“I have never disappointed my society, and I will never do so” – Rwigema
May 2000 – October 2011 – after ten years of life in the United States, the former Prime Minister and first minister of education after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, Pierre Celestin Rwigema received a warm welcome back in his mother country.
Recently in mid-May, the 59-year-old with an academic background in economics was elected MP for Rwanda in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), as an independent candidate but with the support of Rwanda Patriotic Front.
“I am very thankful to President Kagame and to those who voted for me because they have trusted me. On my side, I have never disappointed my society and I will never do so,” said Rwigema in an interview with The Rwanda Focus as he was preparing to get a flight to Arusha, the headquarters of EALA.
Rwigema dismissed rumors that his election to EALA was part of a game of politicking, and a way of creating a distance. “First of all, while the RPF was backing me, I was an independent candidate,” he stressed. “Secondly, I was elected by MPs, fellow Rwandans who know how I served the country and that I still want to do so. And thirdly, even though EALA is in Arusha, given the philosophy of EAC integration I am still very close to the society here. When someone is appointed ambassador of Rwanda, does it mean he is no longer part of Rwandan society?”
Therefore, Rwigema dismissed such rumormongers as “negativists; me, I am positivist.” He also believes that Rwandan parliamentarians voted for him because of the role he has played in the country’s reconstruction after 1994.
“You know, two months after RPF stopped the Genocide, I was named first Minister of Education, when many Rwandans had no hope that schools would reopen. Thirteen months later, I was chosen as Prime Minister, and we restarted rebuilding institutions from zero. I think Rwandans still remember that and believe I still can serve my country, which is indeed the case,” a confident Rwigema said.
With his experience in the ministry of education and from five years as Prime Minister, as well as eight years in the private sector, a background in economics plus the experience he got in the USA, Rwigema believes he is at his place in EALA.
“In this era, there is no way a country can develop except through regional integration and the benefits that brings.”
For instance, from looking at the politics of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico and the USA, he has learnt that the EAC needs to strengthen the bloc, so that they can better engage with other strong regional groupings.
“A country cannot discuss with a bloc, it is blocs that deal with blocs. In this era, there is no way a country can develop except through regional integration and the benefits that brings,” Rwigema argued, adding that all around the world regional groups are still being formed or are expanding, as is the case with the European Union or in Eastern Asia with a bloc forming around Japan.
For the MP, the East African Community has no choice but to strengthen itself. “It’s a necessity. We have to be an important bloc for us to be able to deal with other big global economic players”, he pointed out.
And Rwigema believes that EALA has an important role to play in that process, and should examine why some EAC decisions don’t get implemented. “We have policy documents and speeches, but why does the implementation delay?”, he asked, adding that he doesn’t understand why there are still people who want to go slow on the customs union.
“I realize it is not easy for all the member countries to have the same mindset but I think, considering that Rwanda has a President with a great vision for the country, the sky is the limit,” Rwigema remarked. “And even before full EAC full integration we can have some bilateral agreements which will help us already to move on.”