President Paul Kagame has said that Rwanda’s decision to support African immigrants who were being sold off as slaves in Libya is informed by the country’s history and experience.
Kagame was speaking at an annual diplomatic luncheon for envoys of countries accredited to Rwanda at the Kigali Convention Centre, yesterday.
Kagame said that Rwanda remains prepared to provide support and, if necessary, sanctuary for immigrants who are willing to move to Rwanda.
The government in November last year said that the country could host up to 30,000 African immigrants currently stuck in Libya, where they are exposed to all forms of abuse, including being sold openly in slave markets in the Northern African country.
“The desperate situation of African migrants in Libya was deeply disturbing. Rwanda remains prepared to provide sanctuary for those migrants who wish to come here or through here,” Kagame said.
He recalled that in the period before the 1994 Genocide, a section of Rwandans had been rendered stateless as the then leaders believed that the country was too small to host all citizens.
This caused hundreds of thousands of Rwandans to live as refugees in countries across the world.
“There is no country that is ever too small to accommodate its people, and what we have been trying is to demonstrate that all Rwandans and other Africans if they came our way we would find a place for them. In actual fact, the first place is in our hearts, then the second place is the physical one which can be managed in different ways,” the Head of State explained.
Kagame said that Rwanda would seek to offer the immigrants a more dignified alternative compared to being sold off as slaves or drowning in the sea as they seek to flee the continent.
“I think we can provide something better than drowning or being sold off as slaves. We can give them an alternative… we promise them something better than what they currently have,” the President said.
He said that Rwanda would work alongside the African Union and concerned countries and organisations across the world to address the situation and prevent it from further recurring.
“We will work with the African Union and other concerned governments across the world and organisations to address this and prevent it from happening every now and then,” Kagame added.
Kagame, who is set to take on the role of African Union Chairperson later this month, said that during his term, among the priorities would be to foster African integration
“As the incoming chair of the African Union for 2018, Rwanda will be even more focused on African integration than ever before. We look forward to working closely with our brothers and sisters across the continent to make progress,” Kagame said.
This, he said, would enable Africans to do business with each other, and to invest and partner with the rest of the world.
“Africans have always wanted to come together, visit each other without complications, invest and do business and partner confidently with the rest of the world,” Kagame told the envoys.
The President also updated the diplomats on the progress of the African Union reform implementation process.
“I would like to inform you that the institutional and financial reform of the African Union is on track. The changes being implemented are critical for Africa’s future. One of the outcomes of the reform will be stronger, more productive partnerships between Africa and other continents,” he said.
The President added that, even as it adopted a visa on arrival policy for visitors from all across the world, Rwanda is well aware of the need to establish systems for vigilance to prevent undesirable occurrences.
“As you know we have opened our border to visitors from every nation in the world who are now eligible for visas on arrival. This will require us to be more vigilant and to establish systems that are efficient and effective so that nothing undesirable takes advantage of this,” he added.
The Deputy Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Rwanda, John Mwangemi, Kenya’s Ambassador, said that they remain ready to support the country’s social and economic development across multiple aspects.
The luncheon hosted by President Kagame was also attended by First Lady Jeannette Kagame and brought together both resident and non-resident members of the diplomatic corps.
Prior to the luncheon, 10 new envoys accredited to Rwanda presented their letters of credence to President Kagame at Village Urugwiro. They include Julia Pataki, Romanian Ambassador; Konstantinos Moatsos, Ambassador of Greece all with residence in Nairobi; Rakiatou Mayaki, Niger’s ambassador with residence in Pretoria; Seyed Morteza Mortazavi, Iranian ambassador with residence in Kampala; and Nicola Bellomo, European Union Ambassador; Oumar Daou, Malian Ambassador; Abdalla Hassan Eisa Bushara, Sudan’s Ambassador; Ahmed Samy Mohamed El-Ansary, Egyptian Ambassador; Lulit Zewdie Gebremariam, Ethiopian Ambassador; and Joanne Lomas, the UK High Commissioner to Rwanda, all based in Kigali.