President Paul Kagame received credentials from five new diplomatic envoys accredited to Rwanda, yesterday, at Village Urugwiro in Kigali.
The envoys include Taoufik Hnana, Tunisia’ Ambassador to Rwanda with residence in Kinshasa, DR Congo; Hawa Olga Ndilowe, Malawi’s Ambassador to Rwanda with residence in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Switzerland’s Ambassador to Rwanda Ralf Heckner, with residence in Nairobi in Kenya; Felix Costales Artieda, the Ambassador of Spain to Rwanda with residence in Nairobi, and Gabon’s Ambassador to Rwanda with residence in Kinshasa, Michel Biang.
The envoys reiterated their commitment to further strengthen the respective countries’ cooperation with Rwanda, with emphasis on economic and political ties.
Artieda, Spain’s ambassador to Rwanda said he would ensure that the cooperation between the two countries is made stronger during his tour of duty.
“The bilateral relations between Rwanda and Spain are good but, of course, there is always room for improvement,” said Amb. Artieda.
“We have had some stumbling blocks regarding our bilateral relations, especially with the legal indictments by the Spanish High court.”
Rwanda and Spain since 2008 enjoyed luke-warm relations after Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu issued international arrest warrants against 40 Rwandan officials, accusing them of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and terrorism, among others.
However, the arrest warrants were revoked by the Spanish Supreme Court in October 2015, before ordering the case closed.
“This issue is now over, after the Spanish government introduced change in our legislation by which we have curtailed the principle of universal jurisdiction that some of the Spanish Judges were applying—a case which involved the death of some Spanish citizens in DR Congo—but this is now shelved and it has disappeared. We are happy that we can start afresh to build future relations between our two nations,” Amb. Artieda said.
“I and President Kagame also discussed regional integration. As EU, we believe in integration because Europe is what it is today partly because of regional integration; we know the advantages but we also know of the difficulties. That’s why we advocate for a strong political will to carry on with this process of regional integration,” said Artieda, who doubles as the EU’s Ambassador to the EAC.
Switzerland’s Ambassador to Rwanda Heckner noted that he would work to strengthen bilateral relations, with specific focus on economic relations.
Heckner said the relations would focus on partnering with Rwanda in her pursuit to become a regional conference hub through Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) strategy, which was launched in 2014.
“I am a citizen of Davos (Switzerland), where the World Economic Forum (WEF) has been taking place for the last several years and I am happy that the Forum is taking place in Kigali this week. This is a very good platform to exchange and enhance the bilateral economic relationship, and the Swiss businesses will be here as well,” Heckner said.
Amb. Heckner said that Switzerland, with the help of Rwandan government, will this week launch a new phase of its programme to promote market oriented skills training and employment in the Great Lakes region (PROMOST).
In Rwanda, the PROMOST was launched in 2013 and is currently implemented in the Western Province by SwissContact.
The first phase of the three-year programme ended in 2015, and the new phase running through November 2018, will be formalised by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Swiss Cooperation and the Ministry of Education, according to Amb. Heckner.
Meanwhile, Ndilowe, Malawi’s Ambassador to Rwanda, said since the two countries lie within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), she looks forward to strengthening Rwanda-Malawi trade relations, especially with focus on agricultural produce, as well as sharing good governance practices, among other areas of mutual interest.