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Exclusive Interview: German Ambassador Speaks About Economic Recovery Financing, Sniffing Dogs, Vaccine Manufacturing

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An unprecedented partnership in pharmaceutical industry was a result of engagements between Germany and Rwandan authorities in 2021.

The two countries were also able to sign an agreement for use of sniffing dogs to detect covid-19 and other pathogens.

In an exclusive interview, the German Ambassador to Rwanda, Dr. Thomas Kurz, says the bilateral relations between the two countries were characterised by unusually successful projects and investments.

Below are the excerpts of the interview;

Germany, as a friend of Rwanda, has been involved in fascinating projects and we would like you to give us an overview of Germany’s engagements with Rwanda in the recent months.

Ambassador: 2021 was an unusually successful year for our cooperation. We were able to double our partnership and this brought in 100 million euros for one year. This was really extraordinary and I would call it a success. The biggest part of the funds we have been able to make available went into fighting the pandemic and we had specifics on the economic effects of the pandemic, where we were trying to help the small and medium-sized enterprises to overcome the pandemic.

The second focus of our partnership was fighting climate change or managing the environmental policies. These are the main pillars that we realized last year.

You have a specific project of interest, not only unique but a little bit more sophisticated as far as Covid-19 is concerned.  The sniffing dogs. How did this come about and why you were involved in this project?

Ambassador: I think you cannot start speaking about our partnership in combating the effects of the pandemic without commending what Rwanda has been doing.

It is really amazing.  Rwanda’s government has been managing the pandemic well and this has been recognized worldwide. Rwanda should be very proud.

We also take pride, as partners, in the sniffing dogs project I was describing as a tiny project but very visible one, which stands as an example for what we have been doing.

It is a project that started in Europe, in Germany, where scientists discovered that sniffing dogs were able to detect Covid-19 infections in humans. So they started doing some research and it was a successful project.

And it immediately made it to the media because it was a successful project and many countries were interested in it. Rwanda requested us to share our experience, expertise. That was the starting point and now we are nearly there, we have already brought dogs, we had a trainer, a specialist who, for a couple of weeks did training here. We have now four trained sniffer dogs and we are just about to bring seven more. And once they are here, I think it will be a time this project will come into operational.

What other value additions towards this project on the side of Germany?

Ambassador: It is somehow unique. It is not just only something that attracts interests in the media, but even people in the German government are very interested, they are happy about that. In the end, it will be beneficial to both of us as well as the prestige coming out of it and the recognition from the specialists and general public that we have been doing something and Rwanda being at the forefront of the new developments with new scientific research.

What other arrangements and plans do you have after this?

Ambassador: In various aspects, this partnership is unique and something I didn’t mention is that we have brought green dogs, the dogs that have not been trained before. It is an important new aspect in the context of this research.

The second is that we have developed a machine to train those dogs.

And once this pandemic is over, these dogs might be used to detect other diseases in the future. So we are very optimistic that for example, they will be used at the entrances of the stadiums when people come to the sports events. This might be very useful not only in terms of the Corona pandemic but may be used to detect other pathogens that could come in the future.

On the side of Rwanda, are there particular limitations to exploit the resources, knowledge and skills on that project?

Ambassador: This is a starting point; we will bring more than seven dogs. And the fact that the country has already began using these dogs to detect drugs is a good ground to expand the project.

Give us a broad idea of how easier or difficult it is to engage Rwanda. What has been your observation?   

Ambassador: There is a project by BioNTech, for example, the company which has been producing the most successful vaccine so far.

First for the Covid-19 vaccine but also for the longer view to produce a vaccine for Malaria among others.

This is our biggest bilateral relations’ new development. There are plans to have similar productions in a few, two, or three African countries.

What do you learn from the process of engagements about such a big project, not only a scientific but a business investment with an African country to that extent?

What do you learn from the process, from the beginning of the discussions up to when pens were put on papers?

Ambassador: What I have seen, the most important thing is the absolute commitment by the Rwandan government to reach its goal and everything possible to make this a reality, it is not easy.

Rwanda hasn’t had a pharmaceutical industry so far, so it’s not easy but the commitment is absolutely there and this is something recommendable. And it is amazing. That makes a difference to many other parts of the continent.

Reporter: So we could conclude that it’s one of your major successes while assigned here?

Ambassador: I would not claim that it is my success but in terms of bilateral relations. Yes, it is, no doubt. I’m optimistic that more is going to happen within this year, 2022.

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Politics

Force Israel to Withdraw to pre-1967 Boundary- Palestine FM

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Riad Malki the Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister has called upon the international community to pressure Israel to return to the pre-1967 boundaries.

The Palestinian Foreign Minister said the two state solution will not work and the world should prepare to eulogize about it.

“There is urgency because this conflict has a solution that may still be available today and that will no longer be viable tomorrow,” Malki told the UN Security Council during its monthly meeting on the conflict.

