Rosemary Museminali – Rwanda’s diplomatic face of survival and resilience

“Oh yes we went through such troubles but today we have built walls, that never again shall this happen,” She explains with much conviction. Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Rosemary Museminali. Rosemary Museminali is a Rwandan born in exile in Uganda, only getting the first opportunity to settle in her home country after the 1994 genocide. At this time together with the rest of the previously exiled community, they join those who survived the genocide  - pick up the pieces and start re-building their country. I had the great privilege of interviewing this phenomenal woman, one whose devastating journey through life is a source of strength and inspiration.
Minister Rosemary Museminali.
Minister Rosemary Museminali.

“Oh yes we went through such troubles but today we have built walls, that never again shall this happen,” She explains with much conviction. Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Rosemary Museminali.

Rosemary Museminali is a Rwandan born in exile in Uganda, only getting the first opportunity to settle in her home country after the 1994 genocide.

At this time togek her how this was possible? How has Rwanda and her people managed to heal from this horrific experience and move on?

“Healing is a process, even if you were outside and lost your friends or relatives. You cannot however be in the same position of the people who where here (Rwanda) surviving the genocide. What is helping us to heal are the efforts to talk, justice is being instituted while impunity is being fought.”

Women became a major constituency in the reconstruction efforts, taking up key leadership positions at community and national levels.

She goes further to explain that the country is putting in place laws that negate genocide, “Oh yes we went through such troubles but today we have built walls,  that never again shall this happen,” she explains with much conviction.

“How do we do it? Every year we sit and remember what happened on the 7th of July.”

Upon her return to Rwanda minister Museminali, spent five years in the Ministry of Social Welfare, whose major task was to settle returning Rwandans, “take care of vulnerable groups especially children who had been separated from their families and genocide orphans,” she explains.  

After this she made a short stint with the International Red Cross. She was then appointed Ambassador to the UK where she spent five years, sharpening her diplomatic skills, which were soon to come to use in a higher capacity.

In March when President Paul Kagame reshuffled his cabinet, three key positions went to women; of note was Monique Mukamurisa who was given a new portfolio dealing with the country’s integration in the East African Community and Louise Mushikiwabo, the new information minister while Museminali took over foreign affairs.

Today she sits at ease  in her modest Boulevard de la Révolution  office, as she explains Rwanda’s Foreign Policy which is based on two broad pillars; the first being peace building and security nationally, regionally and globally, with the second being economic and wealth creation.

It must be a daunting job just to balance the various diplomatic interests and positions, while representing a fast influential east African country (Rwanda is officially a member of the East African Community).

Only last week Museminali was in the news threatening that Rwanda would pull out  her 3000  peacekeepers serving in the troubled Dafur region, upon failure by the UN to renew the mandate of Rwandan UN-AU force deputy commander Karake Karenzi.

On the International Criminal Court’s (ICC), indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir Museminali says they discussed at AU level, “how peace can be given a chance, through the comprehensive peace plan process.”

Rwanda is a member of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. One cannot discuss foreign affair matters without taking a dive into the murky waters of the principle of Universal Jurisdiction application debate. The AU stood by Rwanda on the potential flaws of this principle.

“It was a diplomatic coup,” Museminali  explains emphatically.

“Judges in France and Spain were trying to overthrow a whole government, by getting rid of the President, army officials and key diplomats.”

She says they won AU support after explaining how the principle of is being used to whip vulnerable African countries into line, by more powerful western countries, in this case Spain and France.

What are the challenges of being a female politician in Rwanda?

“Just to prove that women can do it. You are a woman and a national role model, mentoring a critical mass of growing young women.” As FA’s minister Museminali is always on the road.

“Yes I travel a lot. Mainly statutory meetings, member of the AU which meets twice a year, we are fully involved in the future integration Africa, how can African Governments be nurtured.”

Like any other female politician she has to strike a balance on the demands of her family, social and political life. Her five daughters miss her so much when she travels, get a bit annoyed at times, but she says, “they are a whole world of support.”

Two girls are at university, while the other three are still in secondary school. She also says for Rwandan women leadership in the reconstruction of their country has also been made possible by traditional and cultural values – that place female wisdom at the centre of any decision-making process, “no decision is made without women being consulted.”
 
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