Amb. Kimonyo says Rwanda can’t be bullied to take sides in US-China rivalry

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 11 April 2024 at 11:06

Rwanda’s ambassador to China, James Kimonyo, says the East African country will not be “bullied” into taking sides in the superpower conflicts between the United States and China.

Speaking during a recent interview with a Chinese news outlet, Kimonyo affirmed that both Washington and Beijing were crucial partners of Rwanda as it continues to rebuild itself after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which left at least one million people dead and a trail of destruction of property.

Besides its support for Rwanda, the envoy emphasized that China has been helpful to many other African economies.

“The United States is our friend. In the same way, China is our friend,” Kimonyo said, adding, “We can’t be bullied, we can’t be forced. We think China is a very good friend of ours, and nobody can tell us otherwise.”

He defended China’s investments in Africa – including those under its Belt and Road Initiative – and dismissed claims that Beijing has been using the projects as debt traps for developing economies as “illogical”.

“When we meet with China, we discuss these projects based on our national priorities – unless you want to assume that we’re stupid, that we can’t think and we can’t set priorities for our countries,” Kimonyo said.

“China has never ever – even before I came to China, I know for a fact – come to a country and said I want to build you a road, I want to build this hospital, I want to do this project,” he added.

He said that Rwanda’s infrastructure suffered extensive damage during the genocide and China had “stayed on the forefront in terms of supporting Rwanda in [its] socio-economic transformation agenda” and Beijing’s investments had placed China “at the centre of [Rwanda’s] transformation”.

The ambassador, however, noted that there was room for more partnerships as President Paul Kagame’s administration seeks to transform itself into a tech hub and middle-income country.

Kimonyo, who served as Rwanda’s ambassador to the US from 2007 to 2013, also noted that issues between major super powers should be addressed using well defined frameworks.

“For us, we are very categorical and very clear that you cannot come to us … and force us to choose our friends,” Kimonyo said. “That’s our sovereign issue and we decide on our own destiny.”

Reacting to controversial issues pitting the two superpowers including China’s alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the seasoned diplomat said “these are purely internal matters of China, period”.

He was speaking on the sidelines of an embassy event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Speaking at the same event on Sunday, Wu Peng, the Chinese foreign ministry’s director general of African affairs, committed to strengthening Rwanda’s deep ties with China.

“We will continue to support Rwanda in following a development path compatible with its realities, further deepen bilateral relations and promote practical cooperation for greater benefits of our two peoples,” he said.

“I believe the Chinese government wants, through FOCAC, to make our own contribution to peace in Africa to avoid this tragic genocide from happening again,” Peng remarked while referring to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation which is set to hold its next iteration in Beijing later this year.

“China always views and develops its relations with Africa from a strategic and long-term perspective. We will continue to stand firmly with our African brothers.”

Amb. Kimonyo has said that Rwanda can’t be bullied to take sides in US-China rivalry.