Address at the National Summit of Unity
Kigali, Rwanda, 18 October 2000
Your Excellency President Paul Kagame,
Your Excellency Prime Minister Bernard Makuza,
Distinguished Guests, Brothers and Sisters of Rwanda;
We bring the greetings of the people of South Africa.
The people of South Africa feel very close to Rwanda.
We feel that the pain that you have suffered has been
our pain as well. The progress you are making and the
progress you must make to overcome a difficult past
will benefit us as well. Therefore we come, amongst
other things to convey our own best wishes for success
in the important work in which you are engaged of achieving
unity and reconciliation.
Thank you very much for offering me an opportunity
to participate in this important process that is dealing
with a critical matter of unity and reconciliation.
I am certain that this meeting will add to the already
valiant efforts of the people of Rwanda to reconstruct
Rwanda, to rebuild their communities and help the healing
process of the souls of all Rwandans, both the victims
of that barbaric act, as well as those guilty of the
most grotesque genocide of our time.
We hope that out of the tragedy of this nation, will
emerge an outcome that will be a lesson to the rest
of humanity about how to use a catastrophe such as this
one to bring about reconciliation, unity, stability
I am sure we all agree that the struggle for the complete
emancipation of the African people from the shackles
of colonialism and neo-colonialism has been the struggle
to free ourselves from the past, to rid ourselves of
the legacy of underdevelopment and dependency, to free
ourselves from that past which had been declared dead
through our independence movements on the continent
and yet which continued to govern us and influence and
shape our lives well into the present period.
This struggle for freedom has always been characterised
as a struggle for national unity in the context of deep
divisions stemming from the colonial past, divisions
driven in good measure by a struggle for access to power
In the 1990s, the struggle for freedom has also been
re-affirmed through a shared vision of African unity
and solidarity, of African renewal and sustainable socio-economic
development in an increasingly globalising world and
a world economy from which Africa is in good measure
It is through the support of African countries, and
through the practice of African unity and solidarity
that we, the South African people, could free ourselves
from the tyranny of apartheid and establish a democracy.
The new wave of democracy sweeping the African continent
is a further sign that the conditions are emerging for
the African people to realise a life of prosperity and
to achieve the rebirth of our continent.
There is, I believe, broad agreement that the development
we desire so much for all African people can only happen
when we end the conflicts and when we have peace permeating
the entirety of our continent. And that a climate of
sustained and enduring peace is a necessity, that stability
coupled with strong democracies is a requirement, for
the African continent to prosper and provide a better
life for all her people.
It is in this spirit that I am pleased to be able to
say a few words at this Unity and Reconciliation Summit.
For a people to be truly free they must come to terms
with the reality of their history in order to overcome
its legacy. The full comprehension of the past is important
because it assists all of us to arrive at a common,
national consensus of what needs to be done to build
In that context I must join His Excellency, President
Paul Kagame, in congratulating the Commission for the
work it has done already to ensure that we as Rwandans
grapple with our past openly, honestly so that we can
As you are aware, we ourselves, in South Africa, continue
to be engaged in a similar exercise of bringing unity
and reconciliation to our country.
Although our situations are different, I am however
confident that we can learn from one another and share
experiences as we travel this common road of unity and
There was a time in our history when South Africa seemed
to be on the path to self-destruction. Fortunately,
we didn't get to that point. That point was avoided
by conscious acts of men and women who thought it was
important that something new should emerge out of that
conflict ridden situation.
The organisation from which I come, the African National
Congress is 88 years old this year. From its foundation,
it has sought to end white minority rule in our country.
It has sought to ensure that we will be a democratic,
non-racial South Africa. It has sought to build a country
of equals, of a people sharing a common patriotism.
Even when some among us called for us to drive white
people into the sea, the ANC resisted that demand because
we believed that by an accident of history, South Africa
had become a country of both black and white.
It was clear therefore that the only way that we could
build this society of equals would be if indeed we achieved
reconciliation amongst ourselves.
The possibility for that emerged during the middle
1980s as a result of the progress of the struggle both
internally and externally. The conditions emerged so
that we could begin the conscious process of getting
together as black and white South Africans in search
of that unity and reconciliation.
I hope that you will not mind if I say some things
about this particular process without pretending in
any way that it is an experience that can be replicated
in Rwanda but it might be of some interest to you in
From the mid 1980s we spent a period of about 5 years
in extensive interaction amongst the leadership of our
people, both black and white. We had extensive discussions,
ourselves as ANC with business leaders, religious leaders,
leaders of newspapers, with people from the universities,
trade unions, traditional leaders to expose one another
to one another's aspirations, hopes and fears and naturally
to influence one another.
It was a process of interaction during which we were
looking at whether there were any possibilities for
us as South Africans, some drawn from among the majority
of oppressed and some from the minority oppressors,
to see whether we could evolve a common view of the
kind of South Africa that we needed. By the time negotiations
began in 1990, this broad leadership had come to a common
view of the kind of South Africa we wanted.
One of the things that was agreed was that clearly
we were going to require a democratic constitution which
would enjoy the support of the people of South Africa
. That immediately posed a problem because such a constitution
needed to be drafted and adopted by a body truly representative
of South Africa.
