East- West rumblings: what about Rwanda’s burden of choice?

The West’s judgment on China should be none of Africa’s business. In the same logic, Africa’s dealing with China is a matter best handled amongst the two.  What I am trying to say here is that Rwandans are at a loss when they, along with other Africans, are chastised by the Western media and establishment for allowing China to trade with them.

The West’s judgment on China should be none of Africa’s business. In the same logic, Africa’s dealing with China is a matter best handled amongst the two.

What I am trying to say here is that Rwandans are at a loss when they, along with other Africans, are chastised by the Western media and establishment for allowing China to trade with them. 

Surely we assume that the right to choose our partners when doing business is a prerogative that should not be questioned.

Then there is the issue of human rights.  From the argument of those who believe China should stay away from Africa, lest it enforce bad habits there, it would seem as though civil liberties are inherent to the West—and that no other part of the world understands the good they do to society. 

To that kind of thinking, Rwanda opposes the simple and fundamental belief, rising out of the last fifteen years of nation rebirth; that Rwandans are better off when their rights are protected and their views heard. 

If Rwanda’s leadership (and Africa’s) were not to provide and preserve rights for all; if we were to neglect our Environment; not seek decent wages for our workers and allow unfair competition for our merchants, then we would be failing our people. 

And if we were to do so, it would not be an East or West issue: “the burden is on us”, in the words of Paul Kagame, talking to the press last Friday. 

Yet, here’s what an article by The Economist of October 15, 2009 titled “China and Africa: Don’t Worry about Killing People“ says, “Mr. Kagame is sensitive to growing Western criticism of his increasingly autocratic ways, so he too may start looking east.”

The author seems to imply that President Kagame should side with the West against China because the West brings more scrutiny to shortcomings in human rights.

What a selective memory!  I will ignore the sponsors of coups in Africa from the time of its independence; I will also skip those using African shores as dumpsters of toxic waste; I might even close my eyes on those who chopped off the hands of workers in rubber plantations in Africa, but I will not be quiet about this: neither Paul Kagame nor China aided and abetted a genocidal regime in Rwanda; unfortunately, I cannot say the same for a number of Western countries.

Lastly--and the matter that clarifies the position of Paul Kagame and that of his Government; It’s about Africa--- it has very little to do with China. Rwanda is looking West, East and any other direction, in its own interests. 

Author is Spokesperson, Government of Rwanda

 

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