The first African head of state in history to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference yesterday advocated a joint resolve to fight hateful ideologies that led to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.
Rwanda President Paul Kagame, who welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Kigali last year, declared to a morning assembly of some 19,000 pro-Israel activists at the Washington Convention Center that his country "is without question a friend of Israel."
Kagame said the "survival and renewal of our two nations" bonds their nations and underscores that "the security of people who have once been targeted for extermination can never be exclusively physical."
Until the ideologies behind genocide are defeated, he emphasized, "our world is not truly safe - not for us, not for anyone."
The president called for "renewed solidarity against relentless efforts to deny genocide and trivialize the victims."
The first Africa-Israel summit is set to take place in Togo this October.
"Israel is engaging in Africa and Africa is responding in a good way; previously, there has been absence of that engagement," Kagame said.
A 2014 United Nations Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood failed in part because of Rwanda’s abstention.
"For us, the reason for abstaining was ...the way [it was] done, the timing, we thought this was going to be prejudicial to other things that need to be addressed," Kagame explained. "...Our experience in Rwanda is that you cannot simply introduce solutions to people from outside."
The president said he sees the Rwanda-Israel relationship growing and "driving our future economies" in Africa in the sectors of agriculture, energy, and information and communications technologies.
"When we work together, when we support each other, this can benefit economies across the continent," he said.
The White House did not announce any meetings with Kagame while the Rwandan leader is in Washington. Kagame told AIPAC "there’s a lot that needs to happen" in the relationship between the United States and Africa, starting with valuing each other and focusing on growing partnerships.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the onetime special envoy for the Quartet (United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia) on the Middle East peace process, told AIPAC that a new approach to the process needs to focus on Israel’s shared common interests with Arab partners in the region.
Blair, who’s returning to Israel week on his 178th visit to the Jewish state since leaving office, stressed that "we’re not going to reach peace in the old way — we need a new way forward."
- Photographs of some of those who died in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi hang in a display in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.