President Paul Kagame yesterday began a four-day official visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, a nation with a longstanding bilateral cooperation with Rwanda.
The Head of State is on a reciprocal visit after his German counterpart, Horst Koehler, visited Rwanda in February this year.
Officials in the President’s Office say Kagame will meet with President Koehler, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, German parliamentarians, and other public and private sector officials.
Germany, whose engagements with Rwanda pre-date the arrival of Belgian colonialists to Rwanda after the World War I in 1918, is one of Rwanda’s main development partners both at the national level and lower administrative levels.
Officials say Rwanda considers its ever-growing relations with the European nation as strategic given the influence Germany wields not only, in Europe but the world over.
Germany’s economy is said to be the largest in Europe and third in the world although it has been the slowest growing in the Euro Zone for some time now.
The nation is also a key member of Europe’s economic, political and defence organizations.
"Germany and Rwanda have continued to enjoy good relations since Rwanda’s Independence in 1962," a Government memo obtained by The New Times indicates.
The memo, prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recognizes Germany’s association with Rwanda between the years 1896 and 1916 when the latter was a German colony before it was placed under the protectorate of Belgium by the League of Nations predecessor to the United Nations Organisation.
In the document, the Government pays tribute to Germany for having moved fast to help Rwanda in her recovery efforts following the 1994 Genocide in which the country lost over a million of her citizens and property worth billions of dollars.
‘After the 1994 Genocide, Germany was among the first countries to reopen their embassies in Kigali and to assist in the repair of damaged utilities such as electricity, water and telecommunication,’ the document states.
And as such President Kagame, who is making his fourth official trip to Germany since 2002, will be looking forward to convey his nation’s appreciation to the people of Germany for standing by their side during that trying period. He will at the same time seek to further the bilateral relations.
‘It should be emphasized that it is of great interest to reinforce and strengthen relations with Germany, given its central position in the European Union and its strong economy,’ the Foreign Affairs ministry said.
The Head of State’s visit is also expected to set the stage for the next bilateral cooperation meeting between both governments scheduled to take place next year in Kigali.
Such high-level bilateral meetings – whose venues alternate between both countries – are held once every two years to review the nations’ cooperation strategy although annual progress review sessions are held.Kigali is the venue for this year’s session.
The bilateral development cooperation between both countries is based on a framework agreement on financial and technical cooperation.
Under the financial cooperation, Germany last year joined Britain, Sweden and to a certain extent, Belgium in channelling part of its aid to the country’s General Budget Support though the volume is comparatively low.
According to officials, its commitment in that arrangement amounts to Euros 5 million a year. Finance and Economic Planning Minister James Musoni said yesterday that such a step (channelling aid through General Budget Support) was a "manifestation of the confidence they have in our system."
"They have just joined that programme, and we hope they will scale up their commitment. Having started itself is a good statement," the minister observed.
Government officials suggest that grants that are channelled through General Budget Support enable faster, coordinated, effective and evenly-distributed national development programmes.
However, Germany also injects a proportion of its total aid to Rwanda through Sector Budget Support for health and good governance.
Germany also offers support to the country’s growing private sector by extending concessional loans and non-repayable grants to local finance small-scale investments in economic and social infrastructure through micro-finance projects.
A Gf the major German firms that have made investments here.
Strabag, which deals in mainly road construction, has won a string of lucrative contracts, while ADC is involved in finance and real estate.
Musoni said ADC have already bought majority shares in several local companies including SIMTEL – which is developing electronic payment system – in which it now owns 75 percent, Real Contractors – a construction firm – (51 percent) and Rwanda Development Bank (BRD).
Musoni said a deal had already been struck for ADC to acquire 25 percent shares in BRD and the bank’s general assembly was due to meet today to officially release the shares to the German company.
Musoni said that Germany was also supportive of Rwanda in the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, G8 and in other international bodies.
"Germany has been so helpful but it can do better," Musoni said, adding that the President’s visit could win over even more German entrepreneurs to make Rwanda a strategic investment destination.
Kagame could also use his visit to call on German officials to encourage G8 – a group of eight most industrialized nations, including Germany – to fulfil their pledge to upscale their financial support to developing nations, a promise they made in a 2005 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland.
In his recent visits abroad, Kagame has always found time to address the business community, and always emphasized one message: that what Rwanda and Africa needed more were not financial handouts, but investments.
Minister Musoni said he could not agree with the President more. He said much as grants were crucial in building a conducive business environment, over time foreign direct investments needed to overtake grants.
"Rich nations like Germany should help developing countries build stronger business communities, capacity building through education programmes and grants to build the required business environment. The combination of those three components would help developing nations stand on their own," he said.
Incidentally, Kagame travelled to Germany days after Amavubi national women team had arrived to the European nation and started playing friendly marches.
However, not all is good with Germany in the eyes of Rwandans. For instance, Germany hosts Ignace Murwanashyaka, the leader of the Democratic Forces the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan rebel force whose military bases are in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Murwanashyaka returned to Germany from FDLR bases in DRC in 2005, violating earlier travel and financial sanctions slapped on him and several other militia leaders in the Great Lakes region by the UN Security Council.
And despite resolutions by four Great Lakes nations namely Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Uganda –acting through a UN and US-supported forum known as Joint Tripartite Plus Commission – discouraging the media from providing platform to FDLR leaders, Murwanashyaka continues to freely speak on international media.
While on a visit to Rwanda recently, President Koehler was asked by Genocide survivors – through their organization, IBUKA – to push for Murwanashyaka’s extradition to face charges of Genocide revisionism.
Most FDLR members are believed to have committed Genocide crimes in addition to other human rights violations in DRC, Burundi and Uganda.
And according to Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are other Rwandan Genocide revisionists residing in Germany.
‘Emphasis could be put on the signing of any possible agreement to repatriate them to Rwanda to face justice, or at the very least, to hand them over to international justice institutions,’ the ministry said in a memo.