This is my own account of what happenend. Highly colored as I was one of the organizers and moderated the debate. We took everything on camera though, so the real thing con be seen as of today on YouTube. I’ll put the links on my site, twitter and facebook as soon as I know them. I’ve also asked the speakers to send me their speeches. If received I’ll attach them to this overview. (I’ll do everything to get more viewers for my website). 

ON YouTube:


First part debate

Part 2 debate

Last part debate

Speakers and speeches on Youtube:

Helen Hintjens

Olivier Nyirubugara

Alphonse Muleefu

Kris Berwouts 

Future defined by the past

The few days before the debate were hectic. I received mails and text messages about people who might come to disturb the conference. Also speakers called, telling they didn’t want to come, because Rwanda-enemy Paul Rusesabagina (former manager hotel Mille Collines) would also speak. Paul likes to put his views in strong and uncensored language: the regime of Rwanda is bad and capable of everything (I’ve brought the mild version here).

So I mailed the location where the conference was to be held to tell them things might go out of hand and I called the speakers to ask them ‘Please, please, come and speak. Because this was the purpose of the conference. To get the people who love the regime and the people who hate the regime sit together and discuss things in al earnesty. You don’t have to date Paul, you don’t have to step in the same bed with Paul, you’re just speakers on the same conference.’

As it turned out: everything went extremely well. There were no ‘provocateurs’ and every speaker came, with the expection of Rusesabagina, probably to the (invisible) relief of some. Rusesabagina had some trouble in finding The Hague (I’m saying nothing about symbolism) but arrived somewhere at the end of the conference. Probably to the (invisible) frustration of some.

‘Historic’ was the word most heard after the debate. Practically everybody (about 70 people attended the conference) agreed: for the first time they had experienced a debate in which lovers and haters, young and old discussed Rwanda in a serious and serene way. Perhaps the location helped. International presscenter Nieuwspoort is a place where free speech is held high and maybe people were a bit impressed by that atmosphere. 

But it were the speakers off course who were the main reason for the success. Renowned specialists as Kris Berwouts (written speech on this page)  (Speech on YouTube) and Helen Hintjens (written speech) know how to tackle an audience. But it were the two young scientists Alphonse Muleefu (written speech on this page) (Speech on YouTube) and Olivier Nyirubugara (Speech on YouTube)  who impressed the most. Practically all the questions from the audience went their direction. They accused me of patronizing behavior in organizing this conference. Would it be possible to hold such a conference in Kigali on the subject ‘How Holland has to deal with the economic crisis’ and sent a list of recommendations to the Dutch minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem? I had to admit that was a ludicrous thought. The two young brilliant speakers decided to follow their own course and to leave the subject (Future of Rwanda with or without Kagame) for what is was. Alphonse talked about law and gacaca, Olivier about his book and the audience loved them. They embodied the future of Rwanda.

The decision to let the debate run it’s own course, was not appreciated by everyone. A (European) lady accused me of not being sharp enough. The whole debate was a waste of time she thought, because there were no real conclusions, no real shopping list for the politicians. She had no idea at all, what really happened. Not visible, for sure, but it was there nevertheless. Haters and lovers talking to each other. Debating with each other. Listening to each other. They showed reconciliation can be possible.

It’s difficult to make a summary of the debate. A lot was sad about Gacaca. Suddenly there were two gacaca’s. One gacaca of the people, another one of the state. Gacaca was the problem, but gacaca was also a solution and an economic miracle. One called Rwanda a sick country, another one called Rwanda: Brave new world. Of course a lot was said about genocide, the definition of genocide and the right for Hutu’s to be a victim of that genocide as well. Off course a lot was also said about identity and reconciliation.

At the end, everybody agreed: a second conference would be great. So I start raising some funds as of now. You know where to find me. 


Rwanda: is there a future without Paul Kagame?

International Presscentre Nieuwspoort, June 4 2013, 17.00-19.30 hrs


In 2017 new presidential elections are held in Rwanda. Paul Kagame cannot be reelected for a third time. It’ll be agonizing times for the opposition. Crucial is the question: what happens with Rwanda if Paul Kagame is no longer head of state. Is Rwanda ready for a new leader and a new form of leadership? And if yes, which leader and which form of leadership? And can The Netherlands be of help?

Speakers will be Helen Hintjens, lecturer at the Institute of Social Studies, Alphonse Muleefu researcher at the university of Tilburg, Paul Rusesabagina, ex-manager Hotel Milles Collines, Kris Berwouts, former CEO EurAc and specialist Great Lakes Region and Olivier Nyirubugara, lecturer at Erasmus University.  Also invited is the Rwandese ambassador.

Lawyer Jan Hofdijk and Africa-journalist Anneke Verbraeken will try to manage the debate.

The Netherlands has a double face if it comes to Rwanda. It postponed financial aid, because of the Rwandan support of the rebels of M23, but also poured a lot of money and effort into Rwanda to improve the judicial system. One can ask if that money is well spent; there are questions about the independency of the judges for example. How important is an independent judicial system for the future of Rwanda?

The darling of the international community got tainted since the previous elections in 2010. There is criticism on the lack of political space. A UN-report, publicised autumn 2010 accused Rwanda of genocide in East-DRC; last year several reports were published concluding Rwanda was supporting the rebel group M23.  Rwanda is accused of theft of minerals, of theft of land (North-Kivu) and it’s president of dictatorial behaviour.

The proponents of Rwanda praise the economic growth, the political and social stability, the security and the amount of energy put in to the rebuilding of the country after the genocide in 1994.

Conclusions of the debate will be offered to the minister of International Trade and Development, the minister of Foreign Affairs and the minister of Justice.

Everybody who is interested is invited to participate.

De debate will be held in English.

Registration is not necessary.

DATE: June 4, 2013, start: 17.00 hrs.

PLACE: International Presscenter Nieuwspoort, Lange Poten 10, Den Haag. (