Let me begin by wishing you all a good start to the New Year.
Before I go any further, a couple of things.
Diplomacy is of course a very sophisticated thing. The minister, minister of state and before that the lady in charge of ceremonies, came here and told us “enjoy your delicious meal”.
I thought there wasn’t going to be speeches and then she started to invite one person after another, so how are we supposed to enjoy our delicious meal? But then that’s how diplomacy goes I suppose!
We are happy for each and every one of you, representing your countries and organisations in Rwanda.
I would like to extend a special welcome, to the new envoys who presented their credentials today. I wish you every success in your work, and an enjoyable stay in your temporary home. You can make it permanent if you wish! I’m just talking about some realities
We are pleased that the diplomatic community in Kigali continues to grow, as said earlier, with the establishment of new embassies and continuing to happen.
The past year was a good one for Rwanda. While we still have a long journey ahead, we made progress in many areas, and continue to learn from our experience, and from others.
Looking ahead, we will continue to drive inclusive economic growth and strengthen our institutions, for the benefit of our citizens.
The productive relations we enjoy with our neighbours and partners, most of you here, will as always be an important contributing factor.
Rwanda can also be counted on, to continue playing our part in global environmental protection, international peace and security, the fight for gender equality, and many others.
However, the past year was not without reminders, of the serious challenges we must confront together. And I mean together, because it’s the rich it’s the big it’s the small, it’s the poor countries. I think increasingly we are finding some convergence because of certain realities and I think working together we can address these challenges
The desperate situation of African migrants in Libya, and other parts, it’s not Libya only, was deeply disturbing. But we can’t just stop at feeling disturbed. We need to look at seriously at the causes. The root causes are important to understand and try to address. And it cannot in any way be construed to mean that it is Libya’s problem. It’s all of us, wherever these migrants come from.
Rwanda remains prepared to provide our own modest involvement and support, and it necessary sanctuary for those migrants who wish to come here or through here to where they had come from in the first place.
It is easy for us to say this and possibly do it, because of our own history and experience. Not so long ago, this was about 25 years ago and before that, we used to have arguments that Rwandese should stay outside this country, wherever they were, and that involved some of us, because the leaders of that time were saying that the country was too small to accommodate more people. Too small
So “too small” became just a political statement. There is no country that is ever too small to accommodate its people. And what we have been trying to do is demonstrate that, to prove that we can have all Rwandans and even more, other Africans, if they came our way we would find a place for them.
In actual fact the first place is in our hearts, then and the second one is the physical space that can be managed in many different ways. So there is no country that is too small to have its own people and even others, so from our experience…
There is a simply logic here, if anyone suffering like some these migrants are suffering, instead of being sold as slaves by some people, again I am not talking about Libya, those people selling people are not necessarily Libyans or Libyans alone, these people come from across the world.
But what I am saying is that someone caught up in that situation, where they are trying to cross the Mediterranean and boats capsizing and people drowning in their hundreds, I think what they would experience in Rwanda, between that suffering they are going through and for those who reach where they reach, I don’t know what their experiences are but I think we can provide something that is better than drowning or being sold as slaves, so we will be giving them an alternative that is much better than what they have been having so we don’t promise them a lot when they come here but we promise them much better than what they are having.
However, the past year, drawing from those lessons, we can address many of these problems.
We will work with the African Union, and other concerned governments and organisations, to address this, and prevent it from happening every now and then. It requires everybody’s input.
As the incoming chair of the African Union for 2018, Rwanda will be even more focused on African integration, than ever before.
We look forward to working closely with our brothers and sisters around the continent, to make progress toward the priorities we have set for ourselves, but equally important, we want to work with our partners from outside the continent because if we do and address these challenges, we are all better off.
Africans have always wanted to come together, visit each other without complications, invest and do business, and partner confidently with the rest of the world. We invite you our partners from the rest of the world and assure you of our commitment to working together.
I would like to inform you that the institutional and financial reform of the African Union is on track.
The changes being implemented are critical for Africa’s future. One of the outcomes of the reform will be stronger, more productive partnerships between Africa and other continents.
Finally, as you know, we have opened our borders to visitors from every nation in the world, who are now eligible for visas on arrival.
This will require us to be more vigilant, establish systems that are efficient, effective, so that nothing undesirable takes advantage of this, on that we are conscious and we will do our part on that as well.
We look forward to welcoming many new visitors, and to making new friends.
On that note, let me propose a toast:
May I most sincerely wish you all prosperity, progress, and friendship among our nations!