Members of US Congress to be Rwanda Advocates

02 September 2009

Rwanda and Burundi
A delegation of five U.S. members of Congress to Rwanda said Tuesday they were deeply impressed by both the nation's people and its political leadership, and vowed to advocate for the nation upon their return to the U.S. The members of Congress spent three days in the East African country and spoke after meeting with its president, Paul Kagame.

The delegation was led by New York Congressman Gregory Meeks, who said that he and his peers have been highly impressed during their visit to Rwanda.

"Those of us from our delegation here, we are just tremendously pleased with what we have seen over the last three days and with our meeting with President Kagame. We look forward to working with him in the United States House of Representatives as well as with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton," he said.

Congressman Meeks promised to try to help President Kagame in partnering with the U.S. once returning home.

"I think the President was clear, he is not asking the United States for aid, he is asking the United States for partnership - in economic development, in trade, in investment from our private sector. And we are going to do everything we can when we get back to the United States to assist the President in that manner," he said.

The delegation also included Congressional members from the U.S. states of Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Congressman Meeks applauded President Kagame for his "great leadership" in turning the nation around after being devastated by the genocide of about 800,000 of its people 15 years ago.

The Congressman specifically praised the small nation's improvement of its health-care and education systems, and said President Kagame was helping to bring stability to the region through the renewal of relations with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rwanda was centrally involved in a multi-year transnational conflict centered in the Democratic Republic of Congo that ended in peace deals in 2002. Rwanda invaded DRC territory to go after Hutu militiamen, many of whom were behind the 1994 genocide.

Critics have accused President Kagame of trying to exploit the region's instability to gain control of the rich mineral deposits across the border in the Congo.

Mr. Kagame has held the nation's top seat since 2000, but has been viewed by many as the country's real leader since his Rwandan Patriotic Front ended the ethnic massacres in 1994. The country has since undergone an impressive rebuilding effort to bring the nation together and grow its economy.

Rwanda's economy has averaged a more than five percent annual growth during the past decade, and grew more than 11 percent last year.

The U.S. Congressional delegation next heads to Harare, Zimbabwe.