The February 21–22, 2018 State Visit by President Edgar Lungu of Zambia to Rwanda, which was a return visit after that of President Paul Kagame in June 2017, is indeed a good icing on the cake.
Growth of bilateral ties in leaps and bounds is further evidenced not only by the growing interactions and visits between senior government officials but also by strategic Agreements and MoUs that have been signed during the two respective State visits.
On the first day of his visit, President Lungu visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial where he paid tribute to victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, and then the Kigali Special Economic Zone (KSEZ).
Zambia and Rwanda enjoy excellent relations and have occasionally engaged in high level consultations on issues of strategic importance to both, including on the UN and the African Union.
President Lungu, who in August 2017 was in Rwanda for the inauguration of President Kagame, has unreservedly expressed Zambia’s support toward the African Union reform agenda spearheaded by President Paul Kagame who also now doubles as Chairperson of the African Union.
Establishment of the Rwanda High Commission in Lusaka in June 2015 is evidence of Rwanda’s commitment to promote sustainable bilateral relations, seek more new areas of cooperation and build a strong bond between the peoples of both countries.
Rwanda-Zambia relations are buttressed by an established Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation cutting across many sectors. Ahead of President Edgar Lungu’s State Visit, the Sixth Session of the Rwanda-Zambia Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC) met in Kigali (February 19-20) to explore avenues of enhancing bilateral ties and share experiences across the board.
This JPCC had been preceded by several reciprocal visits by various ministers, senior government officials and members of the private sectors.
In a clear statement of the growing relations between both countries, three agreements were signed between Zambia and Rwanda during President Paul Kagame’s State Visit to Zambia in June 2017. These agreements as you may remember are: (i) the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA); (ii) a MoU on Defence and Security Cooperation; and (iii) an Extradition Treaty.
In addition, both countries this February signed four Bilateral Cooperation Agreements to further enhance ties and integration between the two peoples.
These agreements include: (i) political consultation; (ii) science, technology and innovation cooperation; (iii) trade and Investment; and (iv) cooperation between the Rwanda Private Federation and the Zambia Chamber of Commerce.
The signing of all the aforesaid agreements was witnessed by both Presidents, a strong statement of their Excellences’ determination to see their full implementation for the benefit of the two peoples.
Consequent to this clear testimony of existence of a very enabling political environment, there is a positive trajectory in bilateral trade between both countries as well as growing interactions between the business community. Relatedly, value of bilateral trade between both countries has increased from USD 2.8 million in 2015 to USD 13.52 million in 2017 (National Institute of Statistics - Rwanda).
On other developments, following his visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, President Edgar Lungu reiterated his Government’s resolve to facilitate the bringing to book of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi that may still be living/hiding in Zambia.
On some few Rwandans still with refugee status, President Kagame said that Rwanda has been holding talks with host countries, including Zambia, to find a lasting solution for this category. “The whole idea is not to make a refugee seat a permanent one,” the Rwandan President said.
On his part, President Edgar Lungu said that Zambia would not allow a situation of permanent refugees and would find a way out within national and international legal parameters.
The Zambian President concluded his State visit after addressing a joint press conference with President Kagame on Thursday, Feb ruary 22, 2018. President Lungu remarked that his two-day State Visit and interaction with officials in Rwanda had further reinforced his belief in the need for very closer cooperation among African countries.
As a serving Rwandan diplomat I am indeed upbeat by the very encouraging growth in relations between Rwanda and Zambia, which is also positively impacting on trade value and social interactions between the two peoples.
The writer is First Counselor at the High Commission of Rwanda in Lusaka, Zambia.
This article was first published by Daily Nation of Zambia.