RWANDA: Kigali hosted the African Union-European Union ministerial meeting!

By Erasme Rugemintwaza

Kigali, the Capital of the Republic of Rwanda hosted, from October 25 to 26, the second joint African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) ministerial meeting. The plenary session, which was preceded, on October 25, by the work of experts and senior officials from both institutions, looked at crucial issues including Covid-19 and investment. What are the inputs and outputs of this great diplomatic meeting?

The second ministerial preparatory meeting of the African Union-European Union Summit was held in Kigali, from October 25 to 26, 2021. In these two large continental organizations meeting, participated nearly a hundred ministers in charge of foreign affairs as well as representatives of regional and subregional organizations. It was jointly organized and chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, and the Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the President of the Council AU Executive, Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala. The Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, attended the meeting.

During this meeting, the EU and AU Foreign Ministers took stock of the progress made since the Fifth EU-AU Summit (Abidjan, 29-30 November 2017), exchanging views on the EU-AU partnership as well as on ways to strengthen cooperation.

As planned on the agenda, the discussions of this meeting were structured around the following themes:
– The response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the relaunch after it;
– Building resilience;
– Investing in ecological and digital transitions;
– Peace, security and global governance;
– Migration and mobility;
– Education, science, technology and skills building;
– EU-Africa relations (general information).

Thus, this second joint ministerial meeting was still part of the evaluation of the implementation of the priority areas defined in the Abidjan Declaration of 2017, resulting from the fifth summit of heads of state and government of the AU and EU held on November 17 and 18, 2017. This included a review of the following documents:

Document No.1 on strengthening resilience, peace, security and governance, and migration and mobility;

Document No.2 on mobilizing investments for Africa’s sustainable structural transformation and investing in people – education, science, technology and skills development.

At the end of the two days of fruitful discussions, the two parties adopted a joint communiqué focusing on the various orientations of cooperation in connection with the priority areas set out in the documents raised.

Regarding the first area, most delegations called for strengthening the partnership between the two continents in order to meet the challenges related to peace, security, migration and mobility.

In addition, several delegations raised concerns about governance in Africa. They pleaded for this, in favor of respect for the Constitutions and democratic alternation.

On the second area, African delegations called on the EU to mobilize more resources to step up investments for post-Covid-19 economic recovery. They expressed concerns about equitable access to vaccines and called for recognition of vaccines administered in Africa and vaccination certificates.

African delegations further called for the deployment of additional doses of vaccines and capacity building for vaccine production on the continent.

The European side expressed the wish to integrate the green transition and digital transformation into the priority areas of its partnership with Africa.

The work was sanctioned by a joint communiqué adopted by consensus, which outlines the commitments of the parties and launches the prospects for a strengthened and mutually beneficial partnership. The sixth Summit of Heads of State and Government is scheduled to be held in Brussels on February 17 and 18, 2022. It will be preceded by the third ministerial meeting.

This second ministerial meeting was a real success in terms of the number of participants and the level of representation. And more than before, the two delegations agreed on the need for the establishment of a joint committee to monitor and evaluate the commitments made during the various meetings. So the meeting has just laid the foundations for a strong and strengthened partnership strengthened at the service of the peoples of two continents.

Sophie Wilmes in Kigali on tiptoe!

The visit of Sophie Wilmès, and why not all the Europe, aroused renewed interest in the Rusesabagina affair.

As a reminder, we are not unaware that at the end of the Rusesabagina trial, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sophie Wilmès, issued a statement in which she deplored that “Rusesabagina did not benefit from a trial fair and equitable, particularly with regard to the rights of the defense “. In its resolution, the EU, validated this position of Sophie Wilmès going so far as to demand the immediate release of Rusesabagina arguing “humanitarian reasons”. However Josep Borell expressed reservations as if to say to Belgium that it was she who abandoned or better sold her citizen. Borell said “do not ignore the serious accusations against Rusesabagina and all the evidence brought by the prosecution, much of which was provided by the cooperation of the judicial authorities of a member state” in this case the Belgium.

All this only provoked the ire of Kigali, who cried out “neocolonialism”. In the wake of this diplomatic joust, Kigali canceled the Kigali-Brussels ministerial meeting, which was scheduled on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

While this ministerial meeting was held over two days, diplomatic practice dictates that side meetings are planned well in advance for the management of the respective agendas.

It is curious to know that, unless it was behind the scenes, until the start of the meeting, neither Kigali nor Brussels announced a meeting between the two foreign ministers. Moreover, no Rwandan official was scheduled on the Belgian Minister’s agenda.

Nevertheless, like the others, she went to Kigali memorial site and it was planned that she will go to Camp Kigali where the Belgian peacekeepers had been killed by the presidential guard of Habyarimana. Some thought that Sophie Wilmès would be commissioned by the EU, to visit Rusesabagina, in the prison. A boldness which would risk creating a diplomatic incident!
We are still in the footsteps of Sophie Wilmès to scrutinize a likely closed session with her Rwandan counterpart Vincent Biruta or a few steps towards the Kigali prison to visit Rusesabagina.