Tag Archives: Paul Kagame

Rwanda-Israel cordial relations reflect new post-Cold War realities

On reflection, it is fair to say that Rwanda and Israel are enjoying their best relations ever. This is if you look at the frequent encounters between the two nation’s leaders, the stately manner they treat each other and lavish words they use about each other.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a hero’s welcome when visiting Kigali last July, when President Paul Kagame visited Israel last week, The Jerusalem Post reported that he enjoyed a “rare joint greeting” by both the country’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu (something not even accorded to US President Donal Trump or India’s PM last month).

In his welcome speech, Netanyahu told Kagame that he is “the indispensable bridge on which Israel marched to make their return to Africa.”

In March this year, Kagame became the first African president to address the influential American-Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual gathering where he said that “Rwanda is, without question, a friend of Israel,” and the Jewish state “has the right to exist and thrive.”

If Rwanda and Israel were traditional allies, their words or visits would not surprise anyone. But since relations between the two nations and Africa in general haven’t traditionally been cordial due to cold-war politics and Israel’s siding with the apartheid system in South Africa, the coziness is causing some discomfort.

As one friend in the diplomatic community told me, a few African diplomats perceive Rwanda’s closeness to Israel as some sort of disloyalty to the continent.

However, many Rwandans perceive the relationship as inspired since Israel is understood to be powerful within the community of nations and therefore can benefit Rwanda as a country.

To understand why it’s good for Rwanda and Africa to nurture fruitful relations with Israel, one needs to know not only how the genocide redefined the former’s friends, but also how rising nationalism in Europe and America is necessitating the formation of new alliances.

To explain, it’s crucial to first clarify that, in establishing relations, nations aren’t driven by emotions, love but interest. In that sense, a nation relates to based on the benefits the relationship brings.

Secondly, within cold war politics, Israel had an ungodly alliance with apartheid South Africa, but this was largely because that was how it protected its interests.

However, while Israel and some members of the western-led alliance undermined the liberation struggle, it’s also true that Africa’s policy on the Israel-Palestinian question for over fifty years hasn’t brought the desired outcome of a two-state solution or defeat of Israel. And since, within international relations there aren’t permanent enemies or friends, it’s wiser for Africa to adopt a new policy of double engagement to influence a win-win solution between Israel and Palestine.

Thirdly, with George Bush Senior’s promise of a “new world order” after the end of the cold-war not materialising and cold-war alliances disintegrating due to rising nationalism in Europe and America, both Africa and Israel would benefit from new relations.

For Africa, this is especially critical since the post-colonial divide of “La Francophonie” and “Anglophone” only serves to perpetuate western domination and should be stopped.

For Rwanda, there is a lot to benefit from by having good relations with Israel, not least, the shared policy of NEVER AGAIN genocide and how to become a regional powerhouse despite a small geographic size. And good relations with Israel would continue the country’s pragmatic approach of cultivating new friends, which would help serve its interests.

Continue reading on The East African

By Christopher Kayumba

Kagame’s critique of his govt shows media, civil society missing in action

If I were asked to name the best critical voice against President Paul Kagame’s government within the country whether individual or institutional, I would say: President Kagame himself. For it’s when he speaks, often at the annual government retreat or at the national dialogue that we get a glimpse of what the government isn’t doing right while everyone else tells us it is performing well.

If you doubt my assessment, consider what he said at the opening of the five-day government retreat that concluded last week.

After reminding his officials of the history of genocide and why we must always ask ourselves “Why is it us who had this history.” He also asked the officials whether they were matching the country’s ambition with action and a sense of urgency to overcome that history.

In his view, ambition isn’t matched with deeds or urgency. He told them, “You take your time doing what needs to be done, you do not talk to one another and you feel entitled, that people owe you. What are you entitled to and who owes you?”

And while he didn’t name names, the president said there is “carelessness, even recklessness,” that “If you were to ask how much we have lost from this carelessness,” and failure to communicate and co-ordinate, “it’s incredible.”

The president said the country loses huge sums of money from contracts with service providers and “It’s not about lacking competence. It’s that some of those involved are gaining. That those who represent us gain with the other party,” at the expense of the country.

He added that, “Every time you look at the contracts, you find they are in favour of the other party, not us. The safeguards are about the other party.”

While promising to eradicate this vice, he reminded the officials that matching ambition with deeds requires not only having the brains but also the heart.

The president’s message is threefold: That there is big corruption going on managed through contracts; that there is lack of patriotism on the part of some and finally, that a costly sense of entitlement exists in some.

Traditionally, this kind of critic or exposing of the government’s dysfunction and corruption should come from the political opposition or civil society, oversight institutions and the media.

Yet, in Rwanda, we rarely hear such news. And I agree with the president that it isn’t due to lack of competence or capacity.

And even if it were a problem of limited capacity in the media, the president simplified the journalists’ work not only by pointing at the possibility of corruption, but also classifying what his government is doing into three categories that can act as a framework of analysis and further investigation by journalists.

The categories he provided are: (1) “Things done well” (which is normally reported); (2) “Things not done so well; sometimes done terribly; with a huge loss to government,” and (3) What we aren’t doing yet are capable of.

Looking at our media, we often mainly read or hear about the things the government does well; little about “things not done well” and never on what we are capable of doing but fail to.

Continue reading on The East African

By Christopher Karumba

Picture credit: Zacharias Abubeker/Getty Images

Kagame African Union reform team seeks to realign key bloc’s institutions

Nairobi (Kenya) – A team of experts led by Rwandan President Paul Kagame have come up with proposals to end duplication of roles by various Africa Union organs; and to cede some roles to regional economic communities. If implemented, the proposals will realign a dozen or so institutions of the AU.

