March 11, 2019

Kenya’s President Kenyatta: Rwanda No longer a Country on its “Knees”

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President Kagame receives President Kenyatta at the RDF Combat Training Centre in Gabiro, Gatsibo District, eastern Rwanda.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta landed at the Kigali International Airport early morning around 8am for an impromptu unannounced visit. The trip had all the hallmarks of a bilateral visit to deal with an urgent and serious matter.

He was received at the airport by Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Richard Sezibera. There was a brief rest at the VVIP section as the two exchanged pleasantries in the midst of cameras.

State broadcaster RBA posted a Tweet at 8:52am announcing in Kinyarwanda that Kenyatta had “arrived for working visit”.

The official notice of Kenyatta’s visit in Rwanda was another Tweet by Office of the President Urugwiro at 11:15am, which had photos of Kagame receiving his guest at Gabiro.

President Kagame and his top officials are having their annual retreat at the RDF Combat Training Centre in Gabiro, Gatsibo District, eastern Rwanda.

The two leaders went for “a tête a tête meeting,” according to Urugwiro.

Then at 12:24pm, Urugwiro updated again: “President Kenyatta stops by the National Leadership Retreat to greet the participants, [he said]: I have come to see how you work, I am impressed and want to replicate it.”

Kenyatta added: “This is one of the best relationships, in terms of our linkages. We are brothers and sisters, bound to the hip and as leaders our role is to continue to see how we can deepen that.”

On Rwanda-Kenya relations, Kenyatta said: “This is one of the best relationship. We are brothers and sisters, bound to the hip and as leaders our role is to continue to see how we can deepen that.”

There has not been a time in as many years that Kenyatta has come to Rwanda in such a manner.

Usually, when Kenyatta is starting a foreign trip, there is a Twitter post on the Kenya State House handle @StateHouseKenya, followed immediately with another on the President’s personal handle @UKenyatta.

When the President lands, there is also update on the same two handles.

Even in Rwanda, heads of state visits are announced beforehand via official media release from the Office of the Government Spokesman.  

For today’s President Kenyatta trip in Kigali, none of the above mention steps happened.

Kenyatta’s visit comes amid worsening relations between Rwanda and Uganda – both key member of the regional bloc the East African Community (EAC).

Kenyatta’s visit follows Kagame’s impromptu trip to Tanzania on Thursday where he met President John Pombe Magufuli.

Kagame had also come from South Africa from meeting President Cyril Ramaphosa, as SA is part of the axis keeping the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) of exiled Kayumba Nyamwasa alive. He actually live in Johannesburg.

Could Uganda-Rwanda fallout have been on Kenyatta’s agenda? Just Kagame and Uhuru, and a few people in the room in which the two met, know what was discussed.

However, some indication can be seen from Kenyatta’s comments to those attending the retreat.

“We are really proud of the manner in which Rwanda has turned around from a country that was on its knees to one of the brightest stars on the African continent,” said Kenyatta.

He added: “We have challenges, but I am convinced that with good will, and good intentions, which is what we have for our people, we will resolve even those challenges that are ahead of us.”

In his hard-talking speech on Saturday, President Kagame categorically told off the Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni.

“There are many things people who wish you ill can do. You can shoot me and kill me. That’s a possibility for some people. But there’s one thing that cannot happen to me and I wish it shouldn’t happen to our country. Nobody anywhere can bring me to my knees. Men and women of our country, you should never accept that,” said Kagame.

Kagame gave rare details of actions Uganda has been engaged in aiding Rwandan dissidents and that he even once “begged” President Yoweri Museveni to help resolve the problem.

Was President Kenyatta referencing Kagame’s “Nobody anywhere can bring me to my knees” statement in his brief address to the retreat?

Kenyatta also spoke about Rwanda’s doing business reforms that have won it global acclaim. 

“I keep telling my brother today I am fighting hard to overtake him in terms of ease of doing business and he keeps telling me: do your best!” said Kenyatta.

“At the end of the day, all we are trying to do is improve environment for our people, connect to each other because Rwanda alone will not make it, Kenya alone will not make it. But together we have opportunities for prosperity for our people and our country.”

He added: “I am hopeful and prayerful that Rwanda is in for a great year 2019.”

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