Sometimes you let people argue with the facts of those results – Kagame on persistent criticisms

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 28 juin 2022 at 09:30

Rwanda and Singapore are among countries facing criticisms from the western world accusing their leaders of failure to abide by norms of democracy and values pertaining to good governance.

Leaders of both countries have reacted to the criticisms as President Paul Kagame and Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong addressed members of the press.

They were responding to a question raised by a journalist asking both leaders how they managed to stay the course and pursue national priorities despite faced criticisms.

The press conference took place at Urugwiro Village on Monday 27th June 2022 as Kagame hosted Premier Lee on his maiden official visit in Africa.

Lee is the first Singaporean Premier visiting Africa after the country’s Independence in 1965.

Premier Lee has said that the first responsibility is to serve people, do the right thing for them and make sure the country grows.

He underscored that priorities must be aligned with efforts to determine the direction of the country.

“You may be right or wrong. Nobody is right all the times. Nobody has the monopoly of wisdom in the world. You have to listen to views, criticisms within your team, within the country and even if they come from outside the country, listen to them objectively,” said Lee.

He explained that one needs to make an analysis of the criticisms to identify whether they are reasonable, there are mistakes committed or want to do things better informing the next decision.

“At the end, you have to make your own judgement because you will carry the responsibility or the outcome. The person criticizing you, if I follow your advice and things go wrong, can you feed my population ? Can you take them if they become refugees ? If not, thank you. I appreciate your goodwill, but I have to carry the responsibility and have to make the decision,” Lee affirmed.

The People’s Action Party has been ruling since 1959. Lee Hsien Loong is the current chairperson of the party.

He replaced Goh Chok Tong who served as the Premier of Singapore between 1990 and 2004.

During the leadership of Lee, Singapore has been for long criticized for failure to abide by democratic processes.

Lee has underscored that he will disagree respectfully with whoever makes biased criticisms and explain why he does things in a particular way.

“I will set down my perspective and explain why I do things this way so that I convince my people to avoid confusion,” he said.

Lee explained that doing it this way would enable third parties to understand both sides to make judgment.

Meanwhile, President Kagame emphasized that so many things have been said about democracy, freedom and human rights among others.

He explained that democracy manifests itself in many ways that people get confused when it is being expressed in one way of the other or when it has not met the taste or standard of definition for some people.

“Criticisms can go on for 20 years or 30 years. The same criticism, the same thing and we keep playing it over and over. And you look back and wonder in 20 years, if it is criticism against Rwanda or against the leaders of Rwanda. Is it really true that nothing has changed in twenty years ? Nothing has changed about the criticism that is constantly made ?” he wondered.

As the Head of State said, this this tells the story that some of the criticisms are not accurate, genuine or fair.

“And yet, these criticisms come with lessons as well. It is like you have got to learn something from me and I am always going to be the one giving lessons. Even when you receive lessons, you expect that at some point, somebody learning, being taught to do things will graduate and actually reach a point where these lessons have been useful,” he revealed.

“But if it is criticism that goes on for decades and lessons parallel to that going on for the same number of years and then nothing comes out of it ; people have to look back and re-examine whether this was really best in fact or in genuineness that the criticism otherwise should be serving,” Kagame added.

If the criticisms persist, Kagame observed that results are of great significance to gauge their authenticity.

“What we need is to make the difference for the people because we are talking about people. It is not just whether you like or don’t like me. It is whether what we are doing is for and with our people,” he noted.

“At the end of the day, a judgement can be made by the same people that a difference has been made. Sometimes, you let people argue with the facts of those results. I also know that some people have their own facts. They may change the facts [...] and have their own facts. But that is the life we have to live, accept and still be able to move on,” added Kagame.

The Head of State also underscored that staying the course comes from the fact that people understand what they want to do, aspirations, where they come from and want to go.

On top of this, the President highlighted that leaders must make sure that there is a connection between people, policy, leadership and vision laid out for people moving in a certain direction and keep measuring together whether desired progress has been made.

“Once you allow this to keep going and being the guide of what we want to do, I think criticisms are things you can live with and learn from. But at the end of the day, people will need food at the table, security, need to be free to do what they want, connect with the rest of the world and so on,” he said.

“We may not get things hundred percent right, and who does anyway ? I don’t know. But certain level of progress is measured, is considered, something you keep building on and move on,” he added.

President Kagame and Premier Lee addressing members of the press on Monday 17th June 2022. Photo Urugwiro Village
President Kagame has said that criticisms can go on for 20 years or 30 years.