June 6, 2020

Rwanda’s Foreign Ministry, Not President Kagame, Congratulates Burundi President


Despite Burundi and Rwanda having unusually close bond dating back centuries, the current leaders President Paul Kagame and his outgoing Burundi counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza last met on April 13, 2015. Here was Nkurunziza paying courtesy call on Kagame in Huye district, Rwanda, near the Burundi border

Rwanda, through the Foreign Affairs Ministry has joined countries lining up to send congratulatory messages to Burundi’s President-elect Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye.

The message from Rwanda was shared publicly on Twitter late evening this Saturday by the Burundi ruling CNDD-FDD party of the president.

However, compared to other regional leaders, Gen Ndayishimiye did not get message directly from President Kagame of Rwanda. Leaders in this region have been sent congratulatory messages by Kagame himself.

There is another issue with the message from Rwanda. It says the message is from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation”, and doesn’t name the minister in charge by name.

Also, the same message is addressed to Burundi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and doesn’t name the minister in charge.

In addition, the Rwandan message says its coming from “The Government of Rwanda”.

Congratulatory message from Rwanda to Burundi’s new leader

For other regional leaders, President Kagame himself has first sent them messages via Twitter by tagging them. This is usually followed up by the message from Rwanda’s foreign ministry, to that country, but also containing a quote of President Kagame.

In 2016, before relations with Uganda fell apart, the message from Rwanda Foreign Ministry congratulating President-elect Yoweri Museveni, said it was transmitting President Kagame’s message.

This message to Uganda, actually begins with Kagame writing “Dear President Museveni”, and goes on to depict a strong bond between the two sides.

Other leaders who have gotten messages directly from President Kagame include Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Tanzania’s John Pombe Magufuli, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.

Relations between outgoing Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza went cold following the failed May 2015 coup in Burundi. As the coup happened, Nkurunziza was in Arusha, Tanzania for the summit of the East African Community (EAC). Kagame was there too.

However before Nkurunziza went to Arusha, he had also met Kagame on April 13, a month earlier, in Huye district of Rwanda. It is a border region. It is the last time the two leaders have been in the same room at a bilateral level.

President Nkurunziza’s government and his ruling party has publicly accused President Kagame of being behind the coup. It went as far as organising weekly protests in border regions, with hundreds of party militants carrying placards denouncing Kagame and his ruling RPF party.

The fact of even Rwanda sending a message to the new Burundi President-elect alone, no matter the contents, also came as a surprise. The diplomatic letter is trending on social media.

On the hand though, other leaders like Tanzania’s Magufuli and Uganda’s Muzeveni, sent personal messages to Gen Ndayishimiye, along with Twitter tags. The new Burundian leader has Twitter handle.

This past week, the Burundi Constitutional Court declared Gen Ndayishimiya winner of the May 20 vote with over 60 percent. His closest challenger Agathon Rwasa, also a former rebel leader, did try to go to Constitutional Court, but with no results.

The Catholic Church, which had earlier cited irregularities in the polls, has also congratulated Gen Ndayishimiye.

The message from Rwanda to Uganda in 2016, was “transmitting” President Kagame’s personal message to Uganda’s Museveni
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