CANBERRA - Rwanda’s bid to join the elite group of former British colonies’ alliance, the Commonwealth has got a boost from one of its prominent members, Australia.
Foreign Affairs Minister Rosemary Museminali started a 4-day official visit to Australia aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.
On her first day Museminali met her Australian counterpart Stephen Smith and pledged Rwanda’s support for Australia’s bid for a United Nations Security Council seat come 2013/14.
Australia in turn pledged support for Rwanda’s application to join the Commonwealth.
“Rwanda will back Australian government’s bid for a UN Security Council seat in return for Australian support for its Commonwealth membership application,” Australian papers quoted Stephen Smith as saying.
But Smith told reporters that Australia’s developing relationship with Rwanda and other African nations, transcends the short-term benefit of gaining support in the Security Council vote.
Smith told a joint press conference in Canberra that Australia had to enhance its engagement with Africa, a significant trading partner.
Australia, one of the biggest economies in the world has had very minimal engagements with African countries.
“That long-term ambition transcends any Security Council campaign that we might be running,” Smith told reporters.
“The Security Council campaign will come and go by 2013/14 but the need for Australia to rectify what has been in my view a public and foreign failure of the past to enhance and deepen its engagement with Africa will remain ongoing.”
Minister Museminali is also scheduled to meet some investors with a view of inviting them to come and explore investment opportunities in Rwanda as the Indian Ocean countryseeks to strengthen its ties with Africa.
The talks Museminali had with her Australian colleague centred on Rwanda’s readiness to back Australia’s ambition to be a member of the Security Council in the 2014/15 term and how Australia could help Rwanda improve its education, agriculture, agro-business and mining.
Smith pledged his country’s support for Rwanda’s aspiration to join the commonwealth and welcomed the country’s commitment to realising the values of democracy, good governance, and human rights, 15 years after the 1994 Genocide.
Museminali said Rwanda has made great strides in rebuilding its economy, the society and institutions since the 1994 genocide.
“We are a country that is benefiting from aid but a country that is determined to use that aid to build our own capacity, we have put the genocide behind us and we are progressing” she said.
Rwanda’s bid to join the 53 member-states Commonwealth expected to materialise this September during the Commonwealth Heads of Governments (CHOGM) to take place in Trinidad and Tobago has gained momentum with several member states including the UK, Uganda and now Australia, coming up to back Rwanda’s entry.
(Additional reporting by Agencies)