President Paul Kagame says Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will continue to work closely in different aspects, including security, for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries and the region.
The Head of State made the remarks on Saturday in Goma, DRC, during a joint press conference with his Congolese counterpart, President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, who he thanked for working towards bettering relations between the two countries.
Beginning President Kagame expressed his condolences to DRC, following the recent eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo, which claimed 32 people and damaged infrastructure and property, displacing more than 288, 000 people.
“I am thankful to the President for providing this opportunity for us to be able to be here to express our solidarity and also a sense strong partnership that exists anyway between our two countries but also in this context of giving you Mr President and the people of the DRC, and particularly the people of Goma, our condolences for those who lost their lives during the recent volcanic eruption,” President Kagame said.
The two leaders, prior to addressing a press conference at Goma Serena Hotel, visited different places around Goma, which were affected by the volcanic eruption and subsequent earthquakes.
President Kagame thanked President Tshisekedi for allowing the closeness of the people of the two countries, cementing a relationship that has existed for many centuries but it has been given a ‘new impetus’ and reinforced by the Congolese leader.
“So, that’s really why I’m here. That’s why I’m happy to be here. And I also want to thank President Felix Tshisekedi of this great country for having paid us a visit yesterday,”
“Both yesterday and today, we have had a good opportunity to have broad and productive exchanges that will benefit our two countries,”
“As you saw we signed a number of agreements. I believe this is just the beginning. There are many areas that we are going to come to, in which we can cooperate to build a solid relationship, but also a basis for cooperation between our two countries,” President Kagame said.
On his part, President Tshisekedi thanked President Kagame for visiting DRC and for condoling with the people of the country, highlighting the efforts the two leaders have invested to ensure that relations between the two countries are at par.
He said the bilateral visits were planned in Paris in May when President Macron invited African leaders to France, even before the eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo, emphasizing that the events just coincided with what the two leaders had planned.
When the volcano erupted, President Tshisekedi said he called President Kagame requesting him to come to the aid of Congolese citizens who were displaced and he was surprised to learn that it was already being done.
“I am giving this anecdote precisely to show the fraternal relations which exists and which must continue to exist between our two countries,”
“I have always said since my accession to the Presidency of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that we have wasted so many years looking at each other fiercely with hatred with a war situation on our hands,”
“I say that’s enough, it’s time to experience the other side which is sharing and enjoying peace, love and I will add fraternal economic exchanges between our two countries,” he said, adding that the signed agreements will be a basis to do that.
He reiterated President Kagame’s earlier remarks that it is just the beginning, pointing out that a framework of achieving what was agreed upon will be put in place.
“The main priority is to develop fraternal relations with our neighbours because we have more to gain in exchange,” he said, emphasizing that time for distrust between neighbours is over.
The two leaders addressed several issues, particularly the issue of security that has plagued the Great Lakes Region.
President Kagame said that President Tshisekedi has put a sense of urgency to the issue of security since came into office, defending the decision to put in place a state of emergency in the Eastern part of the country, to be followed by actions to deal with the causes of insecurity.
He pointed out that the issue of insecurity and instability had become accepted as a way of life and a normal way of living and that something had to be done.
President Kagame said his Congolese counterpart took the right measures and actions. He said that the lack of security and instability that has characterised either the Eastern part of DRC or Rwanda with its history, is something that affects both countries, and both leaders have agreed to not accept it as a permanent situation.
“Something must be done and it starts with what the President has decided. A state of emergency clearly in itself is a message that this is a serious matter that has to be dealt with,” President Kagame said, backing President Tshisekedi.
He said that the actions of dealing with the root causes of the instability, which are the groups that cause instability in the region, have started and will yield good results.
“It is going to be much better, if therefore all of us work together. Rwanda can make its own contribution as of the situation itself, but also what will be decided by the Democratic Republic of Congo, within its sovereign rights” President Kagame said, hinting on future cooperation.
“This cooperation we are emphasizing as two leaders goes in that direction. It’s saying ‘what can you give? what can you take in this area of cooperation?’ so that ultimately we have our people, both Congolese and Rwandese, working together towards fighting the common challenges or enemies, so that we move towards development that we want,”
“So, Rwanda is ready to provide or associate ourselves with DRC, in whatever form, within our means, towards addressing this challenge,” President Kagame said.
He said these are issues they cannot necessarily discuss publicly in the media until they have really worked out a plan, but emphasized Rwanda’s readiness.
The two leaders discussed trade and regional integration, with President Tshisekedi reiterating DRC’s interest to join the East African Community (EAC).