Speaking to The New Times, Yolande Makolo, the government spokesperson disclosed that the decision is regrettable and could have negative implications for the bilateral relations between Rwanda and Belgium.
"It is unfortunate that the Belgian government seems to have capitulated to pressure from the DRC government as well as propaganda from negationist organisations and activists, through who they decided to leak the decision," she said.
The Belgian government has not yet made a public statement regarding this matter. The leaking of the decision by Jambo News, an outlet affiliated with Jambo ASBL, a group comprising children born to extremist Rwandan exiles accused of involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, has drawn criticism on social media. Some question whether Jambo News has become a communication channel for Belgium’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This rejection is another setback in the bilateral ties between Rwanda and Belgium, following a misunderstanding in September 2021 concerning the case of Paul Rusesabagina, who was convicted of terrorism.
At that time, Rwanda called off a scheduled bilateral meeting with Belgium at the ministerial level during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in response to Sophie Wilmes, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, criticizing the ruling on Rusesabagina’s 25-year jail term.
Wilmes had expressed concerns about Rusesabagina’s trial, stating, ’Mr. Rusesabagina did not benefit from a fair and impartial trial, especially with regard to the right to defense’.
She said, the presumption of innocence was also not respected and concluded that these factors effectively question trials and judgments.
In response, the Government of Rwanda accused the Kingdom of Belgium of showing contempt toward Rwanda’s judicial system throughout 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 just as much as Rusesabagina and his co-defendants. Consequently, scheduled bilateral talks at the ministerial level did not take place.
Rusesabagina was released on presidential clemency this year.
It’s worth mentioning that Belgium has been keen on deepening relations with DRC, especially amidst the ongoing conflict between M23 and the Congolese Army (FARDC), which has allied with FDLR.
In February 2023, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hadja Lahbib, met with Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi and criticized Rwanda’s alleged support to M23 based on the disputed UN Group of Experts Report on DRC. Rwanda, however, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the DRC crisis.
While the specific reason for the rejection of Amb. Karega was not disclosed, reports suggest that Belgium’s assertive support for the DR Congo played a significant role in this decision.
Amb. Karega was appointed as ambassador-designate in March 2023, with the expectation that he would replace Dieudonné Sebashongore. Previously, Karega served as Rwanda’s ambassador to DR Congo.