By Guillaume Kavaruganda, Minister Counselor, Embassy of Rwanda.
Being a Diplomat, especially an African diplomat in The Hague is indeed fascinating and unusual. Nowadays, less than 20 African countries are represented in Netherlands. The number is increasing each year which is a laudable. Better late than never as the saying goes!
When I was posted in The Hague in July 2010, I had a vague idea where I was going and what to expect. I had once visited the City of Zwolle in 2004 when I was then a junior diplomat in Geneva; I stayed one overnight and drove back early morning to Switzerland in my old Mercedes. Nothing particular on that trip had attracted my attention.
No one can be indifferent Vis a Vis of the Netherlands, especially the one who has lived in Rwanda. You get shocked by lots of similarities. The two countries are small, over populated; both habitants are hardworking people, interested in farming and very tall people. Compare to their small sizes both countries managed and have succeeded to be relevant in a way or another in the International arenas.
The differences are also there: Rwanda is a landlocked country, very hilly, called for that reason a country of thousand hills; Rwanda is still listed among the Least Developed countries contrary to the Netherlands which is ranked among Developed world.
Since the independence of African countries in early 60’s, what African diplomats have been asking has remained quite the same in the last 50 years. The Diplomats of that time, now in retirement, were asking in those days the noninterference in internal/domestic affairs, transfer of technology, more aid, more technical assistance, more capacity building, and the access to the market especially for the commodities. Those are the same issues we are still fighting for.As the Italian saying goes “La Lotta Continua/ the struggle has not yet ended” and we are not sure of the victory.
Another uncertainty is to know if the perception of Africans towards Europeans and vice versa have changed since the independence; in other word, if the Europeans still see the African man or woman in the same manner that they were seen by the Europeans in early 60’s.The same goes for Africans to the Europeans. To understand better how the two civilizations were looking at each other’s, I am inviting you to read a novel by the Ivory Coast man named DADIE BERNARD written in 1959 under the title of “LE NEGRE A PARIS” Which can be translate in “A NEGRO IN PARIS”.
Meanwhile good news is coming from Africa in sectors where nobody was expecting them. Rwanda has been for the last ten years the first country in the world to have a big number of women in Parliament. This small example can give hope.
In half-life of a man age, I was very lucky to live in many countries abroad either as a diplomat or pursuing my studies. Beside Rwanda, the Netherlands is the country where I feel more comfortable. You forget easily that you are a foreigner, and nobody reminds you of that. I am for that reason very grateful to the Dutch people.