But it was clear at that time, if we had elected a
constitutional assembly, the white population of South
Africa would have felt uneasy about that because they
would not have known their role in the writing of the
We therefore decided that before we drafted the constitution,
we negotiate together a set of constitutional principles
within which even an elected constitutional assembly
would then draft the constitution. That process succeeded
to re-assure, especially the white minority in South
Africa not to be afraid of democracy.
Like yourselves, we made provision for the formation
of a Government of National Unity because it seemed
clear to us that the former ruling party which represented
an important part of our population, needed to feel
part of the process of democratisation and removal of
the legacy of racism.
We faced a similar problem as you. The UN had declared
apartheid a crime against humanity. The logical conclusion
therefore would have been that the perpetrators should
be brought to justice. But it was clear that if democratisation
led to retribution against those who had perpetrated
the crime of apartheid - we would not have peace. Neither
would we be able to, as South Africans, build a new
society in the spirit of reconciliation.
The matter could not be ignored either. We decided
that we needed to set up a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission so that the truth of the crimes of apartheid
could be told, so that all of us could get exposed to
everything bad that had happened, so that in the recognition
of that history, we knew what it was that we must not
We also agreed that as a result of that process, those
that came forward to apply for amnesty, would be provided
amnesty provided they met certain conditions.
Some would be denied amnesty for various reasons and
therefore liable for prosecution. We also decided that
you could not merely have the truth told and amnesty
granted without addressing the matter of reparations
to the victims of the crime of apartheid.
It has seemed to us as South Africans, that the TRC
has indeed managed to take our country forward, where
perpetrator and victim were able to face one another
and confront the truth and were able to say, "I
It became possible for people who had lost their loved
ones to find out the truth about their disappearances.
It became possible for people to exhume the bodies of
their loved ones and rebury them with the traditional
dignities of our society.
It became possible too, for people who were living
with a great sense of guilt for the terrible things
they had done, to shed themselves of their own sense
of guilt. It became possible for them to place themselves
in a situation where they could see themselves, not
as people who had to hide a terrible past but as people
who had been, in a sense, reborn to become part of the
process of the construction of the new South Africa.
Of course that hasn't ended the divisions of South
African society. The work of the TRC, important as it
has been has not resulted in the unity and reconciliation
of our country. The divisions persist, the legacy of
apartheid persist. It is therefore important that as
we continue with that search for unity reconciliation,
we address that legacy as well. We must therefore look
at a twin process - one of reconciliation and one of
transformation. It was quite clear that we could not
achieve reconciliation without transformation. That
transformation has to deal with, among other things:
(a) the continuing racial divisions of our country,
which we are now addressing
(b) the question of poverty and the racial disparities
in the distribution of wealth and income.
(c) Deep-seated gender discrimination which disadvantaged
black women severely
(d) ensuring that languages and cultures enjoy an equal
status, where none is seen as superior over others In
short, that continuing struggle for unity and reconciliation
has also had to be a struggle for the transformation
of our society. To address all of these matters so that
we could give birth to a South Africa of equal citizens
sharing a common patriotism.
None of this is easy.
Within the unity and reconciliation process, we've
got to adopt programmes of affirmative action, to speed
up the development of those who have been disadvantaged.
Some fear that this process means that they will lose
opportunities. The process is not easy.
We had believed that it was important that all of us
as a country should recognise the task of unity, reconciliation,
transformation and of ending racism and gender discrimination.
Reconciliation should itself serve as an instrument
to drive a united process of transformation.
I am confident that some of these things you are already
engaged in. I say these things about South Africa, not
because these are transferable to Rwanda, but because
we should share ideas and experiences.
It has been incumbent upon both our countries to ensure
that the political conflicts of the past do not become
an obstacle to future development and the deepening
of democracy and democratic participation in our people's
Our own experience, informs us that we should not treat
the programme of unity and reconciliation as a separate
and stand alone function of a particular committee that
is divorced from the processes of reconstruction and
development of our countries.
The process of unity and reconciliation must be at
the centre of all our activities and programmes as we
struggle to create a new reality.
We have used and are using the delivery of basic services
and access to resources to build durable unity.
We do indeed need all of us, to work very hard to bring
about the permanent peace and security that the people
of South Africa and Rwanda desire.
We should also work together to ensure that there is
peace in the Great Lakes Region and in southern Africa.
The international community in general and the Africans
in particular, have a responsibility to help bring about
this state of peace, stability and security.
Wherever conflicts continue to exist on our vast continent,
the causes must be understood for what they really are,
and the message should be clear that solutions must
be found, because without those solutions we would not
be able to meet the desperate challenges of our people,
of children who want to go to school, of people who
need to be in good health and who need food. Without
those solutions, we will not be able to meet this desperate
need to ensure that our continent's people are equal
to all other people around the world.
The Rwanda experience should teach each and every one
of us to work towards unity, to take individual and
collective responsibility for building the kind of future
which all our people on the continent need.
I have a sense that because of your experience and
our experience, these two countries and these two people
have a particular responsibility to our continent. None
of us on this continent suffered the terrible genocide
that you did. Nobody else on the continent suffered
the terrible disaster of apartheid. Therefore we must
succeed in overcoming the legacy which led to that genocide
and all the things that led to the apartheid crime against
And as we do those things together, Rwanda and South
Africa will have something positive to give to the rest
of the world. That positive thing, among other things
would be that regardless of the pain we have suffered,
our own sense of humanity says that we should not seek
to visit pain on any other people. I wish you well in
I thank you.