Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister
Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister

Rwanda is concerned there is still a lot of politicking about the issue of FDLR militia based in DRCongo and nothing is being done to remove the militia group which United States listed as a terrorist organisation.  

Louise Mushikiwabo, the foreign affairs minister on Tuesday met members of both local and international media to update the public on the Rwanda’s diplomacy and preparations to host the 27th African Union summit in July.

Journalists inquired about several issues including; the status of Rwanda’s  relations with south Africa, the threat of FDLR, Burundian refugees and international Justice.

Below are excerpts of the interview ;

Mushikiwabo:  I am very pleased to have this opportunity to exchange once more with all of you. What I can tell you is that we have been very busy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the country itself.

There has been a lot going on that I know you have been covering…we are also expecting a number of high level officials here in Kigali in the middle of July. As you know Rwanda will be hosting the summit of the African Union.

The 27th African Union Summit will be taking place here in Kigali, with very important and strategic discussions to take place amongst heads of state of the continent.

Quite a lot of good news in the summit including advances in terms of integration, this summit will see the first African passport delivered to heads of state symbolically to give the start trickling down to other African citizens.

We are looking at ways to speed up and facilitate as much as possible the free movement of people across the continent. Rwanda as you know is a country that strongly believes in integration, we have taken our own measures to allow Africans to come to Rwanda and Rwandans to go across the continent.

We need to trade amongst ourselves and it’s difficult to advance intra-Africa trade without facilitating the movement of people, of goods and services and so forth.

This Summit’s theme will be: “2016: African Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on the Rights of Women”.

We will be talking about particularly in the first day of the summit on the 17th of July in the afternoon will be a good discussion of delivering on the rights of women.

Rwanda is a country that is extremely receptive of the advancement of women, so, so is a very fitting theme for here, we will be receiving the chairperson of the African Union Commission here in Kigali next week, to discuss details of the program with the President of Rwanda.

This is also going to be a summit with elections of the African Union Commission. Both the Chairperson and the Deputy and several commissioners will be leaving the commission. Their term will be up.

So in addition to all this we will be discussing here in Kigali during the summit, how Africa can finance itself on a number of initiatives and program of African Union, so we will be expecting a number of Finance Ministers across the continent to be here for this important discussion with heads of state. We will be talking about resource mobilization for peacekeeping; we will be of course going through usual statutory discussions for such summits.

The meetings will start on 10th of July with the Ambassadors’ meeting known as the permanent representatives committee, followed by meetings of the Foreign Affairs Ministers known as the Executive Council, and the summit of heads of state. So as I think you are very excited to receive our brothers and sisters from the continent here in Kigali.

We look forward to these very important discussions. But as I mentioned a moment ago, we have been crisscrossing the world for the usual business of foreign affairs, and some of the most recent trips include travel and attendance of an important meeting on how to get more women in politics which I attended on Amman-Jordan.

We had a retreat of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Nairobi-Kenya, a month ago I was in Italy for Africa-Italy collaborative discussion. We want Italian companies to come to our country and the rest of the continent.

These are times of collaborations amongst countries particularly to address some of the global issues that need all of us…the countries; big and small to work together, and my last trip 10 days ago was to Geneva where I participated in the launch of the candidature of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia for the position of the Director General of World Health Organisation which will be in May 2017.

He was endorsed by the entire continent in January during the heads of State in Addis Ababa as Africa’s candidate to the World Health Organisation.

We had a very good launch in Geneva which coincided with the Africa Day which is May 25, and had the opportunity to showcase our candidate is probably one of the best qualified individuals to run the World Health Organisation.

He also had the opportunity to give his own views on what he thinks should happen in terms of moving forward with the World Health Organisation and we also think that besides high qualifications of the Minister of Ethiopia, we think sometimes other parts of the world need to share. We do have a great candidate and we think it’s time for Africa to run the World Health Organisation.

There has been a lot happening and I am here to receive your questions.

Journalists meeting foreign affairs minister
Journalists meeting foreign affairs minister

Media: On the issue of FDLR Hon. Minister, last week we heard that operations were going to resume against the force in Eastern DRC. What is Rwanda’s take on this issue?

Media: Latest report say there is a split between FDLR and there is unrest in DRC. I am wondering if this might affect relations between Rwanda and DRC.

Mushikiwabo: FDLR operations resumed last week…these operations resume every now and then and I don’t think last week was the first time of operations against the FDLR. I think at this point let’s just wait and see what happens. I think a lot is said and very little is done on FDLR.

It’s just people and countries playing politics and have little to do to remove FDLR. Some countries particularly countries on the UN Security Council are the same countries responsible for peace and stability in our region and have just been playing politics.

It’s all linked to the support of the FDLR back at the time of the genocide enjoyed with some of these powerful countries as we have seen elsewhere also are just playing politics with matters of security.

Some countries that have been involved on the wrong side during the genocide covering up and playing games with the FDLR. I think as we have said also before, the most important thing for Rwanda is to be prepared to protect our citizens and our territory. The rest is just politics that we all know and as a country we also know how to react to that kind of funny politics.

The split in FDLR, I think the first thing one realizes is that much as the numbers of FDLR elements in the DRC keep being reported as going down anywhere from a few thousands and now 175 remaining…Again that’s also politics.  Clearly reorganizing and splitting, disputes and all that only tells us that the FDLR is alive in the DRC.

But again we have said this before also, this is not the responsibility of DRC alone, this is a responsibility of many countries that are charged with handling this issue; we’ve been communicating and exchanging with the DRC on this matter; there is no negative impact in terms of our relationship with DRC.

It’s something that has been there for two decades, so we go back and forth but whether there is a split or no split; these are all bad guys. Sometimes they try to cleanse themselves and reinvent themselves; changing names I do not know how many times…

I think sometimes with the advice of some known African politicians sometimes trying to create something out of FDLR but you know; all I can say is that as far as Rwanda is concerned, we are ready for the FDLR in one way or another so we really do not think their split is anything new or anything that should change the way we have been looking at the situation over the last few years. Is that not enough?

Some of the FDLR combatants  
Some of the FDLR combatants

Improving relations with south Africa

Media: Thank you Hon. Minister. Away from the AU Summit, I wanted to know what Rwanda is doing to normalize relations with South Africa. 

Mushikiwabo: The normalization of relations between Rwanda and South Africa has been implemented over the last a two years. So there is no question as to the decision by both countries to move forward and to move beyond some of the tensions that had been there since actually 2010.

Normalization is a process and includes a number of things. You can see that a number of commercial activities between countries are ongoing.

There are many trade and investments-many South African Companies are operating here in Rwanda, RwandAir flying to Johannesburg daily, South African officials coming to Rwanda for official business including the large delegation that attended the World Economic Forum on Africa led by the Deputy President.

There is no question about both of us normalizing relations. The other point of appointing diplomats is ongoing and after selecting and deciding what diplomat should be…staffing our mission in South Africa. So there is no question that we are normalizing.

Some of the other things on our side is that we are waiting for the promised reinstatement of Visa facilities for ordinary Rwandans. We the officials travel easily to South Africa, but we also want ordinary Rwandans to have the same kind of access.

These are things that we keep discussing both ways but there is no question about normalization. Some of the aspects of it are taking longer particularly on the South African side but us on the Rwandan side once we made a decision to normalize, we proceed with what was agreed in terms of normalization actions.

Burundi refugees fetching water at Mahama camp, Rwanda
Burundi refugees fetching water at Mahama camp, Rwanda

Expulsion of Burundian refugees

Media: Recently you requested other countries to give refugee to Burundian refugees. I want to have updates on this. Thank you.

Media: I would like to ask the question related to Burundians exiled to Rwanda’s soil who were expelled and then the bilateral diplomatic relations between Rwanda and Burundi and diplomatic relations between Rwanda and South Africa.

Mushikiwabo: I have just explained in Kinyarwanda. There are two reasons: first of all, there are too many Burundians who were mainly in the districts of the South-East of Rwanda close to the border of Burundi without particular status who were neither Burundian refugees nor Burundians working in Rwanda because it’s allowed but there is a process through which the application of work must go.

The second reason was a great number, if you have seven, eight, nine thousands of people in one district who are there illegally is also the important reason for which we wanted them return to Burundi. It’s ongoing exercise in the southern part of Rwanda not far from the border of Rwanda and Burundi, there were Burundian citizens who were in Rwanda on unexplained grounds we will continue to ensure that Burundians who are in Rwanda are recognized as refugees legally living in Rwanda with all required procedure.

The relations between Rwanda and Burundi nothing new, I think that there is also nothing new in the relations inter-Burundians in the year-long crisis as for us we are still there. As you know there begins the talks in Tanzania, I don’t know if there is something new but there are some protests of political parties. There is nothing special for many weeks.

Judges at the African Court of Human and People’s rights court
Judges at the African Court of Human and People’s rights court

International Justice

Media: The African Court of Human and People’s rights court said that Rwanda can withdraw from some of the declarations. I would like to know where Rwanda in regard to this ruling. Lastly, as a champion of pan Africanism, Rwanda is not being a champion of Pan Africanism. 

Mushikiwabo: Well, let me first of all clarify this whole African court. I realize that every time it is reported on its quite inaccurate and I think it has to do with the fact that most people don’t even read and find out what the case is about.

Let me Rwanda has not withdrawn from African court; we are member of the court and we support very much an African court. It’s needed, so there has been no such a thing as withdrawing from the court.

What Rwanda did was request to withdraw from a declaration that Rwanda has made along with a few African countries; about seven or eight other countries.

What is this declaration about? It is an African Union process, it’s not a court; it’s a political   process which basically said that as members of the African court; additionally, we accept and we are ready for Individuals, civil society groups; NGOs to bring cases against our countries before the African court.

In addition to being members of the court, we took a step to say we do not mind as a country we opened up for cases being brought about us as a country.

Again few other countries took same declaration in an African context but what we realized in the pace of three years, that additional good will declaration was being abused by individuals whose cases have no merit, have been dismissed; but more aggravating for Rwanda was that cases linked to Genocide were being brought back through the court.

For us that is something that was no longer going to be acceptable, so what we asked the court, was to give us time to review our declaration to decide whether to pullout or not. That’s really where the process is because we want pan African institutions to function properly so what Rwanda did was actually in protection of Pan Africanism.

We want Pan African institutions to function professionally, we want Justice at the level of the continent to be advance as the continent has many qualified individuals in the sector of justice but when it ceases to be justice and becomes abusive as it mixes up with politics; and then it kills the nature and the original purpose of the court.

We were very pleased to see last Friday that our request was accepted that indeed we should go back and look at our declaration that we made for additional individuals and NGOs to bring cases.

It’s a good opportunity for us as we have been doing; to talk to other African countries to make sure that the process we have subscribed to voluntarily do not get hijacked by politics once again.

We will be sure to discuss with other African countries in the next summit that when a country has decided to take an extra step and really allow for justice to take place; it looks like now it is being hijacked by other members with rather very abusive attitude towards justice. That’s really what happened.

We hope and we think that the ruling of the court in favor of Rwanda’s request is a good opportunity to have a serious discussion and not derail the original mission of the content, I can tell you that behind these individuals that are linked to Genocide in Rwanda; there are some non-African entities that are funding these activities and asking some of individuals or NGOs to go look for cases against Rwanda.

There some European entities/ individuals also funding these guys to go look for cases against Rwanda so we are no longer talking about justice and that’s why as a country requested to be allowed to review our commitment in terms of our declaration otherwise we are and remain a member of the African court.

 Ladislas Ntaganzwa a genocide suspect recently extradited to Rwanda 
Ladislas Ntaganzwa a genocide suspect recently extradited to Rwanda

Media: Thank you. Now let me take you back to the issue of Justice. As we speak there is an ongoing trail in France. France has refused to extradite those people to Rwanda to be tried here in Rwanda. To the best of my knowledge, the organization that is pushing for justice in France struggles to raise funds. Why is it that France is not funding these trials?

Mushikiwabo: Genocide is a crime against humanity and it is a responsibility of all of us. There is a lot of politics around genocide and perpetrators of genocide and their supporters even though they were defeated, but their ideology and thinking was obviously not defeated. So in there you find illogical explanation in dealing with genocide issue because there is politics behind that.

You will see that many of these really very offensive attitude and protection of people linked to the genocide and most of them happen outside Rwanda not in Rwanda and the reason is because we Rwandans in Rwanda have done a lot of work to understand our history, where we went wrong and have administered justice but there is a level of impunity outside our borders when it comes to genocide that took place in this country and there is not much we can do.

We rely on good will and international principles and agreements that countries have signed.

When we look at the trial taking place in France now, there is a process which cannot be interfered with for obvious reasons but sometimes it’s not clear what kind of politics behind these trials are.

So the question should be posed to France not to Rwanda because that’s where this serious lack of collaboration in matters of genocide, Protection even individuals that are accused of genocide; sometimes even tricks of arresting people but are then released. Hundreds of cases when are referred to France by Rwanda, not one has been concluded.

Let me remind you that the very case that was engineered around the 20th Anniversary of the genocide of one Pascal Simbikangwa. That man was arrested for passport fraud and not arrested for genocide. It happened after he was arrested for consular matters, and he happened to be one of the genocide mastermind. It ended up being publicized as a major case.

It is important and we welcome the fact that he was tried but France did not arrest that man for genocide, he was originally arrested for something else.

So really there is not much I can explain rather than to say if countries have no good will, if countries have been caught up in the whole genocidal enterprise then they do some of these things that they don’t look normal to us in terms of International Justice, and I think at some point we should not waste too much money of the government of Rwanda and too much time; let’s these genocidal people stay with their friends in Europe because we are very limited as a country and cannot intervene in ongoing cases in what looks like legal process. Again, there is no big mystery around it but it has to do with political atmosphere that has surrounded the whole genocide enterprise.

Same for the man who was arrested a month ago. It’s a legal process and I cannot comment too much on a case going on. What is important for Rwanda is that justice be done…whether it’s done in France or in the DRC or on the moon…we just want justice done.

There is a problem in extraditing people to Rwanda…at least get them tried in another place because in the end what is desired is for people not to get away with genocide. So we really don’t mind they are arrested and tried elsewhere if there is a difficulty in extraditing them.

The Magnificent Kigali conventional center ready ahead of the African Union Summit
The Magnificent Kigali conventional center ready ahead of the African Union Summit

Rwanda will host the African Union summit

Media: Hon. Minister, we are seeing lots of construction in preparation for the African Union Summit. We have seen many Hotels not complete yet-a case of the Kigali Convention Centre. How ready are we?

Mushikiwabo: For the upcoming summit of the African Union, we are very ready. Of course as you mentioned we have a lot of activities in town… really readying ourselves in our city and our hotels and other facilities for the many guests. We are expecting from 3500 to 4000 delegates and guests coming for the African Union. We have been preparing for a long time.

You mentioned Kigali Convention Centre. This centre was meant to be ready a year and half ago. So there was delay in construction due to some contractors who with some difficulties, but we agreed with the company that has been constructing the Kigali Convention Centre on a timeline and the company has absolutely been on time.

We have been catching up with time that was lost 2-3 years ago, but I personally check on the convention centre on a very regular basis for obvious reasons and the activities going on right now at the convention centre including making sure that we have the right furniture in the right kind of a place.

The Hotel is ready, Radisson Blue is ready and it is just putting the final touches on different facilities but I can confirm to you that the Kigali Convention Centre will open in the first week of July which is actually 10 days before the summit. And the same for Marriot down town.

It will be open on July 5. We are following very closely. These touches are very important because of the high caliber of guests but also because of the numbers of people that will be in Rwanda during the summit.

Many other facilities that are not high end are also preparing as you would have seen. You also mentioned some roads, we are trying to adjust particularly the roads between the Airport and Kigali Convention Centre which will host the block of the meeting and some other meetings will take place in other hotels and Camp Kigali Village as well. So I can confirm to you that we are absolutely ready.

We will be receiving a team from the African Union Commission tomorrow to work with us again on finalizing the program vis-à-vis some of the logistics.

So I hope to see all of you during the summit. It is going to be a very exciting to one of the most exciting time particularly from the 10th to the 18th of July. The Heads of state meetings will be 16th and 17th of July and 18th will be the closing day.

On the question of opening up our new embassies in other countries, we realized it was effective since we have our representatives there-the citizens. We have opened embassies in Angola and Zambia and we have where our staff are fully operating as they wait for the appointment of the ambassador like in United Arab Emirates. We also recently opened our Embassy in Israel. All these activities are ongoing and we have started to witness positive results.

On waiving Visa for Africans to come to Rwanda, we did not do this on the basis of receiving the same services from other countries…but we believe that other countries are ready to do the same. This is symbolically seen in the agenda of the discussions that will characterize the upcoming African Union Summit.

As Rwanda, we did this as a priority for Africans to enjoy collaboration through integration on the continent. What is exciting is that some African countries have started pushing for free movement of Africans-a case of Ghana and Namibia as addition to 13 countries that have done so.

This means that Rwanda decided to waive Visas on Africans not because we expect anything in return. We welcome all Africans to freely visit our country and we believe that there are procedures for every country before coming to such a decision.

The issue of expelled Burundians from Rwanda is simple. But due to recent complexity of the political issue between the two countries, it has gone beyond this. But the main cause of taking that decision was due to an overcrowded number of Burundians in neighbouring provinces. We are part of EAC and welcome our neighbours to freely come and work here, but on legal procedures.

For those who left their properties, there has been similar issues on Rwandans who left theirs in Burundi and such things have a way they are discussed between countries.

Thank you very much. We hope to see you soon!




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