Foreign Minister Steinmeier received his Rwandan counterpart Louise Mushikiwabo at the Federal Foreign Office on Wednesday (28 October). Their talks focused on current crises around the world, especially in Rwanda’s neighbouring country Burundi. Both Mushikiwabo and Steinmeier agreed that German-Rwandan relations should be further developed. Steinmeier assured his counterpart that he had “heard the calls for a greater German presence in Rwanda”.
Calls for greater German presence in Rwanda
Louise Mushikiwabo travelled to Berlin with an exceptionally heartfelt message: “We want more Germany in Rwanda!” The Rwandan Foreign Minister, who is also a trained interpreter and author, had received her German counterpart in Rwanda back in February of this year. Steinmeier still fondly recalls this visit: “The big welcome party, intensive insights into the richness of your culture – I will never forget that evening!” Steinmeier said that he had heard calls for a greater German presence in the country, especially on the part of German businesses. At the end of the day, he added, Rwanda is also an attractive location, and not least thanks to current growth rates of around 7 per cent. Mushikiwabo talked about the increased interest on the part of German companies. While only four businesses were engaged in long-term commercial activities in the country just a few years ago, she said, 15 companies were active there today – especially in the areas of infrastructure, solar energy and finance.
Shared concerns about the situation in Burundi
The two Foreign Ministers viewed the crises in Rwanda’s neighbourhood, especially Burundi, with concern, however. A dangerous spiral of violence has been set in motion in the country since President Nkurunziza’s controversial re‑election in July 2015. Over one hundred thousand people have already fled their homes. Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised that it was in everyone’s interest, not only for neighbouring Burundi, to prevent the dangerous political situation from degenerating into open ethnic conflict. Mushikiwabo stressed the importance of getting a broad‑based dialogue on this crisis under way as quickly as possible.
Preparations for the EU-Africa Summit on migration
Their talks also touched on the refugee crisis. After all, Germany and Rwanda will shortly be meeting again at the EU-Africa Summit on migration issues, which is to be held in the Maltese capital Valletta. Mushikiwabo expressed her great respect for Germany’s response to the crisis: “We in Africa are very appreciative of how Germany is approaching this issue.” As Rwanda alone is currently hosting around 70,000 refugees from Burundi, the country is more than aware of the challenges involved, she said.
This meeting did not mark the end to the Rwandan Foreign Minister’s trip to Germany. She will stay in the country until Friday and attend a series of business meetings in particular. If all goes according to plan, she will be able to take a bit more of Germany back to Rwanda in her luggage – in the form of concrete investment projects.