Rwandan President Paul Kagame has issued stern warnings to insurgents, who recently killed at least 14 people in an area popular with tourist, vowing that he will never allow them to destabilize his country.
Kagame also warned that "Rwanda has come a long way to where it is right now, and no one can take this back or create insecurity." He was addressing close to 4,000 Rwandans who live in Europe and North America and had turned out for the annual Rwanda Day in Bonn, last Saturday.
The insurgents he was referring to are believed to be members of the Rwandan Hutu rebel group Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), that has bases in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The attack on the tourist resort was the first carried out inside Rwanda since the killing of the FDLR's top commander Sylvestre Mudacumura in a recent battle with Congolese forces.
The FDLR is composed of former Rwandan soldiers and Hutu militias who fled to neighboring DRC after taking part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
FDLR rebels pose a security threat to neighboring Rwanda, despite major losses suffered in recent days
"Rwanda is strong enough not because of its arsenal but because of its people who share the same goal of building their country," Kagame said. "Therefore, the few people out there who still think that they can create insecurity in the country daily will never achieve anything." He added: "Our unity and strength are the foundations on which the country has been built upon – no one can break that strength."
Kagame also took a swipe at rights groups and activists who use the media to criticize him and Rwanda in general. He said that, despite challenges, in the last twenty-five years his country was transformed into an oasis of peace and constant growth.
"Detractors have failed to bring us down and will never succeed," Kagame boasted. "It's not self-praise, or demoralizing those with evil plans, but because it's the truth."
On the issue of democracy Kagame, who is known not to mince his words on the subject, queried whether any country would be able to progress doing "the wrong things."
"We are progressing because we are doing the right things. Like anywhere else in the world, we still have problems. I dare anyone here to tell me any country that has no problems, and where everything is a bed of roses."
Human rights groups have often criticized Kagame for oppressing the media and clamping down on the opposition. In a recent DW interview, Human Rights Watch director for Central Africa, Lewis Mudge, spelled out what the critics of Rwanda's government are up against. "Rwanda continues to purport that it's a country of the rule of law, a safe country, and yet opponents continue to die. The fact that there is never any meaningful investigations into the killing of these political opponents is very troubling," Mudge said.
Thousands turned up for Rwanda Day to welcome their leader and interact with long lost friends and family members.
Doing business in Rwanda
Rwanda Day was also an opportunity for young professionals living in Europe to meet with prospective employers back home and consider the possibility of returning to their home country.
Patrick Dusabe, a diasporan from Poland, told DW that he was able to talk with fellow entrepreneurs about how they can build partnerships to promote products made in Rwanda for the European market.
"We don't travel home so often. So, when we meet with authorities and entrepreneurs from Rwanda, we get more information on what we can do. As an entrepreneur I have been able to get information on how I can work with local businessmen," Dusabe said.
For the first time in the history of Rwanda Day, there was also a career corner that connected young professionals who would like to return home with prospective employers.
The chief skills officer at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Elodie Rusera, told DW that that there's a lot the country can offer to the youth in many sectors like IT, health, agriculture, and financial services. "Everyone seems to be passionate about what is happening in Rwanda. They [young professionals] really wanted to know the different opportunites and they seemed very willing to contribute in different ways."
Exhibitors were also present in this year's event. Companies that came to market their products included Germany's carmaker Volkswagen (VW). In June 2018, VW opened its first car assembly plant in Kigali to tap into demand for ride-sharing and further expand in the region.
Michaela Rugwizangoga, the chief executive officer of Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda, a subsidiary of Volkswagen South Africa, told DW that the company is one of the biggest investors in Rwanda and the first carmaker to invest in that country.
This is why it is important for the company to market its products to the Rwandan diaspora.
"Most of the people who came to our stand were not only interested in the services that we offer in Rwanda at the moment, but also had questions about our experience as a company and the job opportunites on demand," she said.
Local companies, banks, and insurance companies traveled to Bonn in a bid to promote their products. Rwanda Day is an annual event that for the last ten years has been held in different cities in Europe and North America. For the first time since the event's inception, no opposition groups in exile turned up to hold protests against President Kagame.