By David Himbara
Dear President Paul Kagame, what do you make of this? Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, DR Congo’s Joseph Kabila, John Magufuli of Tanzania, and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza did not attend the signing in Rwanda of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Why do you think these four presidents chose not join you in Kigali to participate in the launch of the continental free trade?
Kagame, the day before the launch of the African free trade area, you uttered some nice words about its significance as follows:
”The Continental Free Trade Area symbolises our progress toward the ideal of African unity, but that is not the only reason why it is so historic. This agreement is about trade in goods and services. These are the kinds of complex products that drive high-income economies.”
Kagame, sadly, you do not behave and act in accordance with these imperatives — that is why the noted four presidents stayed away. Before I go any further, take a close look at this map.
Kagame, as you can see from the map, the presidents of every country that shares a border with Rwanda did not attend the Kigali Heads of State Summit on March 21, 2018. In other words, each of your neighbors did not join you for the occasion you have called ”historic.”
Kagame, let me remind of another crucial factor. Rwanda is already a partner with each of these countries in various regional trade blocks as follows:
- Rwanda, together with Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda, belong to the East African Community (EAC).
- Rwanda, together with Burundi and DR Congo belong to the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL).
- Rwanda, together with Burundi and DR Congo belong to The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
- Rwanda, together with Burundi, DR Congo, and Uganda belong to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
So, Kagame, despite these overlapping relationships with your neighbors, presidents Museveni, Magufuli, Kabila and Nkurunziza, avoided joining you in Kigali on March 21, 2018.
Kagame, it appears the president of each neighboring state does not consider you an honorable person — and quite frankly they consider you the most dangerous and trouble-causer in the region. These presidents rightly believe, therefore, that while you talk trade you practice war. As we speak, each of these countries is working hard to contain your mischief in their internal affairs.
Kagame, in case you have forgotten, Rwanda is landlocked as you can see from the map. In order to participate in the African Continental Free Trade Area, you need to cooperate and collaborate with your four neighbors. To access the seaports to ship Rwandan goods and receive imports, you need Tanzania’s partnership to use its Dar Es Salaam seaport. Alternatively, you need Uganda’s transit route to access Kenya’s seaport of Mombasa.
In other words, Kagame, the African Continental Free Trade Area is an empty talk, if you do not work with your immediate neighbors. Goods in and out of Rwanda pass through these countries. This also applies to airspace — you cannot fly to anywhere without using your neighbors’ airspace.
Kagame, when addressing local leaders in Rwanda on March 28, 2018, you offered the following wise advice:
”To stop bad leadership from spreading, we need leaders who have the courage to look someone in the eye and tell them to stop doing what is harming the country.”
Kagame, please look in the mirror, and repeat the above words over and over again, until you grasp their meaning. These words are meant for you. As you look in the mirror, recall the Kinyarwanda proverb ”igiye kurisha ihera kurugo,” meaning that a cow begins grazing from the homestead’s fence — the cow’s immediate neighborhood. You cannot trade with the rest of the African continent if you do not begin with Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania and Uganda.