Rwanda is an exemplary vantage point from which to explore how the EU-African relationship can be improved economically and politically, former EU ambassador designate to Rwanda, Michael Ryan has said.
In an interview with IGIHE, Ryan said that he and his family will miss Rwanda where they met wonderful people. Excerpts;The Cabinet has approved the new EU resident ambassador to Rwanda. Are you going for a new mission?
Yes, the EU has nominated Ambassador designate Nicola Bellomo as my successor, and this has now been approved by the Rwandan Cabinet. My four year assignment as ambassador to Rwanda has come to an end, and I will be returning to my headquarters in Brussels.
What is the image of EU-Rwanda cooperation that you are leaving behind?
EU cooperation with Rwanda is strong, and growing. Most of it is budget support, and the task of the EU Delegation in Kigali is to engage more deeply in policy dialogue with government, to share views, and to ensure that EU financial support, benefits the lives of each citizen in this country.
Are you happy with your four-year service in Rwanda?
It has been immensely stimulating working in Rwanda, linking closely with my other EU member state ambassador colleagues, to represent EU policies and values, and above all to build an understanding, however modest and incomplete, of the nature of society, ambition and governance among Rwanda’s 12 million citizens. The European Union is reaching out to Africa, and Rwanda is an exemplary vantage point from which to explore how the EU-African relationship can be improved economically and politically.
What do you think your successor should focus on during his time in Rwanda?
I will leave it to my dear friend Nicola Bellomo to make his own judgement on future areas of focus. He has a wide experience of Africa. One of the beauties of changing ambassadors every four years is that it injects new thinking and perspectives into the partnership.
Which challenges have you faced during your time of service?
There are so many positives to anyone privileged to live and work in Rwanda that it seems grudging to mention challenges. There have been astounding changes over my brief stay. The Kigali skyline has transformed dramatically in response to modernisation, the economy exudes a reassuring sense of confidence. The challenge is to strike the right balance in sharing economic wealth so that all feel they have a stake in the success.
My challenge is to see how our EU programmes can help in this, in working with government and civil society to tackle the fundamental issues of poverty, hunger and youth unemployment. I am optimistic, since government attaches priority to these problems. Rwandans impress me with their deep sense of wisdom, natural justice and appreciation of the state of the nation - whether farmer, trader or wealthy entrepreneur, woman or man. My humble hope is that these qualities are harnessed so that civil society gradually can play a more distinct role in this country’s progress. It is happening, but the potential remains substantial.
What do you speak about your meet with Diana Rwigara?
It is quite normal for diplomats to meet presidential aspirants. I met others. On Top Tower, my family’s safety was the concern..
What will be your memory of Rwanda?
My memories and impressions of Rwanda are shaped by the charming people I have met. As ambassador, many citizens from all walks of life wish to come and discuss, to offer ideas, to give guidance, and to know what the EU thinks! I owe each of them a huge debt of gratitude. We are here to learn, to assess, to recommend to our authorities.
My particular pleasure has been bouncing down country roads to visit communities and projects, however remote, to meet villagers and leaders, talk to students, and to let them know that the European Union is not some remote notion but an ever-present partner. I am helped enormously in this by a great team of colleagues in the Delegation. They are a pleasure to work with. I am indebted to each of them.
Can you share with us how you feel as you bid farewell to Rwandans?
It has been a privilege to call Rwanda home for the last four years. That it is one of the most beautiful countries in Africa is beyond question. I and my family will very much miss Rwanda and its wonderful people.