Rwanda’s Ambassador to DR Congo, Vincent Karega, who was among other things, eight months ago, assigned to amplify the momentum of a positively revolving relationship between the two countries, is mobilizing both the government and the business community to forge trade relations that will see both countries benefit from ongoing mutual interests including attracting investments on both sides.
Ambassador Karega spoke to Taarifa about the prospects of a healthy relationship between Rwanda and DRC.
Below are the excerpts.
How has been your experience since you began your diplomatic assignment in DRC?
My eight months experience in DRC as a Rwandan envoy has been good and a bit challenging. Let me begin with the good part. It has been good because Congolese leaders are accessible and hospitable as well as the people at large. There is a political will to dialogue and shape new partnerships with Rwanda. Being born and raised in DRC helps me unlock any cultural or relationship barriers.
That said, it is also challenging: You might ask how? 26 years of presence of FDLR-genocidaires and their international NGOs allies, and defeated Mobutu’s cronies have driven a consistent hatred and anti-Tutsis campaign backed with fake propaganda of an ambitious Agenda by Hima-Tutsis to create a Great-Lakes Tutsi Empire in East Africa by occupying and balkanizing the Eastern DRC.
That campaign has destabilized Congolese Tutsis communities both in the North and the South Kivu provinces. Their historical nationality, land, and property ownership, security are threatened continuously because the built-up wrong opinions designate them as illegal immigrants and pioneers or accomplices of the Rwanda-Uganda hidden Agenda to conquer Eastern – DRC region and turn it into a Tutsi-Hima Empire.
Not everybody believes in that chimerical thesis however the many years of bad governance, inequality, and poverty have exacerbated those negative perceptions, even though wrong, including other internal tribalism and populism tendencies and the focus on scapegoats rather than self-assessment and auto-determination.
The propaganda says the move by Rwanda, alongside AFDL movement that toppled Mobutu and repatriated most Rwandan refugees taken in DRC by France and the Genocidaires defeated regime, was aiming to conquer and dominate Congo and caused millions of deaths in Eastern DRC, although unjustified and unproven, but the brainwashing coupled with hatred are so vivid.
But slowly through more open engagement and discussions and the recent rapprochement of our respective Heads of State and institutions; the secular interactive cohabitation and cooperation among Rwandophone Congolese especially the Tutsis and their compatriots are slowly recovering and the fake propaganda about them and their conspiracy with Rwanda is fading.
Most people think or were told Rwanda is occupied by the Tutsis only and that all the Hutus were killed or kicked out hence stereotyping Tutsis as ferocious and colonialists of the sort. Fortunately, the government position is not informed by that absurd narrative but the general opinion to some extent yes.
What’s DRC’s diplomatic policy on Rwanda and the Great Lakes region?
Current DRC diplomatic policy is about the repositioning of DRC in Africa and the World after a long absence or insignificant role on the International scene and in Africa despite its strategic location and its natural wealth. Part of the strategy is to revive good relationships and permanent diplomatic dialogue with neighbors, regional, and international institutions. The new vision and context allow Rwanda to cooperate and reassure DRC of serious and beneficial partnerships rather than the conquest and dismembering of DRC as propagated by the negative and ill-intentioned forces of divisionism and terror.
What are the specific duties of your assignment in DRC?
My duties like any other diplomatic envoy consist of fostering good bilateral relations at all levels: people to people, business to business, institutions to institutions. Image, trust restoration, trade, tourism and investment, African solidarity and cooperation are among the strategic pillars of my mission.
DRC is open for business with Rwanda, even with the opening of skies for RwandAir. From your engagements with the DRC government and the business community; what areas of investment would you encourage Rwandans to invest in?
Identified key areas where capable Rwandan business can invest in are immense but mainly: agriculture, fisheries, forestry (production-Processing-distribution). There is also infrastructure development ( construction, energy, water, schools, and hospitals). Other areas including mining and quarries (exploitation, processing, trading, etc). I also know that there are opportunities in tourism (conservation, hospitality industry, transport,) and the financial sector. Areas are many, even entertainment and fashion. I cannot forget to mention also that there are opportunities in sports facilities, restaurants, cinemas, night clubs, fashion and design, creative industries: music, cinema, and handcraft), etc.
What’s the attitude of the business community in DRC towards Rwanda and Rwandans? What should Rwandans know?
The attitude of the DRC business community towards Rwanda is amazingly positive. Those interested remember or are informed about the very historical success stories of cooperation and integration among Congolese and people of Rwanda origins in successful and honest ventures mostly during Zaire era: car assembling and trading, telecommunications, agriculture, computer assembling, and good management of or within some of the Zairean parastatals. What matters now is to engage in win-win partnerships, joint-ventures, and shine by trustworthy behavior ( tax and law-abiding, quality investments with impact on jobs and economic modernization).