I feel great honour to be standing before you today to address a Joint Sitting of the Houses of Parliament of Jamaica. I thank the Parliament of Jamaica for this distinction.
Yesterday, I paid tribute to Marcus Garvey at National Heroes Park. More than a hundred years ago, he envisioned ‘a united Africa for the Africans of the world’.
It is no accident that the idea of African unity arose from this very island. Among the descendants of those who had been forcibly separated from their ancestral homeland, the pain of disunity and contempt was deeply felt.
The ideas championed by Garvey, and many others on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, reverberated in Africa as well. From the struggle for independence, to the subsequent challenges of nation-building, the pan-African ideal has served as a guide for how things should be, even if we do not always live up to it in practice.
Celebrating what we share, as Africans and the African diaspora, helps us to confront the harsh realities of this world we live in. Even now, we are constantly reminded that we have to work together and support one another.
Jamaica will celebrate its 60th anniversary of independence on August 6th this year. Rwanda will mark the same milestone just a month earlier, on July 1st.
Jamaica has many achievements of which it is rightly proud. On behalf of the Government and people of Rwanda, I wish to congratulate you here today. The launch of the Jamaica 60 celebrations last night was a fitting tribute to the enormous progress Jamaica has made.
Independence is a date in history, but it is also a mindset.
The power of an anniversary comes from the opportunity to remind a new generation of the struggles that came before. Even more important, is upholding the spirit of self-reliance needed to sustain and deepen what has been accomplished in the time since.
Whatever we have managed to do for ourselves as a people, we can always do more and better. This historical duty is part of what unites us, as children of Africa. We are therefore very honoured to be here with you at this very moment.
I have a simple message to share today: We are not strangers to one another. In our diversity, we share common traits. Our peoples are resilient, creative, and — as our common history shows — also indestructible.
This mutual recognition should have practical, tangible effects.
We belong to a number of important multilateral bodies, including the Commonwealth and the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).
As the newest member of the Commonwealth, Rwanda is proud to host the next Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali in June this year. And I cannot forget, again, as mentioned earlier, to thank Jamaica for supporting Rwanda. We hope to see strong representation from the Commonwealth Caribbean. And you will be welcomed home.
Africa and the Caribbean should work together to advance common positions in these bodies, where our interests align, as they often do. Climate change and global health are two urgent examples.
But Africa and the Caribbean do not have to relate to each other, only through intermediaries. Our diplomats tend to meet in New York, London, or Geneva. I have no problem with that, but we could do it otherwise. When our young people get to know each other, it is probably at universities in similar places. We could do a lot more.
It is high time for Africa and the Caribbean to work together in a direct and sustained manner, both through our respective regional organizations — CARICOM and the African Union — and bilaterally.
The first Africa-CARICOM Summit last September was long overdue, and must be built upon. There should also be direct people-to-people exchanges, particularly for the youth and entrepreneurs.
In Rwanda, we have already had several Jamaican professionals come to our country and make meaningful contributions, some of them as representatives of leading international organizations. This has only made us want to see more people from Jamaica, and this region, in Rwanda.
As Rwanda, we are also keen to cooperate with Jamaica much more closely and share experiences in trade and investment, as well as national unity and citizen development.
Let’s exchange with each other directly, and thereby honour the history that joins us, and make it a potent force for practical cooperation in the modern world.
Honourable Members, Madam Speaker, I close, once again, with thanks to you, and to the Government and people of Jamaica for the privilege to visit your country and to be received with such warmth and solidarity. I thank you once again, Prime Minister, for inviting me to come to this beautiful land.
I thank you for your kind attention.