Rwanda and Zambia have signed four bilateral cooperation agreements to further enhance ties and integration between the two countries.
The signing, by various Rwanda and Zambian line officials, was witnessed by President Paul Kagame and President Edgar Lungu, yesterday afternoon, at Village Urugwiro in Kigali.
This marked the culmination of a two day state visit by President Lungu to Kigali which ended yesterday.
The agreements include political consultation; science, technology and innovation cooperation; and investments and partnership between private sectors of the countries.
The pacts are aimed not only at increasing cooperation among government agencies but also among private sector entities.
The two countries had previously signed bilateral air services agreement, a memorandum of understanding on defence and security cooperation, and an extradition treaty.
Addressing a press conference, the two Heads of State noted the need for increased integration and closer cooperation among African nations.
Lungu said that his two day visit and interaction with officials in Rwanda had further reinforced his belief in the need for closer cooperation among African countries.
“This visit for me consolidated my firm belief in the oneness of Africa. There is a lot we can do together. Zambia and Rwanda can be the torch bearers, there are lots of benefits to be realised from the cooperation bilaterally,” Lungu said.
President Kagame said that during his tenure as African Union chairperson, he will do all possible to bring African countries together for them to make progress on many developmental fronts.
“We are so behind as a continent and it’s a shame that Africa has almost everything it needs to be where we want to be but we are still far from achieving that in many areas,” Kagame said.
Among other things, he said that there will be continued efforts to lobby for a permanent seat by the African continent at the United Nations Security Council.
“We will intensify the discussion in the one year that we have,” he said.
He said that there are several formula that have been fronted on the modalities of exercising the development.
Kagame also gave an update of the implementation of the 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports to finance the African Union.
There are 21 countries so far on board with more set to join the initiative in coming days.
Kagame said that the delay of having all countries on board can be explained by normal difficulties in adopting changes as well as an understanding of the implications of implementing the formula.
He, however, said that they have been working with individual states to clarify issues of concern to speed up uptake.
Responding to media queries on the fate of Rwandan refugees living in Zambia, the two presidents said that they were engaging in talks to agree on a way forward.
As of December 31, 2017, the deadline upon which countries were meant to invoke the cessation clause lapsed.
Countries are meant to invoke the cessation clause for Rwandans who fled the country between 1959 and 1998.
The cessation clause is part of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its coming into force means that the Rwandans in question lost refugee status and require no more international protection.
The cessation clause affects about 4000 former Rwandan refugees in Zambia, according to Zambian media.
President Kagame said that Rwanda has been holding talks with host countries, including Zambia, to find a solution for the refugees.
“The whole idea is not to make a refugee seat a permanent one,” the president said.
Kagame said that the process is conscious of the rights and choices of the former refugees in question.
“It is dependent on choice, you do not force somebody to become your citizen or go back to where they run from without understanding that certain conditions have been fulfilled and problems resolved…. It is with this spirit that Rwanda has been discussing with different countries, including Zambia,” the president added.
Other than the countries involved, the president said that the talks also involve the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Already, a number of refugees have found solution through the talks.
On his part, President Lungu said that his country would not allow a situation of permanent refugees and would find a way out within national and international legal boundaries.
“We will not allow a situation where we have permanent refugees in Zambia,” Lungu said.
While in Kigali, President Lungu visited the Special Economic Zone, and Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.
Both countries are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a trading bloc, as well as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a platform to advance peace and security in the region.