“The two-State solution… does not need you by its bedside to share comforting words. It needs you to save it. Absent this sense of urgency, prepare yourself to attend the funeral of this solution with all the consequences of such a death for the lives of millions of people, Palestinians and others,” said Malki.

Malki spoke in the midst of a prolonged absence of any peace process to resolve the conflict.

Malki told the UNSC that it was a mistake to wait to take any action, as if time would allow for the issue to resolve itself.

“Can anyone seriously argue that we should wait for Israel to be ready to end its occupation on its own, to wake up one day wiser and decide to redeem itself?” he asked.

“Is there anyone around this table who believes this is a rational or winning strategy?”

Israelis and Palestinians did not attend the Madrid Conference in 1991 because they wanted to, Malki explained, they went because they felt like they had no choice.

If former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir had his druthers, the conference would never have occurred, Malki said.

Thirty years later, that same kind of pressure must be applied to force Israel to engage in an internationalized peace process, he said.

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Politics

Why Does Israel Want To Return to African Union?

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Some member countries of the African Union are rejecting a lobby by Israel to return to African Union (AU) as an observer and has still not been confirmed.

In February 2022, Israel is preparing to open a new chapter in its long relationship with the continent, by obtaining observer status with the African Union (AU).

First granted last July, this accreditation was denounced in September by more than twenty member countries, upset at having been put, according to them, before the fact accomplished by Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The Chadian chairman of the AU Commission had no choice but to reconsider his position. The question will be posed to all 55 member states at the next heads of state summit, scheduled for Addis Ababa in February 2022.

A formality?

“A formality” for several Israeli observers, who are rather confident when listing their country’s support within the Pan-African organization. Officially, Israel has indeed not had so many African friends for many decades.

“We have to go back to the 1950s, when Israel had more than thirty embassies across the continent,” says researcher Emmanuel Navon.

The country then sat in the Organization of African Unity (OAU) with, already, this observer status which it is now seeking to recover. It was dispossessed of it in 2002 when the continent chose the path of the African Union.

Since the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the continent has shown great unity on the Israeli question.

In the aftermath of the conflict, all African countries had officially severed their diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv, encouraged by an OAU largely under the influence of the Arab countries of the continent.

Twenty years after Israel’s forced departure, the most ardent opponents of its return are still the same.

They are just fewer in number than in the past, their numbers having diminished as Tel Aviv normalized its relations with the mainland in the aftermath of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The Palestinian cause

If Libya in decline obviously no longer exercises the same influence in the AU as in the time of Muammar Gaddafi, Algeria quickly protested against the “obviousness” of the decision taken by the commission, and it quickly gathered around it the great majority of the Muslim countries of the continent, from Mauritania to Djibouti.

Only Morocco and Sudan, in the process of rapprochement with Israel, are missing, as well as Chad, which restored diplomatic relations with the latter in 2018, after the historic visit there by President Idriss Déby Itno.

The other fierce opponents of an Israeli return to the AU are to be found in the far south of the continent, in Zimbabwe, Namibia or Botswana.

These countries have followed in the footsteps of South Africa, which has become, since 1994 and the arrival of the ANC in power, the great defender of the Palestinian cause on the continent.

“Since the situation in Palestine has not changed, there is no reason for Israel’s status to change”, advances this time again the camp of the refusal, as it had already done, with success, during the requests previous ones of 2013 and 2016.

A heavy procedural battle has therefore started in Addis Ababa, scheduled to end with a simple majority vote which, if it were to be secret, could hold surprises.

Otherwise, Israel would put an end to exactly twenty years of absence, to resume its place among the 90 external partners today accredited to the AU.

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Politics

DRC Expels 101 Rwandans

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A total of 101 Rwandans have been expelled from Democratic Republic of Congo for lack of proper documentation.

According to the Congolese government, the Rwandans were expelled Thursday, January 13, 2022 by the Congolese authorities in close collaboration with their counterparts in Rwanda.

Details indicate that the Rwandans had fled their country claiming they were running away from alleged forced vaccination against Cvid-19.

Local authorities said their repatriation was conducted in a climate of perfect harmony between the Congolese authorities and the Rwandan authorities.

“We were told to close our suitcases. We are here in the DRC, but we do not know where we are going. We do not want to go back to our country. We want to stay here. We ask organizations that frame refugees to ensure our safety, “said a Rwandan woman speaking to Top Congo radio.

“I contacted the governor of Rubavu who confirmed to me that they have arrived at home in Rwanda. They were 101. All provisions were taken to allow them to arrive without problem. A boat was made available to them,”said a Congolese official.

On the Rwandan side, the authorities did not understand why these people “having the same religious conviction” disinterested in anti-Covid-19 vaccination.

Local sources in Idjwi have informed that some people have tried to evade during the repatriation operation but they have quickly been caught up. They say they already feared for their security once back in Rwanda.

The Rwanda Ambassador in the DRC, Vincent Karega said he did not understand why this group had to flee Rwanda on the grounds of escaping vaccination, which is universal.

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