Four years ago, Israel opened an embassy in Rwanda which furthered bilateral relations between the two countries, focusing on development elements for improving people's livelihood. The cooperation revolves around areas of mutual interest, such as technology and innovation, modernizing precision agriculture, education, healthcare, tourism promotion, investment, and more.
On August 29, the new Israeli Ambassador to Rwanda, Einat Weiss, presented her letters of credence to President Paul Kagame. She replaced Ron Adam who concluded his tour of duty in the country.
The New Times' Alice Kagina had an exclusive interview with Weiss to discuss the bilateral relations and her areas of priority as she takes on her duties.
Thank you, Ambassador Einat Weiss, for your time. What's been your experience working in Rwanda as a diplomat, so far?
Being a diplomat in Rwanda is an amazing experience, the minute you land here is an eye-opener. You see the amazing infrastructure and the buildings, it's a little bit of a small New York.
However, being an Israel diplomat comes with an extra advantage because of the shared bond between the two countries.
What does it mean to you personally, to serve your country in Rwanda, as the two countries share values and history, like the Jewish holocaust and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda?
Obviously, the meaningfulness of the bond is based on our shared history and you cannot take our past from our present and the future. We cannot take away the fact that our parents and grandparents had to endure catastrophe.
We cannot take from our culture the aspect of what it means but it is also the engine of our passion for life, success, and progress because we know that we survived and our countries were built from ashes. In terms of history, Rwanda is only 30 years old and Israel is 75, so, we are young countries, but we showed the world that we can.
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While presenting your copies of credentials to President Paul Kagame, what did you discuss in terms of furthering Israel-Rwanda relations?
There were 12 of us and understandably, we did not get enough time. But we briefly discussed the potential of bilateral relations between our two countries, what has been achieved, and my areas of priority.
It's been four years since the establishment of the Embassy of Israel in Rwanda, how much has this produced, in terms of mutually beneficial projects between the two countries?
I am going to do the unpopular and applaud my predecessor! Amb. Ron Adam has done an amazing job because he realized you have to build people-to-people connections.
I found a very functioning embassy that has done great in connecting and understanding what Israel cooperation is all about. For example, every year we send about 250 students to study modern agriculture and gain experience working in Israel.
I have met a group of 20 alumni and they all got back with tools they didn't have before and started their own businesses. I want to continue building on that model as well as the center of excellence established in Rwanda to facilitate knowledge exchange.
As you begin your tour of duty as the Ambassador of Israel in Rwanda, what will be your priorities?
I believe there is so much to be done in health and education sector but also continuing with agriculture. I have to say that I found this country very well based on smart and resilient people. So, we want to further the existing bond by renewing the direct flight between the two countries, which attracts more tourists whereby people can fly for 4 hours instead of 12 hours.
We want to see a significant increase in the number of businesses that come here and agreements signed, a rise in trade and more Israel investors coming to Rwanda in the long run.
Seeing this great country, I believe it will take the relationship to the next level.
Long overdue but African leaders continuously demand an equal sit at decision-making tables of issues of concern affecting the globe. With your work experience in different parts of the world, how do take this in?
I am a great believer that Africa is the future. Africa as a continent doesn't need help, it can do it itself. You have massive youthful population that is eager to succeed, natural resources, and everything needed to be the future of the world.
If I take Rwanda, I don't know any other country in the world that has done this much change in 30 years. It's mind-blowing to realize what you have done. And as Israel, we take much pride in what we can do together in partnership.
On a parting note, who is Weiss outside work?
[laughs] I am first a family person with two twins who are toddlers now. I am proud to say that I am 100 percent mother when am out of work and 100 percent diplomat at work.
I enjoy hiking and I really hope to explore this country to the last mile. My favourite place is the forest and I almost named my child "Forest", that's how much I love it. I love sports, hosting, and laughing.