[3] Rhetoric of Empowerment

“[Leadership begins] with people actively and consciously taking on responsibility to make things happen”[25]


 “The image conveyed is one of a country that can truly take ownership of its development, with a leadership that wants to be the main actor, with the support of Rwandans, in bringing about changes in the country” [23]

In his interviews and speeches, Kagame consistently makes a point of calling on Rwandans and Africans to take ownership of both their problems and their future. One of the main aims of his rhetoric is therefore to build this sense of empowerment. While he acknowledges that aid has played an important role in Rwanda, Kagame advocates that, “what we need aid for is to build a foundation which we should be able to build on ourselves and stop needing aid” [1].

 [3.1] Independence and Self-Reliance

President Kagame’s discourse is rooted in the principle of “African solutions for African problems”[10]. He believes that Rwandans should be in the driver’s seat of their own development and that in this process “we do not have to change who we are as Rwandans. We just have to be our best selves”[16]. Kagame has on several occasions used Twitter [21] to disseminate his ideas on taking ownership and striving for self-reliance. For instance:

Kagame moves away from the notion of the “white man’s burden”. He places an onus on Rwandans to individually and collectively bury their passivity and victimhood and instead take responsibility in constructing the future they deserve. It has always been part of Kagame’s narrative that, “in other words, we must own our future”[16].

[3.2] Kagame the Visionary

Kagame is a visionary who hopes that Africa will soon find its own voice and place in the world. His efforts so far prove that his regime is working toward transforming Rwanda from a country of genocide to one that “can hold its head high in the international arena”[23]. He explains in his State of Nation speech in 2015, that, “vision 2020 was about what we had to do in order to survive and regain our dignity. But Vision 2050 has to be about the future we choose, because we can, and because we deserve it”. Finally, Kagame drove home this notion of empowerment with the twitter post:

kagame tweet