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Paul Kagame Oyee!

Wednesday 8th September 2010

Canada’s Fawzi Ghosn on the Presidential inauguration.

Just about 3am and the party outside had still not calmed. It wasn’t the usual hustle and bustle that we’ve been hearing for the past couple days. It was the sound of excitement, the sound of happiness, the sound of unity. In just about six hours the city of Kigali and the country of Rwanda would come together to celebrate the re-election of H.E. President Paul Kagame. So, as you’ve probably guessed, sleep wasn’t on the cards that night, especially given the fact that our Hotel (the Sportsview Hotel) was about 50 feet from the entrance of the Amahoro National Stadium where the ceremony was being held. My day started at 5:30am, with a cup of Rwandan coffee (I’m now addicted) and a short walk across the street to witness firsthand what I’ve been hearing all night. After breakfast, we NKABOM-ERS all gathered in the front foyer and met our Minister of Youth representative, Redempter, who handed out the presidential invitation cards to each of us. I was keen on keeping the invitation as a souvenir and would have resorted to stuffing it into my shirt if we were asked to hand them over – luckily we were able to keep them. Upon entrance to Amahoro, I think we were all shocked and amazed to see half the stadium crowd in color coded shirts so that an enormous – KAGAME PAUL OYEE! – beamed at us from the stand. We all took our seats and the ceremony began. Convoy after convoy drove onto the field, dropping off their respective Heads of States. Leaders of South Africa, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Malawi, and Kenya to name a few were among the attendees. The arrival of H.E. President Kagame understandably sparked the loudest cheering. Something that will be etched into my memory for a long time is the moment the band started marching and playing along with the army and police platoons, at that moment an eagle soared into the stadium and circled the crowd – it was an amazing sight to behold.

The swearing in of His Excellency was administered by the head of the Rwandan High Court. Cheering erupted throughout the stadium and with the thousands lined up outside watching on the big screen. Speeches followed from various religious and political figures all congratulating the President on his landslide victory. We witnessed short plays that briefly touched on the history of Rwanda and native dances that captured the attention of all. The President gave the closing speech, first in English then in Rwandan, addressing his people with utter confidence. He spoke with clarity and intention, knowing that every word was being followed by millions across the country. Optimism filled his voice. Unlike many countries across this planet, the Rwandan people truly believe in their leader, they have faith and are willing to sacrifice for a better tomorrow built from lessons learned yesterday. The inauguration was an excellent way to start off this conference that focuses on peacekeeping and conflict resolution. There is no better place to discuss such issues than where we are now. I trust the rest of the week will be just as inspiring and mind opening as today.

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