Jamaica happily hosted the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, during a positively productive state visit that lasted three days. Throughout the stay, it was clear that each country was eager to see if the benefits of friendship could begin right away. When President Kagame spoke, there was genuine interest, concern, and exuberance about the future. Hearing the two enthusiastic leaders talk about what is to come certainly gives us hope for our future as a united people.
Significance of the Rwanda President Invitation
President Kagame accepted Jamaica’s invitation to visit because of the history and impact of the Jamaican people. Throughout the African continent, the effects of our story and actions carry significance. After leaving the Norman Manley Airport, President Kagame had this to say about his first official act to solidify that feeling. “Yesterday, I paid tribute to Marcus Garvey at National Heroes Park. More than a hundred years ago, he envisioned a united Africa for the Africans of the world. It is no accident that the idea of African unity arose from this very island.”
Strengthing Our Ties
During a special Think Jamaica session, President Kagame’s explanation of the countries’ proper fit in working together was straightforward. He stated that “The Caribbean and Africa have a lot in common, beginning with the people. There is that deep connection that geographical distance can’t eliminate. The first thing we have to do is create that environment and possibility for people to travel to the Caribbean, Rwanda and the other parts of Africa. So we have to deal with the visa issues and see that we create waivers. So that we really encourage this connection, knowing that we have interest in one another.” Furthermore, he explained the need to make it easy to do business between the Caribbean and African states, just as we do in the Caribbean Community and Commons Market (CARICOM).
Jamaica holds membership in CARICOM. This membership allows the CARICOM members to experience free trade with other member states to foster economic resilience throughout the Caribbean. With this in mind, the concept of a community now extends beyond the Caribbean region to include our African family.
Kagame’s Vision of Unity
In his address to the Jamaican Parliament, Rwanda President Kagame expressed the need to remove all barriers to collaboration. He stated, “The first Africa CARICOM Summit was long overdue and must be built upon. There should also be direct people-to-people exchanges, particularly for the youth and entrepreneurs.” All watching his address felt the sentiment of not relying on an intermediary for our continued communication.
Jamaica’s Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Andew Holness, explained that “Rwanda is a perfect example of a country that has overcome challenges and struggles.” His statement comes on the heels of recognising the importance of learning from and guided by the Rwandan people’s experience. Prime Minister Holness added, “And I think if you were to say, ‘what would be the lessons?’ I would say it would be resolving conflict.” Mr Holness understood that every society would have diversified interests. Mr Holness pointed out how essential it is to have a meaningful dialogue to focus everyone on development. Mr Holness stated that this is a lesson that all countries can learn.