Kagame reacts to Belgium’s decision on accreditation of Amb. Karega

On 20 September 2023 at 11:09

President Paul Kagame has expressed his disappointment over Belgium’s rejection of Rwanda’s Ambassador to Belgium, Vincent Karega, citing a lack of reasonable explanations for the decision. In an interview with Jeune Afrique, President Kagame was asked about the rejection of Ambassador Karega and the state of relations between the two countries.

Belgium’s request to replace Ambassador Karega emerged after Rwanda had awaited his approval for long, according to Kagame.

While Rwanda respects Belgium’s right to reject a proposed ambassador, Kagame emphasized the importance of receiving clear explanations in such situations. He pointed out that Belgian officials provided unconvincing reasons for their decision.

The Rwandan President also revealed that it later became apparent that Belgium’s decision was influenced by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and not other undisclosed reasons.

Kagame connected this decision to the expulsion of Ambassador Karega by the DRC, stressing that it had nothing to do with Ambassador Karega’s character, as he was representing national interests during a period of tension between Rwanda and its neighboring country.

Kagame firmly stated that Rwanda would not replace Ambassador Karega with another ambassador in light of these circumstances.

Ambassador Karega left the DRC within 48 hours after being ordered to do so on December 31, 2022, but chose to depart before the deadline, exiting through Congo Brazzaville. On the same day, the DRC recalled its Chargé d’Affaires in Rwanda, Alice Kimpembe Bamba.

Belgium did not publicly announce the reasons for rejecting Ambassador Karega’s appointment.

The decision was leaked by Jambo News, an outlet associated with Jambo ASBL, a group consisting of children born to extremist Rwandan exiles accused of involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This leak sparked criticism on social media, with some users questioning whether Jambo News had become a communication channel for Belgium’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Belgium’s rejection of Ambassador Karega’s appointment marked another setback in the bilateral relationship between Rwanda and Belgium. This came after a previous misunderstanding in September 2021 regarding the case of Paul Rusesabagina, who was convicted of terrorism.

Rwanda had canceled a scheduled bilateral meeting with Belgium at the ministerial level during the United Nations General Assembly in New York in response to criticism from Sophie Wilmes, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, regarding Rusesabagina’s 25-year jail term.

Wilmes had expressed concerns about Rusesabagina’s trial, citing perceived flaws in the right to defense and the presumption of innocence. In response, the Rwandan Government accused Belgium of showing contempt toward Rwanda’s judicial system during the trial and highlighted the significant contribution of relevant Belgian institutions to the investigation. Rwanda emphasized that the victims of FLN’s terrorist acts deserved justice as much as Rusesabagina and his co-defendants, leading to the cancellation of the ministerial-level talks.

Rusesabagina was subsequently released on presidential clemency this year.

Following the rejection of Ambassador Karega’s appointment, Yolande Makolo, the government spokesperson, expressed regret over the decision and its potential negative implications for the bilateral relations between Rwanda and Belgium.

She criticized the Belgian government for appearing to capitulate to pressure from the DRC government and propaganda from negationist organizations and activists, through whom they chose to leak the decision.

President Kagame has revealed that reasons provided by Belgium on the rejection of Amb. Karega's appointment were unconvincing.