On Monday night, President Paul Kagame made changes to his diplomatic team – sending one of his key military commanders to Tanzania, an indication of how much the large neighbor to the East means to Rwanda.
Maj Gen Charles Karamba, who has been the Air Force Chief of Staff, is the new High Commissioner to Tanzania, where more than 40 percent of Rwanda’s imports enter from.
There is plenty Kagame needs from Tanzania. Its elite commandos form the largest contingent on the UN peacekeeping brigade deployed in eastern DR Congo to forcefully disarm militia groups. It neutralized the M23 rebels in a matter of weeks – seen at the time as a direct challenge to Kigali.
Tanzania is now the only land route through which military hardware can transit, as the Kenya-Uganda route no longer holds due to the unresolved conflict with Kampala.
The new rising political star Marie Chantal Rwakazina, has barely served for a year as Mayor of Kigali City. She surfaced from a little-known employee with the One-UN Coordination Office in Kigali, to one of the most powerful women around town.
Kigali is hard to govern as it has completing interests of all sorts. Its management has “eaten” up political bulldozers before. Not many believed Rwakazina could survive long but it’s surprising that she couldn’t even serve for a year. She has been posted to Geneva, Switzerland – essentially managing the many UN agencies there.
Another intriguing change is that of Lt Gen Charles Kayonga, who has been recalled from China. He oversaw the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Rwanda in July last year. National carrier RwandAir is flying direct to China from Kigali.
Seasoned diplomat James Kimonyo, who was not holding any publicly-known office recently after he was recalled from Kenya, will take up the embassy in Beijing. Lt Gen Kayonga’s removal is going to be manna for exiled dissidents on social media.
The amiable Gasamagera Wellars, who was spokesman of the RPF party during the presidential polls in 2017, is the new envoy to Angola. He has been Director-General of the Rwanda Institute of Administration and Management (RIAM).
He has been a key player at the RPF secretariat, known here simply as ‘Rusororo’. It was expected that he would be elevated, though it has taken quite a while. Sending Gasamagera to Angola is clear indication that Kagame is giving importance to Angola’s role.
President João Lourenço is trying out a mediation between Kagame and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
Kalisa Alfred, a former embattled bank executive, who experienced a humiliating fall from grace, has been the ambassador in Angola. He was posted there as part of his rehabilitation after being pardoned from jail.
It is likely President Kagame needed a proactive person in Angola like Gasamagera who can be trusted. Kalisa is heading to Egypt.
President Kagame’s appointments are also to serve internal political balancing act. New envoy to South Korea, is Yasmin Amri-Sued, daughter of former foreign minister the late Amri-Sued.
Amri-Sued (father) was a key item in the Muslim community, which boasts of some of the most diehard Kagame supporters. Their party PDI is the one which initiated the amendment of presidential term limits – allowing Kagame to stay on past 2017.
Yasmin Amri Sued has been the Chargé d’Affaires or number 2 at Rwanda’s embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
There are unconfirmed insider reports that the changes in the foreign office is preparation for an imminent cabinet reshuffle and military changes. It is said the Green Party bloc of Dr Frank Habineza is likely to get a cabinet slot.
The same unconfirmed reports say that lawmaker Jean Claude Ntezimana, the party’s Secretary General is the one likely to be appointed minister instead of his boss.
Since entering the lower chamber of deputies, the Green Party, though holding only two seats, brought much-needed public acceptance for Rwanda’s parliament. The other traditional “opposition” parties were adding little value to how the House is perceived.
Dr Habineza has been holding interviews complaining that Kagame was taking long to implement a constitutional requirement for executive positions for parties in parliament.
Vincent Karega, who has been in South Africa, may have failed to fully restore Kigali-Pretoria relations, and has now been moved to DR Congo. Since 2014, Rwandans cannot get SA visas.
After more than 7 years without a full High Commissioner in Ottawa, Canada, Prosper Higiro, is the new envoy. He is from the Republic of Congo.
Canada is home to a large dissident and opposition community, but also a small and vocal Kagame support base. Higiro, apart from having been in both houses of parliament for many years, he is not known as a vigorous political mobilizer.
There were other changes like creation of a new embassy in Qatar. However, many are routine reorganizations.