Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation


25 September, 2016- San Francisco, Saturday 25 September 2016 – President Paul Kagame has described culture as the glue that holds Rwandans together, the common threat that runs through a society and brings people together.

The President was speaking at the inaugural Rwanda Cultural Day held in San Francisco, California where thousands of Rwandans from all over the world – US, Canada, Europe and Rwanda - convened to reaffirm and celebrate Rwanda’s unique cultural heritage.

“Culture is neutral. It is the common thread that runs through a society and brings people together. The moment we put people first, culture becomes the glue that holds our people. We do not give up; we are never thrown off balance. We are held by this rich culture,” President Kagame said.

The Head of State further drew from the example of the lives of Rwandan refugees before the liberation struggle and highlighted their resilience and hard work both of which led to fighting for their country and dignity.

“The quest for dignity did not end with life as refugees; the struggle has to continue to change the life of everyone,” He added.

President Kagame lauded every Rwandan’s efforts and endurance in the last two decades towards being where they deserve to be. Rwandans, he said, are ready to stand up to any challenges as history has shown.

Speaking about critics and those “who are fixated on giving lessons to others on how they should live they lives”, President Kagame encouraged Rwandans to always feel fine and be there for each other.

“The harder you beat Rwanda, what comes out is people who really want to give it back to you, who want to push back. We will just not bow to you. It is not where we belong. We belong to a nation that can engage in a conversation,” President Kagame said.

President Kagame called on Africans to always strive for “modern Africanisation” and avoid adopting westernisation blindly.

“What I am looking for is modern africanisation. I am an African that can relate well and meaningfully to the rest of the world. I am not an African lost in the jungle looking for magnanimous people to give me a sense of direction,” President Kagame stressed.

The President challenged the Rwandan and African youth to always protect their identity wherever they may be.  

“You must have an identity you call yours, you should be proud of, that will endure and stay with us for generations. You can choose to waste your time or live on borrowed time, but I want us to choose believing it is our time. There is no reason we cannot catch up to the rest of the world,” President Kagame told the youth.

The thousands of Rwandans and friends of Rwanda who attended the Cultural Day were entertained by the National Ballet ‘Urukerereza’ in a theatrical performance showcasing Rwanda’s rich culture and traditions.

Panels of various speakers discussed the correlation between culture and development. The speakers also talked about Rwanda’s rising from a failed state in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, transforming into a model state for effective leadership and remarkable socio-economic transformation.

The speakers included the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Presidential Advisory Council Member Andrew Mwenda, the CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board Prof Anastase Shyaka, and the Co-Founder of SEVEN Michael Fairbanks.

Minister Mushikiwabo explained that the Rwanda Cultural Day is an occasion to reflect on Rwandan values and traditions. She emphasised that the uniqueness of Rwandans as a people lies in the fact that they aim for nothing but excellence – which is also at the core of the Rwandan culture and identity.

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© 2016 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation