- President Kagame also dismissed reports suggesting Rwanda was “Anglophone” country that had ended use of French
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and his Gabonese counterpart have come out in spirited defense of Africa-China trade links – with both agreeing that China is an “important player in global affairs”.
On China-Rwanda relations, President Kagame said the relationship is often times misunderstood – but nevertheless remains a crucial part of the journey towards Rwanda’s and Africa’s sustainable development.
The two leaders were speaking Saturday at a joint press conference. Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba today completed his two-day working visit to Rwanda, in the company of the Gabonese First Lady, Sylvia Bongo Ondimba and a small delegation composed of Gabonese officials.
“People have gone ahead to interpret so many things that do not exist and should not be the issue,” said Kagame.
“China, evidently, as the world will recognize, is an important player in global affairs including matters of investment and trade and other issues.”
He added: “Rwanda is realizing a lot of benefits from strong partnerships with a number of countries, including China, so by extension Africa and China should benefit from this.”
President Bongo also described relations between China and Gabon as a “win-win” mutually beneficial relationship, which his country welcomes.
China wasn’t the only issues discussed, as the heads of state fielded questions during an abbreviated version of usual presidential press conferences.
Addressing local and international media, the two heads of state had glowing words of approval for each other’s countries and governments, and pledged to continue this relationship for the betterment of the people of both countries.
The Presidents also in turn stressed the need to enhance relations beyond the bi-lateral level, to include the region and African continent at large.
President Kagame, in response to a question from a Gabonese media representative concerning Rwanda’s shift to Anglophone orientation, clarified that Rwanda is both francophone and Anglophone, which puts the country in a position to benefit from both worlds.
The Rwandan Head of State also brushed aside the issue of languages as a ‘small issue’ when compared to the much more pressing issues the country faces.
“There are bigger issues to deal with, bigger issues concerning our people, to lift them out of poverty, development of our country, development of our continent” President Kagame said.
He also pointed out that be it English or French, both are foreign languages that only come to support the official language used in Rwanda, Kinyarwanda, to help the country connect to the rest of the world.
The multi-lingual President Bongo Ondimba, speaking in fluent French, also echoed his counterpart’s sentiments, saying that much more pressing issues than language were discussed.
Responding to another query from Rwanda Focus reporter Shyaka Kanuma, President Ali Bongo Ondimba highlighted that the main purpose of his visit is to promote trade and investment between the two countries as Gabon endeavors to diversify an economy that is overly reliant on revenue from oil.
“There are success stories here that in this country we want to hear about and benefit from. The opposite is also true; there are also success stories in Gabon, things that we do better.”
“If my neighbor is better than me at something, it’s ridiculous for me to try and compete with him. Instead let us work together for the better good.”
“So, we talk about it, we exchange, and at the end of the day we make each one stronger.” President Bongo articulated.
President Paul Kagame on his part said that Rwanda is committed to the budding economic relationship between the two states.
“The main theme here is investing in and with each other, so that Gabon and Rwanda move forward under the theme of our strong partnership.”
Rwanda and Gabon have had a framework of bilateral cooperation since 1976. Three bilateral meetings, commonly known as Joint Permanent Commissions, between both countries were held in 1984, 1986, and 1989 rotationally in Kigali and Libreville.
From 1994, there was no bilateral meeting until November 2010, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Rwanda led a delegation to Gabon to revive relations between the two countries and to renew the outdated Cooperation Agreement to include priority cooperation sectors.
A 4th Session of the Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) between Rwanda and Gabon was subsequently held in Kigali from 18th to 19th May, 2011. This JPC significantly strengthened the relationship between the two countries.
The National Carrier RwandAir, as a result of this JPC, began operating three weekly flights on a triangular schedule between Kigali, Libreville and Brazzaville, which were recently increased to four times per week.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Gabonese Agency in Charge of Investment Promotion was also signed.
The next, 5th Joint Permanent Commission is expected to be held in Libreville, in May 2013.
The press briefing marks the end of President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s stay. Other than discussions with President Kagame, President Bongo visited the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where he met with senior management and toured key departments.
The Gabonese First Lady, Sylvia Bongo, on her part visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in the company of First Lady, Jeanette Kagame. The two leading ladies also visited a girl’s school during the course of today’s joint press conference.
The Gabonese leader departed Kigali this Saturday evening.