Rwanda President Paul Kagame has reacted angrily at the western envoys’ meddling in Rwanda’s internal affairs, warning such interference at a time the country is preparing for national elections is “unacceptable.”
The president’s remarks followed reports that European Ambassadors in Rwanda were meeting with presidential candidates ahead of the August polls.
“Diplomatic missions summoning presidential candidates to explain themselves, is unacceptable,” said Kagame.
“The diplomatic missions here are not and should not replace the electoral commission,” he added.
In a dialogue with Rwanda’s top media figures on Tuesday after the Liberation Day celebrations, Kagame said he couldn’t “understand the electoral commission work as waiting for EU representative to tell them how to do their work.”
He further wondered: “Does the electoral commission clarify things they should, because the EU has said so?”
The European Union ambassadors recently met the National Electoral Commission and had a wide-ranging exchange on how candidates will be able to raise funds, campaign, hold public meetings and have equal access to media, and how voters will be informed.
The diplomats also protested the electoral body’s plans to regulate social media use by presidential candidates.
Following intense diplomatic pressure, the electoral commission appeared to have buckled.
Officials in Rwanda told ChimpReports on Wednesday morning that the diplomats’ actions were largely “imperialistic,” adding, “It’s the usual interference and feeling superior, bullying and controlling African states.”
Rwanda-EU joint trade volume was worth €468 million in 2016.
EU is the largest trade partner, accounting for 26 percent of total Rwanda trade.
The trade imbalance is partly offset by revenue from tourists – around 61,000 from EU visit Rwanda annually, the second biggest group after African visitors; and by investments from EU member states, which in 2015 were valued at €363 million.
The European Investment Bank provides loan funds inter alia for small businesses, for waste management in Kigali, and it is a lead agency for the Ruzizi 3 hydro-electric scheme bordering Rwanda, DRC and Burundi.
Despite all this, President Kagame wants western diplomats to respect Rwanda’s sovereignty.
“Someone can sit in Washington and extrapolate what our constitution means. But there is real life here to be lived,” he warned.
Kagame said if the western forces “could decide which candidate should win, they would be happy to do that,” adding, “The same people are the ones crying saying people have interfered in their elections.”
Kagame said liberation means providing security and making people happy that together they can find this path to prosperity.
He further said liberation entails getting rid of bad politics and dealing with its consequences.
In regard to succession, Kagame said Rwandans would want “a leader who was young in 1994 and will not be burdened by the past.”
“We have come so far, in 7 years we can move another distance that will allow us to overcome our fears and take some risks,” he added.
Kagame is serving his second and last term, and presidential elections are due in August 2017.
However, in December 2015, the Rwandan constitution was amended to allow the president to run for a third seven-year term in 2017.
Kagame has since confirmed he will stand for re-election.
Kagame urged the Rwandan youth “learn about our past, the better they will be able to contribute to the future.”