Discussion with Rwandan Foreign Minister

On Monday, September 21, the Atlantic Council hosted a roundtable discussion with H.E. Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for the Republic of Rwanda.

After an introduction from Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham, Mushikiwabo spoke about security in the context of ongoing regional integration, emphasizing three concerns: the overly simplified narrative of “Africa” often applied by the West; the need for effective partnerships, both in the Great Lakes and broader East Africa region and between African countries and the West; and a look at Rwanda’s future, both in terms of development and deeper regional economic integration, and also its diplomatic role in a restive region.

Mushikiwabo noted that, in terms of economic development, Rwanda’s largest challenge is to provide enough affordable energy to meet its growing needs. As such, the country has begun investing in alternative energy sources including hydropower and solar.

She also touched on regional security, noting that current conflicts in nearby Burundi, Central African Republic, and South Sudan all affect Rwanda. Particularly as the political crisis has deepened in neighboring Burundi, Rwanda has absorbed nearly 70,000 refugees in official camps and another 21,000 Burundians in urban areas.

Mushikiwabo ended by discussing current calls for Rwanda’s constitutional provision on term limits to be amended. This issue has not been without controversy in the West, although Mushikiwabo insisted that President Paul Kagame neither initiated the constitutional amendment process nor has he announced whether he intends to seek an additional term. 

A moderated conversation followed the Minister’s remarks. Also in attendance and participating in the discussion was the Hon. Johnnie Carson, former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa; Steven Feldstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; and Hon. Constance Berry Newman, former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and Africa Center Senior Fellow. 

Image: From left to right: Major Patrick Karuretwa, Acting Principal Private Secretary, Office of the President; H.E. Louise Mushikiwabo; Dr. J. Peter Pham.