Kagame’s Qatar Visit Amid Congo Tensions

On February 10, 2024, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda embarked on a work visit to Doha, where he was received with honors at Hamad International Airport by a delegation including Ibrahim bin Yousif Fakhro, Director of the Protocol Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Misfer bin Faisal Al Shahwani, Qatar’s Ambassador to Rwanda, and Igor Marara Kainamura, the Rwandan Ambassador to Qatar. This visit marks a continuation of the deepening ties between Rwanda and Qatar, reflecting on their commitment to bolster bilateral cooperation across various sectors.

During his stay, President Kagame held a meeting with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar. The leaders engaged in discussions that covered a wide range of topics, focusing primarily on enhancing bilateral cooperation in infrastructure and hospitality. Furthermore, they deliberated on pressing global issues, underscoring the multifaceted nature of their partnership.

The backdrop of this visit is colored by Qatar’s recent diplomatic endeavors, notably its facilitation of negotiations aimed at resolving tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In these attempts, Qatar sought to mediate a dialogue between President Kagame and his Congolese counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi. Despite initial progress, the withdrawal of Kinshasa from the talks underscored the challenges in achieving a resolution, reflecting on the complexities of regional politics in Africa.

The relationship between Qatar and Rwanda, strengthened by personal ties between their leaders, has been a point of contention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Critics argue that Qatar’s close relationship with Rwanda may affect its neutrality in regional conflicts, particularly concerning the ongoing strife involving the M23 rebellion in the Great Lakes region. This issue has attracted international attention, with United Nations experts and Western governments acknowledging Rwanda’s support for the M23 rebels, exacerbating tensions in the area.

In a notable development in 2023, Qatar played an important role in the release of Paul Rusesabagina, who was abducted by Rwandan intelligence services in 2020. This act of diplomacy has raised questions about Qatar’s potential role in mediating future negotiations in the Great Lakes region, amidst a backdrop of heightened mobilization by the Congolese government and its citizens against the M23 rebellion.

In the evening, President Kagame attended the Asian Cup Final alongside esteemed guests, including Sheikh Tamim, the Emir of Qatar, Hussein bin Abdullah, the Crown Prince of Jordan, Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA, and Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Confederation.

Simultaneously, Rwanda’s First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, visited Namibia on February 10, 2024, to extend her condolences to Monica Geingos, the former First Lady, following the demise of President Hage Geingob. This gesture of solidarity highlights the interpersonal connections that underpin diplomatic relations between African nations, further emphasizing the continent’s shared challenges and aspirations.