World is not learning lessons of the past, warns Rwandan President

Gaza war and other conflicts emphasise how much countries need to learn from history, Paul Kagame says

Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the World Governments Summit in Dubai, where he called for greater African unity. Victor Besa / The National
Powered by automated translation

The world does not seem to be learning from painful episodes of history including Rwanda’s genocide, the country’s President said.

Paul Kagame said what happened during the 1990s in Rwanda – when more than 800,000 were killed – was one of the tragedies of that century, yet there was an opportunity to ensure such a disaster would never happen again.

But, at the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Monday, Mr Kagame said that did not seem to be the case.

The world is not learning much
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

“You see so many things happening that [it makes you ask] – were lessons learnt? Not just in Gaza, but other conflicts. We should be learning from history," he said.

Mr Kagame said he was not certain he could tell the international community anything new about how such tragedies could be prevented, but said countries had a duty to “build capacity” to deal with situations as they happen.

“The world is not learning much from what has happened,” he said. “But for those of us who have experienced these situations … we learnt our lessons."

One of those lessons was that there were times when nations "will be on their own", he added.

Mr Kagame, 65, has been the major force in Rwandan politics since the end of the genocide, having become President in 2000.

He has pledged to run for a fourth term in elections scheduled this year. Rights groups have criticised his record on human rights, but he has always rejected these concerns.

Mr Kagame also discussed Africa's place in the world and said the move last year to make the African Union a permanent member of the G20 was welcome.

But he added that Africa should also have a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. “Those two seats are long overdue,” he said. “Why is it even being talked about?”

He said Africa needed to organise, stand together and have a strong voice to the rest of the world. “Africa is as important as they are,” Mr Kagame said. “Africa is not there just to take sides."

Turning to the prevalence of coups in West Africa, he said they were easy to condemn but that people had to look at the root cause. “Leaders need to serve their own people and, in most cases, that doesn’t happen,” he said.

He added that coups often happened when leaders failed and did not ensure proper leadership, leading to "an implosion".

Asked whether he was going to be re-elected this year, he said: “People will decide. We will see.”

Global gathering begins

More than 25 heads of state and governments, 120 government delegations and more than 85 international organisations are expected to attend the summit in Dubai.

Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and chairman of the World Governments Summit, also spoke at the event on Monday and struck a positive note, hailing global advancements in medicine and efforts to curb poverty.

"Despite the prevailing economic pessimism, we have witnessed a halving of the number of impoverished nations in just two decades," Mr Al Gergawi said. "The poverty rate has been slashed by 50 per cent in 25 countries."

Mr Al Gergawi said illiteracy had been "eradicated in 86 per cent of the global population, while an astonishing 33 million patents have been registered in the span of a single decade".

"It is imperative that we keep our sights set on a brighter and more beautiful future, one that we can proudly pass on to future generations," he added.

The World Governments Summit continues in Dubai until Wednesday

Updated: February 12, 2024, 9:59 AM