9 January 2014

Rwanda: How Rwanda's Foreign Policy Fared in 2013


Although Rwanda's relations with the DRC has been rocky in the last few years, 2013 nearly saw the two countries go to war after the Congolese army on several occasions fired bombs into Rwanda which claimed the lives of people of Rubavu.

While Kinshasa claimed that it was "collateral damage because the bombs were intended for the M23 rebels," the Rwanda Defense Forces sent out several statements protesting the provocations. When that still did not stop the shelling, reinforcements were sent to the border, although the RDF stayed calm and never fired back.

Martin Kobler, the Head of the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC, is said to have rushed to Kigali to reassure the government that such attacks wouldn't happen again. After that, no more bombs were fired.

Meanwhile, the conflict in the Eastern DRC also saw several Congolese armed soldiers stray into Rwandan territory without any justification. Once again, the government played down the incidents and released every soldier that was caught on its territory.

At the other side of the border, in Goma, the situation was less rosy for Rwandans who live and do business there; several of them were reportedly harassed by DRC security operatives who accused them of providing support to the M23.

When the Congolese army finally managed to defeat the M23 rebels with the support of the United Nations Organisation Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco), the latter vowed to track down the FDLR rebels, many of whom actively participate in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.

Although the mission had sent out its clearest signal of intent, months later the vigor with which they fought the M23 has not been shown against the FDLR.

Tanzania-Rwanda Spat

In June, Tazanian President Jakaya Kikwete suggested on the sidelines of African Union summit in Addis Ababa-Ethiopia that Rwanda should negotiate with these same FDLR. This declaration outraged the nation with Genocide survivors accusing Kikwete of siding with a group that has never hidden its desire of finishing what they started in 1994.

The relationship between the two countries deteriorated as the Presidents disagreed on the subject but tensions were eased when Presidents Kagame and Kikwete held a face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the ICGLR summit in Kampala in September.

Tanzania expels Rwandan Refugees

Earlier in the year, though, relations between Tanzania and Rwanda, as well as other EAC member states, soured further when Dar decided to expel non-nationals who did not have legal papers permitting them to stay in Tanzania. The majority were Rwandans, many of whom had lived in the country for decades, had intermarried and had to leave their families. Many other lost all their belongings.

Although many expected some kind of counter-measure from Rwanda, Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo instead reassured Tanzanians in the country to feel safe and go about their business.

'Coalition of the Willing' (COW)

Another event that some in the EAC saw as a threat to the regional blocks were the meetings held by Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya in August, September and October to decide on several joint infrastructure projects as well as on tripartite agreements to fast-track some aspects of EAC protocols, such as the single customs territory, the single tourist visa and the use of national ID cards as travel documents.

The move drew strong criticism from Tanzanian government officials who accused the three countries of undermining the protocols, even though they explicitly allow bi- or trilateral agreements to implement certain aspects of the EAC integration roadmap.

Others, especially several media outlets, called the meetings the 'Coalition of the Willing,' referring to the fact that Tanzania has often been accused of dragging its feet on the implementation of the protocols.

Yet the EAC Heads of State meeting in Kampala in November, during which all five Presidents signed the Monetary Union protocol, apparently laid the fears of a rift or even a break-up to rest.

Rwanda hands over Bosco Ntaganda

In March, Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda who had been indicted by the International Criminal Court sneaked into Rwanda and went to the US embassy where he requested to be sent to The Hague to face justice.

While many international news organizations doubted that Rwanda would respond positively, the government did so and facilitated Ntaganda's passage to the Netherlands, where he is on trial at the ICC.

Peacekeeping forces to CAR

Rwanda's peacekeeping forces have been lauded for their work in Darfur and Haiti, and this is the major reason why the African Union (AU) asked the government to send troops to help with efforts to stabilize the Central African Republic (CAR).

At the same time, Rwanda Maj-Gen John Bosco Kazura was appointed by the UN Secretary General to be the Force Commander for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma).

Successful Eurobond

Rwanda's first Eurobond of $400 million was highly over-subscribed, something that showed Rwanda's economic maturity and its attractiveness to investors on the international bond market. The funds will among others be used for major infrastructure works such as the Kigali Convention Center and the new international airport.

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