The cooperation between Rwanda and Turkey has continued to grow, creating bonds in political, social economic and culture relations. It is believed that agreements signed between the two countries will strengthen ties through promotion, co-ordination as well as information, skills and knowledge sharing.
Rwanda imports about $21 million worth of commodities from Turkey while in the last two years, delegations of Turkish investors have visited Rwanda to try and access business opportunities in the energy, mining and manufacturing sectors.
Both countries are committed to deepening bilateral trade and investment and will continue to work together and collaborate even further.
In an exclusive interview, the Turkish Ambassador to Rwanda HIS EXCELLENCE MEHMET RAIF KARACA spoke to IGIHE, sharing his thoughts about relations between the two countries and challenges Turkey is facing at present.
IGIHE: Where do we trace the Rwanda-Turkey relations over the years and how has the relationship between the two countries been evolving over the years?
Amb. Mehmet: You know this year on the 4th of July, President of Turkey RecepTayyip Erdoğan sent a congratulatory message to His Excellency President Paul Kagame.
Normally those messages are very standard, but the last sentence usually finishes in three different ways; Best wishes for your personal health and happiness, and for the prosperity and well-being of people of Rwanda.
Or Best wishes for personal health and happiness, prosperity, and well-being of friendly country of Rwanda.
The third one includes Best wishes for personal health and happiness, prosperity, and well-being of the brotherly of the country of Rwanda. And when our president wrote he put pen to paper the brotherly which to us shows the top level of intimacy that we have with the Rwandan government.
We consider Rwanda as a brotherly country with which we absolutely have no problem at all and we have no problem with the government. For us, Rwanda is, in Africa, like what everybody says, the oasis of stability and country of rapid economic growth and development compared to the general standards in Africa.
We want to use this place as a point of access to other African countries in the East Africa region. It has not only a safe clean environment that everyone already knows but it has the investment opportunities, investment laws, foreign exchange system; it is easy to operate businesses here which is very exceptional by African standards.
We are planning to use this place as the access point to other surrounding countries in the region. We are encouraging other Turkish companies to come to Rwanda.
What are some of the major areas of cooperation between the two countries?
Amb, Mehmet: Everybody is talking about the Kigali Convention Centre that was completed with Turkish skills support; but this is the beginning, more is yet to come.
We are hoping that many other things will follow this other Turkish company HAKAN to design, build, and finance, own and operate an 80-megawatt peat power plant in Rwanda.
It will produce 80-megawatt and is expected to increase to 100 in the future. Many delegates are coming; looking at investment opportunities. As you know, we have Turkish Airlines, and others. According to Rwanda Develop Board (RDB), Turkey has invested and got 13 investment licenses in the last five years. So it’s not bad as we just started to do. Turkish Airlines flies seven days a week, which is quite exceptional because they started to fly in 2012-13 and several times a week, it’s very high for a week.
How are they performing?
Amb Mehmet: Just like what I said two glorious stages, of course, making profits in investments is not very fast you have to wait before seeing how the performance is going but I have not heard of any complaints.
Over a year ago there was an attempted coup in Turkey, how did your government manage to diffuse and how has the country moved on?
Amb Mehmet? On July 15, 2016, a terrorist attack was carried under the cover of a coup attempt by a group of soldiers and their collaborators who define themselves as the “Council for Peace at Home” and serve the enemies of to the Republic of Turkey. The terrorist attack that aimed at toppling the elected government and seizes power in Turkey was conducted by the ‘Fetullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO) which has been getting organized under the cover of a religious structure for over 40 years.
The terrorist attack against the Republic of Turkey revealed expressly that the goal of the FETO was to penetrate into all state institutions/organization in a conscious and organized way in order to seize the state.
The Presidential and the Turkish Grand National Assembly premises which represent the State the Republic and the National were bombed repeatedly for destruction. Over 250 were killed and 2,000 were critically wounded.
This organization is not only active in Turkey but in other countries as well including Africa. Currently, the Turkish government is carrying out a clean-up of-course it will take some time.
In Rwanda, there is Turkish School Hope Academy which was closed; why is your policy impeding on Turkish national’s investments outside Turkey.
Amb, Mehmet: In Africa, the FethullahGulen Movement (FETO) are organized, the way they organize themselves is that they open schools and business establishments, sometimes the school helps the business and sometimes the business helps the schools and so on.
Hope Academy just like some others schools in Africa are built by FETO. It was operated by FETO members, but I know that this is a question that is often asked but the Embassy has nothing to do with it.
We didn’t come up to the Rwandan Government with any official demand (For the school to be closed) and I don’t believe the Rwandan Government is the type of Government that will accept to do something just because the other government is asking. It is not that simple.
But all the documents especially materials we have forwarded to Rwandan Government, because they also have an Embassy in Ankara, I am sure they were also keeping an eye on this relevant information. Of-course Rwanda government was following up on the issue.
They knew very well what was going on and they knew how sensitive it is. They closed the school; we heard about closure after the school was closed by the Rwandan Government. We did not know in advance.
We heard on the last day of the school it was the 2nd of June, 2017 it was only after it was closed that we heard about it. We did not come to Rwanda government with a request for the school to be closed.
In the next five years, where do you see the bilateral relations between the two countries heading?
Amb, Mehmet: As I said politically we don’t have any problem between ourselves; Rwanda and Turkey are supporting each other in international organizations.
So we have to concentrate on economy and culture exchange as the starting stage.