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What becomes of the tensed bilateral relations between Kigali and Brussels?

Rwanda, best known as “Le pays des mille collines,” is reportedly said to have opted to shift superintendence of its European affairs to its embassy in Berlin, as it feels diplomatically underrepresented in Brussels; Belgium. This emanates from Belgium declining to accredit Vincent Karega as an appointed envoy by President Paul Kagame. This must be ringing a bell, right?

While the post ascribed to Vincent Karega in March 2023 conventionally covers Belgium, the European Union Institutions and Luxembourg, the newly stationed embassy is gauged to be 653 kilometers away from the European Union’s capital. Approximately four months after Karega’s nomination, the Rwandan government was taken aback by the actions of Belgium, an act that has had negative ramifications in the interrelationship between Kigali and Brussels.

Why does Brussels oppose Karega’s appointment? Human rights sources in Belgium voiced out concerns over the deliberative issue, insinuating that Karega has earlier been charged with misconduct during his term of office as an ambassador of Rwanda to South Africa and DR Congo. Karega is linked to the shadowy assassinations of Patrick Karegeya; the Rwandan external intelligence chief of the time. During this time, Karegeya had a political asylum bestowed upon him in South Africa. In light of the occurrences, South Africa ousted three Rwandan diplomats, of which Karega was among them. Not long ago, Karega served as Rwanda’s envoy to Kinshasa, prior to his eviction.

The reaction towards these manifestations by President Kagame has raised eyebrows in that Africa Intelligence reportedly said that no other name apart from Karega’s will be put forward. Aside this, other happenings could be a catalyst to the contentious relationship between Kigali and Brussels, such as Rwanda allegedly supporting the M23 rebels; an instance that has consequently fueled tensions between President Paul Kagame and President Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo, leading to Tshisekedi proposing that punitive sanctions ought to be imposed on Rwanda, even though the M23 rebels are said to be of Congolese nationality.

Kenya has also has a chance to put her opinion on this subject, with President William Ruto asserting that these security crisis & pandemonium in the eastern part of DR Congo are primarily a Congolese affair, not a Rwandan one as presumed. President Ruto’s utterances are likely to have a domino effect by increasing tensions between Kinshasa and Nairobi, amidst Kenya’s efforts through President Ruto through the proposals that the leaders involved ought to consider engaging in dialogues instead of military force, as the M23 rebels opted for an interactive discourse. Kenya acts as a dialogue mechanism, not forgetting that Kenyan troops has been based in eastern DR Congo for over an year following the EAC’s force mandate, until December 8 2023 when it elapsed and was not prolonged.

These occurrences set the ball of complaints rolling from Brussels via Belgium’s ambassador to the DR Congo; Roxane de Bildering. The filed objections with the International Court of Justice entailed Rwanda’s purported contempt for its borders, as the recommendation was made during a meeting in a bid to appraise the mounting adversity in the eastern part of DR Congo. This co-relates to Belgium having heightened relations with Rwanda.

In order to revamp the bilateral relations between Kigali and Brussels, the involved could have high-end level diplomatic consultations, through mediation efforts which could be facilitated by neutral parties. Furthermore, Rwanda could provide assurances regardless of its diplomats conduct and employ transparency in addressing any concerns proposed by Belgium, as well as commit towards upholding international standards when conflict resolution is involved. Adding on, the DR Congo could focus on promoting regional stability via the proposal of President Ruto and explore avenues of collaboration such as cultural and economic exchange, fostering the spirit of cooperation, growth, stability and goodwill.

However, if the current turmoil deepens, Rwanda could face restricted diplomatic engagement, punitive economic sanctions and problematic international collaborations. Into the bargain, the augmented quandary could negatively impact trade and investment partnerships between Rwanda and other European states, which could consequently aggravate poverty and slow down development initiatives in Rwanda; being peripheral state. Also, Rwanda could have a big hurdles in advancing its interests and having tangible influence on the international stage, thus hampering its assertion of interests and priorities on a global scale.

Addressing the disarray via diplomatic dialogues will significantly contribute to SDG 16 that lays emphasis on upholding peaceful and inclusive societies, which could propagate the achievement of SDG 17 that shines on partnerships and joint efforts. Through diplomatic exchanges, Kigali and Brussels would bolster the overarching goals.







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