Rwandan Ambassador Saleh Habimana - press photo
CAIRO - 12 February 2019: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi leaves Addis Ababa Tuesday after a two-day visit, during which he officially received Egypt’s chairmanship of the African Union from Rwanda.
President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, who was elected as the chairman of the African Union in 2018, discussed his achievements during the opening session of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, reiterating that the goal is to work toward delivering the pillars of Agenda 2063 and to increase financial contribution by member states.
Speaking with Rwandan Ambassador to Cairo Saleh Habimana, he said that although there is no special experience that Rwanda can offer Egypt because both countries are similar in terms of politics and other things, “what we can offer is the experience of hope,” as he went on explaining how his country came out of a total destruction after the bloody genocide that erupted in 1994.
The Rwandan genocide is believed to have been a mass slaughter of many of the Tutsi population, with deaths estimated at 1 million Rwandans, by members of the Hutu majority government at that time.
“We are only 25 years [away from the genocide]; however, Rwanda was still able to put together leaders of Africa to think in the same direction, dream very big, to plan very high…we were able to raise the budget of the African Union,” Ambassador Habimana told Egypt Today in a phone call.
He further listed the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Zone in March 2018 in Kigali as one of the achievements of Rwanda’s tenure on top of the African institution.
“Now, Rwanda as small and young as it is, it was able to move [forward] and bring together the hope of Africans,” the ambassador added.
As Egypt takes the helm for one-year term, Habimana said that the African Union has its framework and machinery to design its own policies; however, the entity is moved by the president.
“When it comes to Egypt…a very strong country with a well-committed history…there is another experience of hope.”
New leadership brings new partnership
Ambassador Habimana considered Egypt’s geographical position and history of commitment towards the continent as strong factors that make Egypt's role great and important to the union during the coming year.
In the same context, the Rwandan ambassador to Cairo said “Egypt is a very influential country in the Arab World, and can reach the Gulf through the Red Sea. From the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt is a gate to Europe… from the Red [Sea], Egypt is a gate to the Arab World.”
“Today Africa has a hope to partner with Europe.”
He added, “this is the hope that Egypt will do great because the country's leader today, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, started from where Gamal Abdel Nasser ended.”
“Nasser aimed at the political freedom of Africans, and now Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is coming to contribute to the financial freedom of Africans,” he concluded his statements.
In 2018, Rwandan President Paul Kagami visited Egypt for the second time; both countries share deep-rooted historic relations that date back to 40 years. Besides being member states of some regional organizations including COMESA, NEPAD and African Union, both Cairo and Kigali are Nile Basin countries.
In 1976, Egypt established its embassy in Kigali. Rwanda has re-opened its embassy in Cairo in 2015 after closing it during the genocide.