On 20 February, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier travelled from Goma in eastern Congo to Rwanda. In Kigali he was received by President Paul Kagame and met with his counterpart Louise Mushikiwabo. Their talks focused on bilateral relations, domestic developments in Rwanda and cooperation in the Great Lakes Region. Furthermore, Steinmeier visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre where he laid a wreath in honour of the victims.
On the evening of his arrival in Kigali Steinmeier met with his counterpart Louise Mushikiwabo. Their talks focused on bilateral relations and domestic developments in Rwanda – recently, the country has made considerable economic progress, however it still faces the huge challenge of seeing through a national reconciliation process following the 1994 genocide.
Intensifying economic relations
During Steinmeier’s visit, key discussion topics were thus intensifying Germany and Rwanda’s economic relations and sharing experiences of national reconciliation processes. The German Foreign Minister joined his counterpart in opening an economic forum on business and investment potential in Rwanda at which German and Rwandan businessmen and women were able to exchange ideas and make new contacts.
Members of the business delegation also accompanied Steinmeier to his meeting with President Paul Kagame at his official residence, Urugwiro Village. Alongside economic relations, the talks with the President also addressed domestic developments in Rwanda and strengthening regional cooperation in East Africa.
Strengthening regional cooperation
Rwanda is an important hub of regional cooperation in East Africa – the country is a member of both the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries and the East African Community (EAC).
Following his discussion with Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo, Steinmeier said that he was very pleased to see that Rwanda was strongly engaged in the EAC. He went on to say that this not only presented a chance to heal some of the wounds inflicted by regional conflicts and advance peace initiatives, it was equally an opportunity to grow Rwanda’s small domestic market and to promote investment.
Anchor of stability
According to the Foreign Minister, Germany was currently refreshing its perspective on Africa and starting to view it as a continent of opportunities:
We have to refresh our outlook on Africa – the German public stills associates the continent too much with crises and conflicts. There are crises and conflicts, but at the same time there are anchors of stability such as Rwanda, who we are turning our attention to with great interest. That is why we are here today.
Remembering the genocide
Steinmeier concluded his trip to Rwanda by visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. Alongside a museum which was opened in 2004, over 250,000 victims of the genocide are buried in multiple mass graves. The Foreign Minister laid a wreath at one of the graves and observed a minute of silence for the victims.
Germany and Rwanda were not only connected by shared values, stated Steinmeier in conclusion, but by the common experience of going through a national process of reconciliation:
In Germany we also went through a national reconciliation process and I know that, 20 years after the genocide, it is naturally not yet possible for such a process to be concluded in Rwanda.