Paul Kagame has served as Rwanda’s president for over twenty years. He has been lauded by some for building the country’s economy and promoting unity following the Rwandan genocide. The African president’s visit has however been postponed.
by Khaila Gentle
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 8, 2022
The President of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was to visit Belize this month as the first African Head of State to ever do so but his trip has been postponed, announced the Government of Belize Press Office today.
During his visit, President Kagame was expected to sign agreements that would strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries. He was also to have addressed members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in a joint special sitting as well as students from the University of Belize.
According to a press release from the Government of Belize, President Kagame met with Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño at the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting—which was hosted in Kigali, Rwanda—and was invited by the Prime Minister to visit.
The release states that the Government is “impressed with the President’s visionary leadership and complete transformation of Rwanda, from a country devastated by genocide in 1994 to one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.”
A 2022 report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that, when it comes to international justice, the government of Rwanda has done fairly well, stating, “twenty-seven years after the 1994 genocide, a significant number of people responsible for the genocide, including former high-level government officials and other key figures, have been brought to justice.”
Having been leader of Rwanda for two decades now, President Kagame has made strides in modernizing the African nation, and has been hailed as a visionary leader by Western allies, including the US and the UK. The World Bank has reported that Rwanda has seen “”strong economic growth” that is “accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards.”
Kagame, who is 64 years old, has said that he would consider serving as president for another 20 years. In an interview with a French TV channel, he expressed interest in running in the 2024 elections.
The Rwandan government, however, has also received much criticism from human rights organizations, and many have deemed Kagame’s rule an authoritarian one. The same report by the HRW notes that Kagame’s party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has “continued to stifle dissenting and critical voices” and has frequently targeted “those perceived as a threat to the government and their family members.”
One former opposition politician, Victoire Ingabire, told CNN in a report in June that President Kagame “does not tolerate criticism against his regime.”
Rwandan government spokesperson, Yolande Makolo, however, stated that Ingabire was making “baseless claims” against Rwandan authorities and that a central principle of the nation’s reconstruction has been ensuring humane treatment for all.
President Kagame has visited two other Caribbean nations this year—Jamaica and Barbados, back in April.
A report by the Barbados Government Information Service says that the Rwandan leader’s trip to the region created a notable amount of “buzz” on social media and led to an increase in interest of Africans to travel to the region. Kagame, who the BBC has stated is known for viewing social media as a way of “promoting democracy and development”, highlighted this during a press conference in Barbados.
The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, also lauded Kagame for turning Rwanda around after “the gravest of challenges.”
Kagame was scheduled to be in the country from September 14 to 15 and was to have received Belize’s second highest honor, the Order of Belize.
“The Government of Rwanda has advised that, regrettably, the planned visit of President H.E. Paul Kagame has been postponed due to developing circumstances. A new date will be announced when details are finalized,” the release issued by the Government today at noon states.