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Rwanda-China ties: a friend in need is a friend indeed

last Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed President Paul Kagame with a grand ceremony at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. They were joined together by the two first ladies, respectively Peng Liyuan and Jeannette Kagame.


The two leaders met to reaffirm the long-standing traditional friendship between the two countries and discussed ways to increase strategic cooperation.

Official diplomatic relations were established on November 12, 1971, 10 years after Rwanda gained its independence from Belgian colonial rule. Since then they have enjoyed a friendly partnership resulting in various bilateral initiatives in the areas of the economy, agriculture, education, health care, culture, and environment.

Since 1980, Beijing has assisted Rwanda in the health sector. The Chinese Government built a district hospital in Kibungo, a city in the southeast of Rwanda. Chinese medical teams have treated over 500,000 patients there as well as at other health establishments nationwide. Chinese medical teams offer ongoing training programs for local Rwandan health care workers.

Chinese aid has been necessary in the last two decades, especially after the Rwandan civil war in the 1990s. The Chinese contribution remains invaluable in the difficult process of national healing following its darkest days.

Between 2000 and 2011, there were 56 official China-financed projects in the country, which include: Cancelation of debt - 160 million USD; construction of cement factory at Bugarama – a joint project by Chinese Pengfei Group and Rwanda’s Cimerwa; an interest-free loan of 219 million RMB for building roads in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital; construction of another district hospital in Masaka in 2011.

In 2013, trade value between the two countries reached 243 million USD, consisting of 134 million in exports from China and 109 million from Rwanda. In order to assist Rwanda’s exports, China established a duty-free policy on 95% of Rwandan products. Rwandan companies promote their products at Import and Export Fairs in China as well.

In May 2015, a delegation led by Rwanda’s foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo visited Beijing. The two sides stand committed to deepen relations through increasing political consultations and pursuing projects in cultural exchanges, and human resources, along with other sectors.

James Musoni, Rwanda’s Infrastructure Minister, signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Sinohydro Group Ltd. for implementation of hydro power station projects in Nyabugogo and Mutobo.

Additionally, there were two schools built in Rwanda: the first one in Gatsibo, Eastern Province, which has around 300 students; the second one in Rulindo, Northern Province to educate girls.

Due to the increased interest in studying Chinese, the Confucius Institute offers classes to over 600 Rwandans in 30 locations nationwide. Many Rwandan students study in Chinese Universities.

At Friday’s meeting, Xi and Kagame pledged to strengthen the bilateral friendship. Xi emphasized that changes in the international situation will not impact Beijing’s partnership policy with Africa and Rwanda in particular.

"The essence of this is to combine China’s growth with helping Africa’s development, in a bid to realize win-win cooperation and common development," said Xi.

He pledged support for Rwanda to construct an economic zone, and areas such as industrialization, agriculture, capacity building, infrastructure, tourism, mining, and security. Xi had called on more Chinese companies to invest in Rwanda’s development.

Kagame, the charismatic Rwandan leader, believes broad investments, rather than handouts would bring sustainable development to his people. He expressed gratitude for China’s involvement in rebuilding his country and welcomed Chinese enterprises.

Kagame expressed appreciation for Beijing’s friendly cooperation with Rwanda and for China’s adherence to an attitude of equality and mutual respect toward all African nations.

Jimirasire

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