VILLAGE URUGWIRO - The outgoing ambassador of the United States to Rwanda, Stuart Symington, yesterday paid a courtesy call on President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro to bid him farewell.
Symington who has been ambassador to Rwanda since September 2008 will be replaced by David W. Koran.
Addressing reporters after meeting President Kagame, Symington said that he discussed with the Head of State the country’s progress, where it is today and where it is headed and at the same time the role the US has had in the country’s development.
“I thanked him for the opportunities the US has had to work with Rwanda as partners.
I also want all Rwandans to know how grateful we are for the cooperation we have had from all of them as we worked in different areas from Agriculture to education, health and security,” Symington said.
He noted that while there are a lot of people willing to help Rwanda, the most important thing is how that support is used, noting that the US government has supported many countries but Rwanda stands out for using the support effectively.
“When we see what happens with the help we give here, with the investment we make here, we are proud to be a part of it because we see it changes the lives of people all over Rwanda,” Symington said.
“We also discussed, briefly, the future of the region and the world. What is remarkable about Rwanda is not just the changes that happen in the country, but also the changes the country is making in its relations with the rest of East Africa and DR Congo.”
The outgoing envoy said that Rwanda is becoming a “hub which God made” in the centre of Africa, observing that it is astonishing to see the country’s national carrier RwandAir flying to various parts of the continent and beyond in just a short time.
Among other things, Symington said he is proud to have served in Rwanda during which time he witnessed some of the excellent services the country offered to the world such as peacekeeping in Sudan and Haiti and the effect it has on the world as a whole.
He noted that during his three-year tenure, he saw Rwanda overcome its challenges and change for the better in many ways. Among the achievements he cited include reducing child and mother mortality rates,.
Symington said that while donors could have played a role in this, Rwanda takes the credit for implementing health programs to reduce child mortality, using community based healthcare systems, investing in better medicines and a very effective medical insurance scheme.
He said that the government invested in better heath infrastructure, nutrition programs, ambulances and medical personnel and the investment has paid off.
In his parting message, Ambassador Symington said that the young people of Rwanda literally have what it takes to build the nation, noting that young people today have more opportunities than they had in the past and it is this potential that should be put to use.
“In Rwanda today, if you are a young woman, you expect to go to school and you expect a good job after that. In Rwanda today, if you are a farmer, you expect to make more money next year than you did last, in Rwanda if you are sick, you expect to find treatment,” Symington said.
“This is a country with great expectations among its people and it is the people who draw those expectations and make them come true, if it continues to have good leadership, strong institutions and the people that make them account.”
Meanwhile, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Donald W. Koran was nominated in April 2011 by President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. ambassador to Rwanda.
Koran received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Master of Arts and PhD in economics from The Johns Hopkins University.
Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Koran was a visiting professor at Tulane University. He also served in the 1980s as a staff economist for the Federal Trade Commission and director of research for the National Cable Television Association.
Since joining the Foreign Service in 1984, Koran has held numerous assignments at the State Department, including division chief for Western and Southern Africa in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, deputy chief of mission for Niger, and deputy chief of mission for Rwanda.
Before receiving his appointment as ambassador to Rwanda, he was the director for the Office of Africa Analysis in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department.