Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday urged compatriots living in exile to return home to better economic times though the country has still to recover from the 1994 genocide.
“If those who left returned they would see the country is doing better than when they left and that they are not doing as well as previously,” Kagame said in an interview to the daily Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique.
The leader of a country viewed as one of Africa’s economic success stories flew into Belgium this week for a forum on development and while in Brussels met some 2,000 members of the Rwandan diaspora.
They “must be associated with what is happening in the country and contribute,” Kagame said in the interview.
“We are seeking to reassure all Rwandans,” he added, while admitting the country was “not homogenous” since the 1994 bloodbath that left some 800,000 people dead, mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus.
“There are survivors, criminals, people associated with criminals who were not killers themselves … all sorts of people.”
“We need to create a climate of law and justice enabling each of these categories of people to feel relatively at ease even if this is not what they want.”
Rwanda’s reconciliation process involves so-called “gacaca” trials — a local word meaning justice on the grass — where genocide suspects are encouraged to confess and make apologies in exchange for reduced sentences, with perpetrators of the 1994 atrocity then living side by side with survivors.
But Kagame said there was a limit to reconciliation and accused opponent Victoire Ingabire of having “espoused the ideology of genocide”.
He also denied that more and more army officers were opting for exile. “There may be 100 or 200,” he said. “We have 3,500 Rwandans soldiers enforcing the peace in Darfur and thousands of others elsewhere.”
Asked whether he was ready to offer a second chance to former army chief of staff, General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who has sought shelter in South Africa, Kagama said “does he want this?”
Kayumba, who is wanted for treason, and three of his close aides in September released a statement attacking the government for being “repressive and irresponsible” and demanded a coalition government be set up to include the opposition.