Monday, 5 August 2013

Kikwete responds diplomatically to Rwanda jibes

Nicodemus Minde
Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete has responded to the diplomatic spat between Tanzania and Rwanda. President Kikwete was very diplomatic in responding to the jibes and counter jibes coming from some quarters of Rwanda. Kikwete had early made proposals to the Rwanda government to negotiate with the FDLR militia. President Kikwete during the 50th anniversary of the African Union in Addis Ababa, called on Rwanda to negotiate with the rebel outfit because the military efforts have failed. In a quick rejoinder Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan Foreign Minister described Kikwete’s remarks as “aberrant” and “shocking”. The simmering tensions have gone on for long now. As is alleged Rwanda's president Paul Kagame publicly threatened to hit president Kikwete. The following is an excerpt of his alleged tirade: 

"And those whom you recently heard speaking for the Interahamwe and FDLR, saying that we should negotiate with them. Negotiate with them? As for me, I do not even argue about this issue because I will wait for you at the right place and I will hit you!! I really did not… I didn’t even reply to him, I never arg… uh… it is known, there is a line you can’t cross. There is a line, there is a line that should never be crossed. Not once. It’s impossible!!…”

Jakaya Kikwete who previously served as Foreign Minister for ten years before he became president, has been very diplomatic in his response. Ideally, President Kikwete response embodies the tenets and principles of Tanzania's foreign policy. He used his monthly television and radio address to elaborate on the spat. "Our relations with Rwanda remain the same and nothing has changed" he said. President Kikwete said that he has heard a lot been said about him and Tanzania concerning the remarks he made. In a diplomatic and cordial language, Kikwete noted that the facts have been "completely been put out of proportion and completely out of context". He acknowledged Tanzania's close ties with its neighbors and the historical support Tanzania offered to Rwanda. In a calm demeanour Kikwete said he had nothing personal and against Kagame and that he was just airing his views. 

The response by Kikwete further highlights Tanzania's historical image of a peace-loving country. The country has modeled itself as an island of peace and a good neighbor as espoused in its key foreign policy pillars. The move by Kagame, which Kikwete notes, has deeper undertones. As a leader, Kikwete was entitled to give his views. If the views did not augur well with Rwanda, then its leaders should have in the same light responded to them and not throwing jibes and war rhetorics. Kikwete reminded its percieved enemies that Tanzania is cable of defending at whichever onslaught.