Belgian development cooperation minister Alexander De Croo and his foreign affairs counterpart Didier Reynders yesterday completed their official visit to Rwanda. They toured development projects and committed to help further socio-economic and political ties between the two countries.
The timing of their visit says it all; they flew in hot on the heels of reports that Belgium had withheld aid to Rwanda – which both sides have since dismissed.
However, there is need to continue inculcating mutual interests and mutual respect.
It is not mutual interest when development funding is given with conditions that overlook the rights of the recipients. For a country whose troops were in Rwanda in 1994 and witnessed firsthand what the people of Rwanda endured and considering the incredible gains made in the healing and recovery journey, the least Belgium can do is to support the continued transformation from the ruins of the Genocide against the Tutsi in accordance with the aspirations of the Rwandan people.
Like the Rwandan foreign affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said, Belgium has every right to determine whether, when and how to disburse its aid funding as a development partner, but the interests of the citizens should be sacrosanct.
Yet relations between the two countries are and should be far more than just aid and politics. They are about the people, about trade and investments. The private sector on either side should tap into the current bilateral relations by entering strategic partnerships, doing business with each other or investing. Ordinary citizens should forge ties and allowed to travel without hindrance. That’s the essence of mutual bilateral relations. And the dialogue between both sides during the Belgian delegation’s visit hit the nail on the head: seeking ways to deepen and diversify bilateral ties as much as possible.