Twenty years after; a peek into Rwanda-Sweden ties

By Olga I. Ishimwe
On 29 November 2017 at 09:44

Sweden is among countries that have great ties with Rwanda. In 1997, the Nordic country that had one diplomat and operated in a Hotel room, currently has an embassy in Kigali.

Swedish ambassador Jenny Ohlsson has been in Rwanda in 2007 to 2009 as Swedish political diplomat. She returned in Rwanda in 2016 as an Ambassador with residence in Kigali. Her predecessors had their residences in Nairobi, Kenya.

As both countries celebrate 20 years of cooperation and partnership, IGIHE talked to the Ambassador on diplomatic ties between both countries.

Excerpts below;

IGIHE: It’s been a year since you presented your credentials as first Resident Swedish ambassador to Kigali; how do you see the country so far and how do you feel with living here?

J.O: First of all, I feel at home because it is the second time to live in Rwanda and I really enjoyed living here due to the atmosphere of hope and possibility. Also, when I came here for the second time, I could see the progress that had taken place and it’s a nice feeling to live somewhere where things are going in the right direction.
Personally, I am happy that my family is here; I got pregnant with my first son in Rwanda. It is very special to bring him back in Rwanda.

As you noted, Rwanda has and is still developing; what is your point of view on what caused such a change in the last twenty years?

The Leadership has played an important part in Rwanda’s progress but also I’d like to give credit to the Rwandans for the development that has taken place. Both contributed to where Rwanda has reached now.

Tell us more about the evolution of your diplomacy in Rwanda since 1997

In 1997, it was absolutely new for us to come to Rwanda. There had been some relations between Pentecostal churches from both countries but there were no diplomatic ties. Everything had to start from scratch. We didn’t know what was Rwanda? What was their culture? We started with a lot humanitarian support in the first years, we also started with budget support from 1999, and then step by step wi started cooperation with police, decentralization structure, university, institution building….

First there was one person, she rented a room in Novotel, she hired a driver and it grew from there, one woman, one backpack one driver and then we had something called embassy office which is not a really embassy and now finally we have an embassy with an ambassador which is a great thing.

And I must tell you that we don’t have embassies in all countries in Africa for us this is a big thing I think I am the fifteenth ambassador we have in Africa.

What are your cooperation and partnership plans in this second mandate of President Kagame?

I am quite sure we will continue with our development cooperation with Rwanda, but I think and I hope that it will shift a little to other kinds of cooperation like political, trade-related businesses, peacekeeping and so forth. I think Rwanda is moving very fast; there are a lot of global issues where we can cooperate and bring a great contribution to all. In short, I hope that our relations will be broader in the next coming years.

Economically speaking, where do you see Rwanda in 2024?

I’m not an economist but I am sure that in 2024, Rwanda will have developed more; probably, as it’ll be the last year of President Kagame’s mandate, I think there shall be a feeling of transition. And as I know Rwanda, the country will be well-prepared for that transition, so I’m not worried at all for that time, I’d even say that I’m optimistic and positive that Rwanda will be on a greater level.

What are your cooperation projects and plans with Rwanda?

We will continue in developing cooperation with Rwanda, but I think and I hope that it will be shifting a little bit to cooperation, political, trade, business and peace keeping. I think Rwanda is moving very fast, there is lot of global issues where we could cooperate like climate change, I hope for the next seven years, we will continue with the development cooperation but our relationship will be broader.

Rwanda and Sweden will soon celebrate 20 years of cooperation and partnership; what do you plan for such a great event?

We will have the event on the 5th December, and for this year we wanted to focus on the role of a father and gender equality in society; Hence, this is to why we decided to hold an exhibition dubbed Swedish Dads and we also started out an interesting Instagram Photo challenge dubbed “RwanDads” that will be honoring our anniversary and the winner shall be awarded officially on the 5th December.

Reporting by Herve Ugirumukunda

The first resident Swedish Ambassador to Rwanda Mrs Jenny Ohlsson