Rwanda President Paul Kagame says research has shown that some of the biggest sources and beneficiaries of corruption are outside of Africa, and this has always been the case.
President Kagame was Tuesday delivering a Keynote at the Anti-Corruption Summit in Abuja, Nigeria.
He said corruption is a universal weakness, not an African one, and it is not part of its destiny as a continent.
“When somebody gives you addictive drugs with one hand, and offers the cure with the other, it is not altruism, but a form of control that encourages passivity,” he noted.
He said the liberation struggle in Rwanda and in Africa more generally, has always been based on the ideals of eliminating discrimination, entrenching good governance and ensuring all citizens benefit equally from nation-building.
“We quickly found out that fighting corruption has a political cost. Officials who did not live up to the agreed standards were dismissed or brought to justice.”
He said others fled into exile and pretended to be so-called “opposition” while some though he could not afford to take this zero-tolerance approach given the fragility of our environment.
“The truth however, is that we couldn’t afford not to do it. It is the foundation of the modest progress for which Rwandans continue to work.”
“This so called opposition have turned us into what they call authoritarian because we did not allow them to take this money. Between not fighting corruption and being called authoritarian, I prefer being called authoritarian.”
Kagame said after the Genocide Against the Tutsi, the first Foreign Minister appointed connived with leaders particularly the then Prime Minister.
He was given money to go open new embassies but never came back. Today he is one of the opposition leaders living in France and people accept he is fighting for democracy.
A couple of years later, the same PM agreed with the then President to go and buy vehicles; Mercedes Benz, for cabinet ministers. He had to carry cash.
“I told the President this was wrong. We cannot afford to prioritize this type of thing. First of all, our first priority shouldn’t be buying mercedes for our ministers. This is 1998, four years after Genocide.”
He added: “I told the then President that we cannot afford to prioritize this type of thing and we cannot give money to someone else. We can’t keep doing that unless we are to be doomed to never leave the transition.”
He said in the absence of a politics that values individual integrity, even well-established institutions are not enough to deter wrongdoing, as has been demonstrated by repeated scandals in advanced economies at the top of international transparency rankings.
“That is why it is past time to redefine transparency as a global objective that requires us all to work together with mutual respect.”
According to Kagame, corruption does not take decades to eradicate and that huge gains can be made relatively quickly, once people decide to break the habit.
“That brings me to responsibility. This principle is inherent to our respective cultures in Africa. We are in charge of our own future. The purpose of transparency is not to impress others, but rather to make our own societies better, because that is what our people expect.”
He said the third and fourth foundation stones are accountability and effectiveness. Without transparency, Kagame argued, it is impossible to earn and keep the trust of the people.
“And without trust we will not be able to effectively use national wealth to make measurable improvements to the well-being of our citizens.”
He said as a new government, the turning point in Rwanda’s peace-building process came after months of intense national consultations.
Out of this dialogue, key institutions were created to foster transparency and lay the foundation for a sound national fiscal base. These included the Rwanda Revenue Authority, the Auditor General, the Ombudsman, as well as home-grown solutions such as performance contracts signed by officials at every level known as “imihigo”.
He said everywhere, trust in democratic processes is declining, leaving a cynical citizenry that is easily manipulated by the politics of division.
Fighting political corruption is therefore just as urgent as fighting economic and the strategy is to build on Africa’s cultural heritage to cultivate the mindsets of responsibility, accountability and effectiveness in leaders and especially in young people.