The proposals were collated from views gathered from various experts and regional blocs, and contained in a report presented at the 28th AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week.

“The point is to think strategically about which organisation at which level is best placed to take the lead in a given case. The AU should focus on a fewer number of priority areas that are by nature continental in scope, such as political affairs, peace and security, economic integration (including the Free Trade Area), and Africa’s global representation and voice,” said President Kagame.

The team also proposed a clear division of labour between the AU, regional economic blocs, regional mechanisms (such as Igad), member states and other continental institutions, in line with the principle of subsidiarity.

The reforms also target the efficient and effective management of the business of the continental body at both the political and operational level and also to ensure that they can be sustainably financed by member states.

Working with President Kagame on the reforms were Donald Kaberuka, former president of the African Development Bank; Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Cristina Duarte, former minister for finance and planning of Cape Verde.

Other members were Strive Masiyiwa, executive chair of Econet Wireless; Tito Mboweni, former governor of the South African Reserve Bank; Amina J. Mohammed, Minister for Environment of Nigeria; Mariam Mahamat Nour, Minister for Economy, Planning and International Co-operation of Chad and Vera Songwe, regional director for West and Central Africa at the International Finance Corporation.

The team, however, said the key problem facing the AU was lack of implementation of resolutions and reforms that have been put forward over time.

“The Assembly has adopted more than 1,500 resolutions. Yet there is no easy way to determine how many of those have actually been implemented. By not following up to ensure that our decisions are implemented, we are effectively saying that they don’t matter. As a result, we have a dysfunctional organisation with limited credibility among member states, global partners and citizens alike,” President Kagame told the summit.

He warned that the reform agenda will come to nothing unless member states resolve to do things differently and take responsibility and ownership of the key changes, adding that, the reforms would require re-evaluation of the AU Commission’s structure to establish the right staffing levels needed to deliver on mandates and an audit of red tape and bottlenecks that impede effectiveness.

The experts also suggested a number of operational management reforms to be considered, including enhancing the election of the chairperson of the AUC, to make the process more transparent and robust.

The team’s report says that the AU’s top leadership should be lean and performance-oriented, giving special attention to governance organs.

Continue reading on The East African

By Edmund Kagire 

Why Nkurunziza, Kagame won’t kiss and make up

So, is Burundi still a member of the East African Community? And when will President Pierre Nkurunziza stop “hiding” and show up an EAC summit? Even President Salva Kiir, who presides over the wreckage that South Sudan has become over the past two years, turns up, with his polygamous lieutenants in tow.

Part of the problem is that after Nkurunziza made a third-term grab last year, plunging his country into violence again, and coming close to losing power in a bungled coup as he attended an EAC mediation meeting, he has been wary of leaving his village.

Relations between Burundi and Rwanda have deteriorated, with Bujumbura accusing Kigali of backing rebels. Kigali, in turn, says Burundi is in bed with anti-Rwanda government Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who are based in eastern DR Congo where they fled after slaughtering hundreds of thousands in the 1994 genocide.

However, despite this, there is still something unEast African about this.

It’s no secret that in his last years, there was little love lost between former Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete and Kagame.

There had always been contradictions, dating back to the Rwanda Patriotic Front rise to power, Rwanda’s role in the “Congo war”, and the varying positions the two countries took on the Burundi civil war.

But the resentment came boiling out into the open when Kikwete went to an AU meeting in Addis Ababa, and said Kigali should talk to the FDLR, a matter that remains anathema to the RPF.

Still, it was possible to have Kikwete and Kagame in the same room, without fear that they would end up on the floor wrestling each other.

Thus, the elegant art of East African hypocrisy act is well developed. The first few years after President Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986, relations were quite rocky with Daniel arap Moi’s Kenya government.

Moi, facing rising opposition at home, was distrustful of a radical Museveni, suspicious that he was helping militant Kenyan elements. In the end, though, Museveni and Moi broke bread and became friends.

The last time the situation similar to the one between Nkurunziza and Kagame existed in an EAC setting, was in the late 1970s. Uganda’s military dictator Field Marshal Idi Amin and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere didn’t get along at all.

In a move that was perplexing at that time, Amin first offered to marry Nyerere.

When Nyerere continued to spurn him, the gigantic Amin, perhaps sensing he had a size advantage, then challenged Mwalimu to a boxing match.

Rwanda Twenty Years On: The Dangers of Demography

April 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, three months of violence which saw the massacre of over 800,000 members of the Tutsi ethnic group at the hands of their Hutu compatriots. Thousands of Hutu moderates were also eliminated in a killing spree which left a third of the country’s population either dead […]

Interview with Paul Kagame

As a tiny, resource-poor country wedged into Africa’s troubled Great Lakes region, Rwanda might not seem to have been dealt a winning hand. But over the last decade, it has proved a minor development miracle. Emerging from a catastrophic genocide in 1994, the country has had a long way to travel. It still languishes relatively […]

Creating a Private Sector Development Model for the World to Follow

Last week was the first time, in my memory, that a U.S. president came to Africa with investment at the top of his agenda and prioritised meeting with the continent’s business leaders, who are the true drivers of development. President Obama should be congratulated for his vision, and for providing the clearest proof yet that the […]

Rwanda: Kikwete In Trouble Over FDLR

Just over a fortnight ago, Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania, kicked off a firestorm of controversy with what many in Rwanda and outside of it saw as a terrible faux pas. It started with what would have struck followers of events in the Great Lakes…

Kagame chooses team to plan ‘transition formula’ ahead of 2017

President Paul Kagame has launched a process that could finally end the debate on a third term for him, by tasking three senior members of his Rwandan Patriotic Front to come up with a “transition formula.” The president used the platform of the party’s national executive committee (NEC) on February 8 to task Tito Rutaremara, […]