Tentative signs that the world is gingerly returning to some degree of normality, with the two day, African Union-European Union, Ministerial meeting, at the Kigali Convention Centre.
The usually perennially busy venue, has been all but mothballed by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
For the next two days, African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) foreign ministers, will meet to among other topics, measure progress, since the last AU-EU summit, in the Senegalese capital of Abidjan.
The ministers will play the role of Sherpas for the next summit, scheduled to take place in Brussels in 2022, identifying common priorities, opportunities and challenges for the summit agenda.
And they will take the temperature of AU-EU relations, and gauge the warmth in the cooperation between the two regions.
Inevitably, one of the main topics on the agenda, will be the response and recovery from Covid-19. Building resilience, investing in digital and green “transitions,” peace, security and global governance, migration and mobility, education, science, technology and skills development, will be the other topics explored.
Hosts for the meeting are the High Representative of the EU, Joseph Borrell, and the Vice Prime minister, and foreign minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who is also President of the AU Executive Council, Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala.
For the many delegates for whom it will not have been the first time attending a meeting at the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC), there will be quite a few procedural changes.
Ushers will politely conduct them not only towards the desks to collect their badges, but, also towards welcoming young men and women, in medical gowns, who will usher them behind temporary screens, for a rapid Covid-19 test.
In the main hall, more young people, in twos, one carrying a box of face masks, and another carrying a beautifully woven waste basket, moved from delegate to delegate. They presented more technically secure face masks to each person, inviting them to deposit the ones with which they came into the waste paper disposal, setting the standard for meetings under Covid-19 conditions.
Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, spoke for the AU Commission, in her first meeting, since her election as Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission.
“I am honoured to be at this meeting, my first as deputy chairperson of the AU Commission. I am even more honoured that it takes place in my beautiful home city of Kigali” she said.
“The fact that we are meeting here, physically, is testament to our resolve to fight the common enemy, that is Covid-19. Africa will need all the support from its partners to bounce back better, and is equally ready to make its contribution…”
Speaking for the host city, Permanent Secretary at the Rwanda ministry of foreign affairs,Clementine Bukeka, looked forward to a productive meeting, and welcomed the delegates, to a city, that she too unsurprisingly, calls “beautiful Kigali.”
For the European Union, Rita Larinjina, emphasised the importance of the meeting as a preparation for the next AU-EU summit. She also addressed reports in the last few hours, of a military coup d’état in Sudan. She called for the military to go back to the transitional government that has just reportedly been overthrown.
The first day of what is bound to be intense rounds of meetings, will be concluded with a press conference this afternoon, when we shall know what was discussed in the closed sessions