our history taught us to live our own life. Every person should advocate for self-reliance and determination and this shouldn’t be a shared problem with other Africans. Instead, it should be looked at as a solution.

“Rwandans and Africans shouldn’t continue relying on others. First of all we have resources but because of our thinking, they are being taken away by the same people who want to determine our destiny.”

At the function, the panel consisting of Amb. Claver Gatete, the minister of Finance and Economic Planning; Claire Akamanzi, the acting chief executive of Rwanda Development Board; Andrew Mwenda, a member of the Presidential Advisory Council; and Amin Gafaranga, founder of Shokola Group, explained to the audience Rwanda’s development progress.

Kagame added that Rwandans created the Agaciro Development Fund to promote the country’s self-reliance following the challenges it faced.

The nation’s first solidarity fund that is financed through voluntary donations from Rwandans and friends of Rwanda, was launched last year and has so far raised more than Rwf28 billion. Responding to some of the questions from the audience, the president urged young people to put more emphasis on job creation rather than being job seekers.

He asked Rwandans why a citizen of another country has an obligation to sustain their livelihood.

“We Rwandans are determined. We know our problems, we want to own up to those problems. Even through hardships, we can resolve them.”

Kagame thanked Rwandans for what has been achieved despite the fact that the country still has a long way to go and encouraged them to maintain the momentum and develop relations with others while promoting dignity.

“The world is becoming a global village in terms of technology, innovation and creativity. Finances and other means can always be available. If there is correct attitude and ideology, there is no way we can fail. Although some people may choose to fail, I want Rwandans not to fail,” the head of state emphasised. Kagame also talked about the African demonstrators who lined up at the Oxford University Business School in London protesting against his visit.

“Those protestors should be going to resolve their problems at home, not here…it is a sign of ideological bankruptcy,” he said. The head of state also touched on the progress made regarding the East African Community integration and answered a wide range of questions from the audience.

Grace Hightower De Niro, an American philanthropist, actress and singer who graced the event, hailed Kagame’s leadership and was impressed by the country’s tremendous growth.

“You are not just a leader, you are visionary and Rwanda is so fortunate to have you. Growth Domestic Product (GDP) does not move you, you move the GDP,” she said.

The Rwanda Day in London follows four similar events that took place in Boston, Chicago, Paris and Brussels.

The events are mainly aimed at facilitating the Diaspora to learn about Rwanda’s progress towards socio-economic transformation.